Curb (Kerb) Appeal: First Impressions Count

In a rapidly changing retail world, we often spend too much of our time focusing on what's happening inside our stores while forgetting that the customer's journey starts from the outside. Using a few simple rules, you can make sure you are looking your best to give visitors to your store a consistently remarkable experience from start to finish.

What is Curb appeal ?

According to the dictionary, it is the attractiveness of the exterior of a residential or commercial property, as viewed from the street.

The term was extensively used in the United States during the housing boom and continues to be used as an indicator of the initial “appeal” of a property to prospective buyers or customers.

Retail is detail is an old saying, but a critical one, especially in the market place today.

In the rapidly changing world of retail, we often forget some of the basic rules of retailing. I was reminded of this recently when Graphic House Signs and Graphic Systems of Wisconsin, USA sent me a copy of the chart in this article which is based on the importance of curb appeal. There is a lot of focus in today’s press on online retailing and the decline of “bricks” retailing.

I am a strong believer in the future of “bricks” retailing, but also that we need to provide an experience for the consumer; that starts outside of the business, on the street.

The infographic above is courtesy is of Graphic House, Inc

In my consultancy, many farm retailers believe store improvement is about spending capital to improve their business. This may be a stage in your business journey, but improving curb appeal is one simple low-cost way of improving business. Curb appeal is an ongoing process and one that needs to be checked daily, even if your farm shop is located on the farm.

How often do you cross the road from your business and look at the business from a consumer’s point of view? Something every customer does every time they visit your farm retail establishment

I was recently asked to carry out some consultancy for a farm retailer and the first thing I did was take them across the road to look at their business.

Once across the road, I asked them to describe their brand to me and what message they wanted to communicate to their customers. The description they gave was about wanting to be a quality, premium brand which was modern in its approach to retailing farm products. I agreed with them that when I was in the store, this message was strongly communicated to the visitor. I could understand why they believed in this statement, but how does the consumer perceive it was the message that was important to get across.

Once outside the business, I challenged them on the peeling paint-work on the facia of the building, old fashioned neon signs in the window, posters plastered on the window and a dirty front door that had not been cleaned that week.

Their reaction was one of surprise, that they had not noticed these blemishes to their brand before.

Yes, you do need to look at your business through outside eyes. The secret, though, is putting those eyes on and looking at your business as a customer would look at it.

As a farm retailer myself, I realise this is not easy, time pressure is always there and we often neglect the importance of first impressions and how they impact the customer.

How do you improve your curb appeal?

The key area are:

  • Check your first impressions daily and at the same time every day. It needs to become a habit in the business;
  • Have a checklist so you know what you are looking for. Keep it simple, list the key points and provide a box for the “tick”;
  • Rotate the inspection between the team so nobody becomes store blind.
Florist Shop Display Outside

An engaging shop front can draw customers into your store.

Interesting Bakery Window Shop Display

Make the most of the window display areas you have to showcase your offering to its best.

I’m often told image observations are “common sense “but I am afraid it is more like “rare sense”.

I will guarantee that the majority of readers of this blog do not have a "First Impression Checklist" that they implement every day. Consequently, your brand will be suffering in some way due to store "blindness".

The consumer makes a decision in seconds and those memories stay with them for a long time. They are often referred to as the “retail touch points” in the business.

What are the "Touch Points"?

When a person comes to your store, they are:

  • What they see as they drive past your store;
    Would a potential customer want to stop their vehicle and drive in?
  • If you have a shop window, it is what that shop window looks like;
    Is it a 'WOW window' display that makes them linger a few seconds?
  • The entrance to the building;
    Is it clean and inviting or is it cluttered and dirty? Too often we place messages on the door that are never read
  • When they meet the first member of the team;
    Is this team member engaging or simply wanting to process them?

How to Make the Right First Impression on a Farm

Getting the first impressions correct on the farm can be more challenging than it is for retailers on the High Street.

You want to get the message across that this is a profitable farming business and that it grows the food that it sells.

In order to effectively get that message over to the public, having the impression of entering a farm is important. At the same time, you have to make sure it is safe and that the public does not interfere with the farming practices taking place.

Every business is different, but consider a separate entrance for the public so they are not facing farm equipment on the same drive way. The public want to see crops being grown or animals in the fields and this provides the first impression they are often looking for.

Effective Outside Farm Shop Spaces

They want to park their car in an obvious parking location and not step into a muddy field, especially if they are wearing ‘town shoes”

The entrance needs to be clearly visible and they want to walk into a clean looking entrance and see a locally grown seasonal product.

This is where the story really starts and, if done well, sets your customers up for a good experience in-store.

Cobbs Farm Shop and Kitchen Fronte
Cobbs Farm Shop Pumpkins Display
Manydown Farm Shop Cafe Bus Cobbs Farm Shop Produce Display Front

Cobbs Farm Shop and Kitchen is a terrific example of how you can start a customer's journey off well.

I recently walked into a farm in a temperate part of the world and the first power display was bananas from the tropics. When I challenged the owner, I was told that they were a major seller in the business and were generating a good gross profit and hence the decision was made to locate them in the prime selling location. My approach was that we should keep to our values, especially in prime locations that affect the image of the business. Farm retailing should be sending a seasonal and local message and this was the wrong product in the wrong location.

There should be planned prime location products that all the team are aware of and manage accordingly to ensure the correct message is communicated to the consumer.

So, why not take my challenge today? Grab some of your team and take a walk around outside; look at your business critically as a customer would and make the appropriate changes.

... and once you start, keep it going!

Make sure your curb appeal is working for your business.


John Stanley

John Stanley


John Stanley is a retail consultant specialising in the farm retail sector. Based in West Australia, he is a sweet chestnut and pig farmer as well as consultant and conference speaker with clients in 35 countries. He is the author of several books in this subject, including the book 'Food Tourism... A Practical Marketing Guide'

Great minds think alike.

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