Kat Maclennan is a renowned VM expert and Associate of The Charity Retail Consultancy. Here she shares her thoughts on what to consider when opening a new or refitted store.

Opening a brand new store or refreshing an existing site is an exciting opportunity to take stock.

It’s important to take a step back, assess what’s working well, and what you might like to change, potentially develop a new strategy around visual merchandising, display and your customer journey.

I find it helpful to take a step by step approach and not to underestimate the importance of taking time to think of the big picture before focusing on the detail of retail.

STEP 1 – Blue Sky Thinking…..

 Look at retail trends, what is happening on the high street?  Not just within our own sector but all retail.  Think about the range of store designs there are and window displays, how do customers like to shop and interact with a brand?  What can you learn and adapt for your own customers?

STEP 2 – Plan, Plan, Plan….


Think about how you would like to use the total space you have, flexibility should be a key consideration giving your concept longevity and make it easy to refresh depending on the season and the donations you have.

Consider about your customer journey, how can you encourage customers through the whole space and experience every category. The more they see the more they will buy, so think about your walkways, focal points and hotspots, planning them in from the very beginning helps create an easy to understand shopping experience.

Determine where categories will be positioned, consider your adjacencies and flexible space. Where should your cash desk be?  Lighting and flooring are also important decisions, helping create atmosphere, mood and ambience.

Windows are an important and sometimes overlooked area when planning space.  There are lots of things to consider here, including framing and lighting the space and how you might display stock, POS and messaging.

 STEP 3 – Fixtures…..

Are you installing a totally new shop fit or reusing existing or donated fixtures?  I always recommend flexibility to be able to reconfigure wall bays depending on the season and donations.

Strive to have a mixture of floor fixtures, and a table set is always useful near the entrance to link to your window display and draw a customer into your shop.

STEP 4 Tell a story…..

Pic: Shelter, Coal Drops Yard

Branding and messaging are important considerations.  How can you tell your charities story in an exciting and interesting way?  Graphics are not the only vehicle you have, think about the materials you use in store, and how they can communicate your message.   Colour is an important prompt for our brains – be creative and include a bit of theatre for customers to interact with.

STEP 5 – The final countdown….

Implementation is fun, but can also be challenging, there are always hiccups and unforeseen problems.  To make it as easy as possible develop a clear and detailed plan before you start.

With good planning it will all come together, and you will have created the  store of your dreams, that volunteers and customers will love!

I hope you‘ve found this overview  useful. If you’d like a more detailed exploration in the process of opening or refitting a store please come along to my webinar – just click the link below to find out more and book your place

Visual Merchandising: Planning for a Successful Store Opening – 6th June

Date: 6th June 2024
Time: 10am – 11.30am
Tutor: Kat Maclennan
Cost: £45 + VAT per person
This webinar is available FREE for CRL subscribers – please get in touch if you’d like to reserve any places or to subscribe

Featured Image: Cults store, Chest Heart And Stroke Scotland

More About Us

The Charity Retail Consultancy helps charity retailers and other non-profits be their brilliant best.

Charity Retail Learning provides online & face to face training developed by charity retailers, for charity retailers. We work in partnership with the Charity Retail Association to deliver training to their members and beyond.

The Charity Retail Merchandiser – Kat Maclennan helps you create stunning and profitable displays in store and online

The Charity Retail Coach – Dan O’Driscoll offers a first class executive coaching service

To find out more or to speak to us about how we can help you, please get in touch:


Jayne – 07598 243210

Vicki – 07985 574904