There is a day no operator looks forward to—a day when one of their stores closes for business. Whether it is your only store or you are the franchisor, and it is one of your franchisees stores, closing a store can have a direct impact on the overall brand. While it is never a pleasant situation, how you handle the closing can have an influence on the remaining stores and their brand.
I am sure that many have driven by a closed store that still has the logo signs intact and other branding signage. It is an eyesore, speaks poorly regarding the operation and slowly erodes the brand value if left untouched. Whether a store is operational or not, a decaying storefront is detrimental. In order to maintain the integrity of the go-forward brand, one cannot simply lock the doors and walk away from the store. How a franchisor or a multi-unit operator manages a de-branding is sometimes as vital as how they manage a grand opening.
Over the years, I have been a part of many grand openings and regretfully, many store closures. While a grand opening goes from a “vanilla box” to a retail store in a matter of months, a properly de-branded store must go from a fully operational retail store to a “vanilla box” in less than a day. Ultimately, a complete de-branding essentially erases the store from the retail landscape before customers are even aware. The quicker it can be “out of mind”, the betterment of the brand going forward. Some retailers even take this a step further by de-branding throughout the night to minimize the observation of the process by customers.
NOTE: In some cases, a store closure could be “repositioned” and identified as a “store relocation” – directing existing customers to the nearest store with marketing and signage. This allows for the operator to retain existing customers and slowly migrate them to another store.
Store de-branding is not an effortless process and generally an allocation of upwards of 40-60 man-hours may be required to properly de-brand the store (depending on the store design and format). The goal is to return both the interior and exterior of the store to its original state, so a proper de-branding process should consist of the following:
• Product inventory should be removed in advance of the de-branding crew arriving as well as unplugging all equipment – this is particular noteworthy if the equipment is refrigeration.
• Schedule a truck to arrive at the store on the de-branding day to take all equipment, safe, POS devices and furniture to desired location.
• Remove all signage in and on the exterior of store. Inventory the materials.
• Remove all equipment in store. Inventory the materials.
• Spackle all holes in walls.
• Rough paint all walls in the store covering anything that may convey the “image” of the brand – including, but not limited to: specific tile, paint colors, texture, shapes, etc.
• Remove all wood floor and all tile flooring.
• Remove all countertops and countertop bases.
• Remove all light fixtures including, but not limited to: fluorescents, wall washers, hanging light bulbs, etc.
• Remove all speakers and stereo system.
The crew should arrive with the following necessary items for de-branding:
• Two push brooms
• Five gallons of white paint
• Three paint rollers (with long handles)
• Tools for disassembly of equipment and demolition
• Small dumpster if significant demolition is required
The integrity of the brand is maintained through proper image. Closing a store without properly de-branding it, casts doubt on your operation and the overall brand. While it may be easier to simply lock the doors, your brand will decay in the eyes of your remaining customers. While it is probably not the most enjoyable experience for a retailer, the sharpest multi-unit retailers have not let their brand image erode behind a wall of weeds. If one spends the time to de-brand a store correctly, the brand can continue to flourish.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries. With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.