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The PROPERTYdrum Shopfitting Challenge - Part 1

publication date: Jan 5, 2012
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Estimates of the number of estate agencies that have closed down in the last three years vary from 10 per cent to 40 per cent of all offices in the UK, across the spectrum of independents closing down branches or closing altogether, local firms merging and major chain takeovers with the inevitable shedding of duplicate branches. Whatever the actual figure is, the truth is that business has been very, very tough in most (but not all) areas. 
Those that have survived intact have done so by implementing a combination of lean and mean strategies and bold marketing initiatives.

Naturally, when an agency does close down, at least one of the directors or employees will decide that they could still make it work, doing it their way, which explains why there is still a surprisingly high number of new agencies launched each year, in spite of the doom and gloom.

For those left in business as well as for those starting up, one of the noisiest buzzwords in this flat market has been differentiation. Not all agencies are the same, ours is better, we’re the smartest, the most professional, come to us for service… so in the middle of all this turmoil agencies find themselves considering spending their hard saved (or borrowed) money on glamming up the office, sharpening up the image, boosting their kerb appeal.

Starting up a new office or refurbishing a whole office is a terrifying prospect. Not only the planning, not just the disruption but the cost! Oh the cost. And where do you go for help? Today’s agencies – and their clients apparently – demand a bit more investment than asking your dad to come round and paint the walls and put up a few display pockets. It’s time to call
in the professionals.

PROPERTYdrum has set a challenge for specialist agency designers to show you what can be done on three different budgets, which we will present in the three issues starting with this one. Tight Budget is the first, next month we’ll explore the Healthy Budget and in February’s issue we’ll be going all out with the Mega Budget Challenge. Bring on the chandeliers and glass floors!

No costs are included here as it is impossible to guesstimate the endless scenarios with preparation of a building, size and requirements but the first brief for our designers was Tight Budget.

Tight Budget – a brand new startup estate agency with a lease on a small high street premises and three staff. They want it to look smart and sassy, contemporary, welcoming, workable, with good window fittings and a few inexpensive eye catching features. It’s in a busy high street location in Eastbourne. They don’t yet have a logo but would quite like it to be seaside colours to reflect their location.
Here’s what they came up with:

MPL Interiors
“Question – What separates and makes people individuals? Answer – simply personality and from that comes character and style and this is exactly the same with businesses,” says Mike Simons of MPL. An average month might see as many as five new start-up estate agents seeking the assistance of MPL for branding and design. MPL encourage clients to think of their own company name – something really personal – but after that it’s MPL’s job to understand the individuality and tastes of the owners and create a brand identity and design for the office that captures everyone’simagination and suits the target market and available budget.

This is exactly what happened when Robinson Residential opened for business last autumn. MPL started with designs for the all important For Sale boards that so many graphic design firms rarely think about – until it’s too late and then get them wrong (says Mike). Get the boards right and the rest is easy, with something so vitally important as branding.

Although starting from scratch and with a need to watch the costs Robinson Residential were after a blend of modernity and elegance so MPL used a traditional font for the name with a vibrant and contemporary colour scheme and then added some dramatic features to the interior design which otherwise was to
say sophistication and class in small print.

An eye on the branding of established competition cannot be forgotten and a clear understanding is needed of your target market and what type of office environment will make them feel most comfortable without, of course, being pretentious or, come to that, breaking the bank.

Any new business has to shout “hey look at me I’m different  and better than all the others” and from what we can see here Robinson Residential has done just that. Blending black leather seating with violet tinted low level perspex window displays for example, with trendy chairs in the reception area.

Whichever way at look at it, even if most buyers find their way to a particular estate agency via the internet, sellers or landlords mostly choose their first agent by the appearance of their office however subliminal this might be, so getting it right is crucial.

Fairfield Displays
First impressions count and when budgets are tight it is the view from the street which matters.
Fairfield developed a window concept two metres wide with a display based on A4 portraits. “How many properties can I get into the window?” is often the first question asked. One way is to pack the window full of properties and block the interior view. The other is a combination of a central low-level presentation with a full height display on the outer edges, displaying 16 properties.

The contemporary design creates an inviting window and a comfortable working environment. A digital screen can be positioned in the middle of the window, perhaps a simple media player – highly effective and inexpensive – displaying a large number of properties.

A4 acrylic pockets are suspended on cables with a powerful spot light to illuminate the properties. These can be angled back into the office to give a gentle curve which enhances the appearance of the central display.

Agents like to have the very latest designs so the one metre wide Zettu, a stunning low level free-standing unit in a high gloss white, is positioned in the middle of the window. Eight A4 properties are displayed with silver curved LED spots for added sparkle. Zettu can be upgraded with glowing LED Light Pockets, which can be assembled by anyone in under five minutes – ideal for agents who wish to do their own installation to save money.

The finishing touches make a real difference so Fairfield have integrated the feature lighting; the same design lamp is used for window displays, interior property details, logo panel and feature map.

There are three feature areas. On the left, horizontal rods are wall mounted with A4 hook-on acrylic pockets, either for single property details or as leaflet dispensers. On the right a large map is mounted onto an acrylic panel with attractive satin chrome studs. The map is custom coloured to reflect the brand.

To give depth a large logo panel is positioned on the back wall with directional spotlights to add sparkle. This creates a focal point from the window for the eye and reinforces the brand.

Albion Design
With a recently established agency in small but well positioned premises, the partners sought an affordable solution for an attractive fascia and window display with eye catching features
that project the values of the business.

Albion chose a logo design and colourways that express the coastal location of the business, and convey the vibrant nature of the partnership.

The window display has 3mm thick A4 and A3 pockets acrylic poster pockets mounted on 1.5mm diameter tensioned stainless steel cables, fixed floor to ceiling.

The layout consists of a mix of A4 and A3 pockets supporting images that project the smart and sassy ethos of the new business.

In this proposal the acrylic pockets are attached to their cable bearers by side grips. The cables are attached to the floor and ceiling using standard wood screws and wall plugs. Each cable kit comes with 4 metres of cable so will fit almost any size of window.

The cable display system components are from the Albion Display range in a silver anodised finish; stainless anodised and brass anodised finishes are also available.

From an installation perspective the proposed solution is familiar to most fit out companies and can be installed at reasonable cost using standard tools and fixing techniques.

To provide an additional eye catching difference there is the option of LiteStyle Power Beam LED lighting, an ultra slim range of LED lighting that fits most 1.5 mm diameter cable display systems and adds that attention-grabbing touch that sets a window apart from its competitors. The power to Power Beam lighting units is supplied at
12 Volts directly through the supporting cables so is inherently safe and requires no additional wiring. As well as its high brightness and its striking effect from the street, Power Beam’s state of the art LED technology provides for low running costs and low maintenance. For added versatility a version of Power Beam for 6mm diameter rod display systems is also available.

If budget constraints dictate, the Albion Elements range of entry level components could be utilised to provide a similarly practical solution but at a lower cost and with an etched satin finish.

The Litestyle Power beam option can equally be added to enhance the alternative Albion Elements installation.

Simply Ace
Simply Ace is happy to undertake the entire refurbishment or any individual element of it. Following a full survey of the room scaled floor plans and images are prepared.

The logo was designed with curves inspired by the ocean waves and the interior flooring was ocean blue.

Simply Ace introduced the curve into the interior using a curved wooden floor for the small soft seating area – this could seem extravagant when the budget and space are tight but these areas have become popular in smaller agencies as they give a friendly area to take customer details.

The seating area will have an A4 portrait cable display partition, each of the five displays will hold four property details, situated to influence any client in the seating area. The curve continues through the office with curved desks.

The window display must stand out from the crowd but also fit the budget. Glass look acrylic panels with fixed A3 and A4 detail holders on stainless steel legs will do this, and good overhead lighting helps the display to sparkle. With the panels positioned at a specific level, this will allow the customers to see into the office, and so can all the other features can be seen, which also helps the office feel more welcoming.

The other inexpensive features will be a blue painted wall at the rear of the office with the company name and logo in stood off acrylic lettering with silver vinyl faces. This will act as an eye catching feature from the front of the shop.

The grid wall display has a dual use as it can hold segmented large scale images when the stock of houses is low, which makes for an impressive feature in any office, but they can also be replaced with property details when the stock improves.

Finishing the features will be a the ever popular small digitally printed map of the area applied to a glass look panel, fixed to the wall also near the seating area, where it’s at its most useful – an essential sales aid.

Kremer Signs
Kremer Signs’ specialist area is in the external office fascia signs, along with any internal wall mounted signage. If they are given a tight budget to work to on a small office, they still carry through the same procedure of listening to the clients requirements, surveying with artist impressions then delivering the job.

Unlike many of their competitors, Kremer manufacture directly to the estate agent’s requirements so are able to remain very competitive on pricing. While some of competitors offer more of a project management service/ design for complete refurbishment this isn’t always what is needed.

The most important thing is not to install a sign that will look out of place; remember it’s not a trucker’s café, but an estate agency! To ensure your office is given a high street presence Kremer always suggest illumination for your fascia, normally a parabeam (strip) light above the sign will be enough, especially on a tight budget. The external sign will be made from a composite aluminium sign tray with either CNC stand off lettering in 5mm Perspex or vinyl graphic decoration.

Your external signage is key to looking professional, standing out by using illumination and vibrant colours (even with a smaller budget) and Kremer Signs are able to match the branding of your for sale boards/ to let boards to offer an excellent corporate image for your area.

The Fine & Country brand appeals to a particular niche, which is usually the upper end of the market, but this particular client wanted the full office refurbishment to reflect this upmarket image on a very tight budget of under £20k.

This included cladding the front of the office to support the traditional look and make it stand out in a modern shopping parade. The street presence was further enhanced by putting 32 spot lights on the high impact window display on which the hook on and off pockets were all A3 landscape.

Gold leaf was used on both the fascia and internal graphics to give the office a timeless elegance with a modern twist.

Walnut was selected with mirror finish stainless steel legs and brushed stainless steel modesty panels, these were complemented with cream leather client chairs with walnut and stainless steel detailing –smart and very stylish.

The soft seating area was a design to enable clients to sit in comfort and discuss their requirements with the agent, again the cream leather chair, walnut and stainless steel.

The final look was a timeless classic design which appealed to their discerning clients – and within budget.

Mid West Displays offer a wide range of display products to suit every estate agent no matter what the budget is. Agents on a budget should consider what aspects of the display are important to them. Just because the budget is low doesn’t mean that the display will be cheap and tacky.

A popular option is the ever reliable cable and pocket kit. The cables provide a modern and sophisticated display whilst the pockets allow easy access to change property details. A kit of 4xA4 portrait pockets and cables costs around £47.80. Lights can also be added. Before buying a cable display kit it is important to check that the ceiling is strong enough to support the weight of the display. These 1.5mm cables are extremely strong and will hold weight up to 120kg and the 3mm cable will hold up to 200kg. Cable displays are reliable and easy to update, which is why they have become such a popular display option.

Hook on acrylic pockets are easy to use, hassle free and look great. The pockets hook onto a 6mm rod that can be either wall mounted or suspended using floor to ceiling fittings. Hook on pockets make ideal window and interior displays, it is also possible to mix and match different paper sizes on to one display. A 4x wide wall mounted A4 portrait pocket kit costs around £37.50.

Wall Mounted Acrylic Panels make a very exciting and attractive display option and are available in a range of different sizes and finishes. Mid West Displays manufacture all displays in-house and are therefore able to customise any design, add your logo or have it engraved and match your brand colours to the acrylic.
Mid West hook on pockets display your properties beautifully
in this window.

MPL Interiors Harry Simons
t 01932 357 980 e w

Fairfield Displays & Lighting Janice Fairfield, Marketing Director

Albion Malcolm Payne, Marketing Executive

Simply Ace Aaron Greenfield, Managing Director

Mid West Displays Mark Newman

Kremer Signs Gary Gosney, Sales Manager

Kraft Jared Saggers

Vis Com Steve Leah