Why it is crucial to your business

“A big reason to do a fit-out is to elevate your turnover and business. 

The fit out of a store can be crucial to the success of any retail business and it is an area where many surf retailers are leading the way. One of the most hotly contested categories at this year’s Surf Industry Awards was the Fit Out of the year, which was won by Strapper Surf and Blunt Skateboarding Co in Torquay, owned by Mike Di Sciascio.

The fit out was a big project, affectively a re-build and fit-out of two stores, and a big investment by Mike, both financially and emotionally, but it was something he believes was necessary for the ongoing success of his retail business. Reggae Elliss caught up with Mike to pick his brain on the whys and hows of investing in a new fit-out

Mike, your fit-out was a big exercise. Why do you think a good fit-out is necessary for a retailer?

The customer experience is an essential part of retail and that includes surf retail. With so many choices for surfers, including on line, an important element to be competitive is a great space and experience for customers to enjoy and be rewarded with for shopping with us. The right design can enhance your key points of difference and elevate you from your competition while also showcasing the great brands and unique products that surf shops have to offer. Also we all need to change and evolve to keep relevant in a fast changing market place.


The consensus is that a re-fit of an existing store is necessary to maintain and grow a retail business. How often do you think it should it be done?

That can really vary. I have had shop fits that have stood the test of time and with good maintenance and some minor works have stayed relevant and valuable for a long time – well beyond their written down value timeline. Generally in a shopping centre you would do a refit every 5-7 years and 5-10 years other addresses. It is an investment and you want to make sure you get it right the first time. I once did a major fit-out on a store and it was, well, a bit of a fail and two years later I did another fit-out and rebuilt the entrance. I enlarged the store by around 7% and had a 25% + turnover  increase instantly. Same store, same products.

A new fit-out can be expensive; what sort of cost should you look at based on turnover?

Spending a bomb doesn’t necessarily give great results. I think that getting the design right for your store space and customers/business is most important. The best input comes from two sources: The shop owner, we live and breathe it and spend a lot of time on the floors so have a lot of input to give and a specialist designer. I’ve always used professional designers even for minor works, working together closely. Fit-out costs can vary dramatically, but a very general guide would be sub $500 pm2 for very basic and mates rates fit-outs, $500-1000 pm2 for a professional level store and $1000-2000pm2 for premium fit-outs. That is what most shopping centres expect and demand. Larger stores are generally lower cost per/square metre and smaller stores are generally higher cost per/square metre. The key with all levels is a good design. While what you spend needs to be affordable and relevant to your turnover a big reason to do a fit-out is to elevate your turnover and business. It’s a judgement call on what you should spend to back your business plan and have a crack!

True, but no doubt it can be stressful. Any tips on reducing costs and keeping within a realistic budget?

In my experience, clever and relevant fit-out design helps you trade better not expensive finishes or ego builds! Do it once and get it right.

If a retailer doesn’t have the funds for a major fit-out, how do you freshen up the store’s look and feel without breaking the bank?

We always put a focus on maintenance, keeping what you have in the best condition. That includes cleaning and merchandising as well as repairs, light globes etc. I am making over two stores currently for a very modest spend. Some fresh paint highlights, reconfiguring key elements in store, LED lights and some updated racking has made a huge impact and freshened up and elevated the experience in the store. We think it has extended the good life of the current fit-outs for another five years. I engaged my interior architect for one day at each store and we took photos and hand marked changes to the pictures for action. A big opportunity currently is to replace all your lighting with LED lights. LED’s has a different look and ambiance that is very much part of the current best retail look and also offers large costs savings so they pay for themselves over a few years with lower electricity bills. Another good low cost thing to consider is changing your hangers. If you use plastic and move to wood hangers or change the colours, it can have a real impact on the store experience and how it showcases the stock and add or detract from your store’s style. However, before doing anything, cleaning and basic maintenance like light globes etc. is very important.

“It really can be that simple – lights, hangers, some paint touch ups and moving some racks can have a massive impact and you’re not actually spend too much.”

What about the exterior of the store? How important is signage, the entrance etc.?

A key part of a stores success is the exterior representation of the store. Most independent surf shops are on smaller town or suburban shopping strips and are a destination coastal address. Landmark signage and imagery are foundation stones of the “surf” look and can be your best marketing tool for your store and the amazing brands and products we sell in the stores. Getting this right and also keeping it well-maintained, fresh and current is vital and as important as the lights inside your store. We review all of our exteriors annually – looking at logo and image upgrades, maintenance, colours etc. It’s a bit like the cover of a book or a wine label – it’s your first communication of the experience, products and service in store.


As the winner of the fit-out of the year, we appreciate your insights. Anything else you’d like to pass on to SBIA retailers?

As I said earlier, a good fit-out is worth the investment. There’s plenty of anecdotal reports of 10-30% turnover increase over the first 12-24 months from a good fit-out. Then if you add the possible loss of business of not doing it and continuing to rely on a worn out and tired fit-out for some more years, the benefit proposition is even greater. I think finding the money to invest in your fit-out is super hard and likely the biggest challenge for most independent retailers and certainly is for me. However, if you look at all the most successful retailers in Australia like a Bunnings or an Apple store and say all the retail winners at the recent SBIA awards, they nearly all have new cleverly designed and well maintained fit-outs. That enhances the customer experience in store and showcases the great products they have to offer. Sounds like a winning formula to me!