== Richard Hamilton of Agile Space begins a step-by-step guide to revamping your shops ==

Common sense plays a huge part in brand evolution and store design and, for so many businesses, is the missing link.

For many food and beverage retailers, times are tough and for some, their worst fears have been realised as dwindling customer numbers have meant slowing sales and negative growth. Yet the future isn’t all gloom, so long as retailers are willing to evolve.

Opportunities on the high street are abundant, with empty units and low rents available within prime locations and with landlords offering valuable incentives to attract new lets. Many long-established businesses are protective of their existing brand and established customer base and are afraid of taking new opportunities that could affect their bread-and-butter sales, as well as evolving beyond their customers’ expectations.

Evolution of businesses and brands is not a frightening process and is a good way of examining a current offer and operation to look at how, with new efficiencies and improvements, there could be simple opportunities for growth and development.

One established family bakery chain I’ve just worked with is an example of such an evolution. It is about to launch a new brand and concept (still under wraps!) that builds on its existing baking skills, offering current customers something original while attracting a new and younger customer base. The traditional glass sales display counter is nowhere to be seen, with a clean Corian-topped counter and simple display points taking its place. There is an unobstructed view of the bakers working the dough and ovens are clearly on display. The store design supports the honesty of the product, with brick-and-timber finishes and simple graphics adorning the walls, explaining the different breads, all part of a memorable experience.

As with many successful brands, tradition is at the heart of customer confidence and. through building on their existing skills and operational frameworks, evolution is simple with new brand packaging - a new name, a look and a feel. The store environment, which is one of the greatest costs to any retailer, should enhance the product while creating a snapshot of the brand. If designed with common sense, it should be easy to maintain and be one of your greatest marketing tools.

l Next month: taking the first steps