An award-winning franchisee who completed a major shop refit at the end of 2020 has shared the key lessons from his experience.

Trade at Howards Storage World in Adelaide is up 30% for the financial year to date, despite disruptions caused by upgrade works and the pandemic.

“It might sound crazy to some people that we decided to upgrade in the middle of a pandemic and during one of the most challenging years in retail, but strong sales and few COVID cases in SA convinced us that the timing was right,” owner Dave Strutton said.

“Except for the three days that we went into lockdown in November in South Australia, we were lucky to be able to continue trading and to have the money to invest back into the store to improve the shopping experience for our customers.”

Strutton did admit that there was an initial sales dip in March last year, like many others, when the first Covid-19 restrictions were put in place, but by mid-April customers were “returning in droves and embarking on home improvement projects”.

Dave Strutton at his Howards Storage World store in Adelaide before the refit

The store upgrade was completed using upcycling materials obtained from former Howards Storage World stores and with the help of local trades.

Improvements made to the interior have resulted in more space with the counter area relocating to improve access for customers and staff; faster service with the installation of an extra cash register and rollout of a new computer system to reduce checkout waiting times, as well as better lighting with displays relocated to allow more natural light.

There is also more room to display products and televisions for customers to watch product demonstration videos. Last but not least, the storefront was re-painted and new LED signage was installed.

Strutton said the refit took a little longer than hoped for to complete, but the overwhelmingly positive customer feedback and increased foot traffic has made it worthwhile.

“While there is a place for online shopping, my experience shows in-store shopping remains popular,” he said.