Facing the facts on retail flooring.
Although flooring can be easily overlooked in pre-planning and design, it is often a game changer, and should be considered one of the most important pieces of interior design and functionality. In the big picture, flooring really is the “face of square footage” and is by far more than just a background product.
Today’s retail facility managers and store owners are thinking more about how to attain longer life and durability in their flooring. They are increasingly more cognizant of the environment, energy costs, durability, safety and maintenance. Through the culmination of modern engineering, quality assurance-driven service partners and interior maintenance service (IMS) companies, retail and facility owners are creating and maintaining floors that are more affordable, safer, environmentally friendly, aesthetically appealing, and energy-efficient.
In the past, retail facilities treated flooring as a background feature with little or no importance; however, in the past decade, in a crowded market space with many retail units offering similar products, a store’s brand image may be the only thing that gives it the competitive edge when trying to attract and retain consumers. Whether it’s 30 or 500 locations, the end goal is “affordable ambience” with functionality and low maintenance. If you can reduce the world’s carbon footprint in the process, then hats off to you!
Depending on a retail store or facility’s products or services, installation of the wrong flooring can cheapen and even reduce brand equity — not to mention decrease safety and maintenance. A low quality concrete, vinyl or rubber floor can ruin a solid brand in an instant. Floors should ideally have something like solid hardwood or a laminate wood look-alike to complete a nice design effect. Bamboo and laminated cork are two new materials that are environmentally friendly, affordable and come in various earth-based colors for a nice variety of design matches. Similarly, a store that is trying to present a funky, modern, edgy ambience would benefit more from the industrial chic of rubber than the domestic coziness of carpet. Concrete flooring has also made an impression within the past decade and with natural dyes, simple cuts and polyurethane stamps, concrete has really started to prove its versatility in the retail and facility environment.
The Power of Color
Research has shown that the look and feel of a store can actually influence the amount of time a customer spends browsing and even the urge to purchase. Research also proves that the appeal of a floor, especially the color and material, can enhance or decrease the mood and productivity of employees in a facility. It is a psychological game when making decisions on interior design and professionals have often suggested people research colors and their effect on the brain regarding “over stimulation.” Orange can be warm and inviting, inviting relaxing, or actually directly irritating, even causing headaches, depending on the shade used. Blues and greens tend to be soothing, calming colors although depending on the shade, they can also make a place seem cold and clinical. The list goes on and on, and I suggest that you take the time to view my favorite color resources on the web: www.pantone.com. They are the authority on color, providing unique color systems and the leading technology for accurate communication of color.
Professionals in our industry cannot emphasize enough the importance of having a solid interior maintenance service (IMS) company as a partner. Interior maintenance on flooring, especially new generations of flooring, is essential in national retail chains and large facility-based corporations. These IMS companies typically have a qualified nationwide network of maintenance providers that are bonded and highly professional. The other advantage is they are insured for liability, guarantee quality assurance and have 24/7 emergency services. Cleanliness is a top priority. There is no use having a fantastic décor if the only impression the customer/employee leaves with is of a dirty, unkempt store or facility. Given the sheer volume of foot traffic that passes through most retail outlets and large facilities, it is generally a good idea to choose a floor that can deal with heavy wear and is also relatively resistant to staining and soiling. Naturally, an exclusive diamond boutique may have so few visitors as to be able to furnish it with plush carpet, but for your average high street shop, flooring that is wear-resistant and stain-resistant is still the best choice. It is also important for the flooring to be easy to clean, in order to minimize the work needed to restore the store or facility to looking its best at the end of the day. In the past, laminate and vinyl tend to be popular, but designer concrete, bamboo and cork are really starting to gain some commercial ground with the extensive design combinations readily available to interior designers, architects and builders.
Probably the most important of all for retail stores and facilities is the health and safety requirements. Research shows that 50% of public accidents are caused by slipping and tripping, so make certain that your retail or facility floors have an anti-slip agent to avoid costly lawsuits. Many incidents are also directly related to water on floors from ice and snow, drink spills, and/or poor facility maintenance. Another reason to consider an IMS company if you don’t already have one.
The success of a retail facility can be significantly affected by the look and feel both inside and out. This article was specifically dealing with the in’s and out’s of flooring, but a good owner or manager must realize that the overall success always returns to the ability to manage all the “moving parts” and to ensure a solid brand image and a safe and happy place to do business.
— Scott Crennan, co-founder of Solutions Management, Inc. (SMI), has dedicated his career to the retail and corporate maintenance industry. With over 25 years of experience, Crennan has worked to forge long-lasting and meaningful relationships with various well-respected vendors, clients and trade providers in the industry.