Optimizing Your Commercial Space: Get the Most Bang for Your Buck

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Commercial property prices have been on the rise since 2020. Whether you're planning to buy or rent commercial space, it's crucial to organize it efficiently. Every square inch matters when you're on a tight budget. The key is to figure out a way to make your premises appealing to customers while providing enough space for work and storage.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

A clutter-free office or retail space can improve your company's bottom line. Invest in storage options, digitize your files and illuminate your space in different ways to boost employee productivity and increase sales.

Choose the Perfect Store Layout

As a business owner, you want to strategically use every inch of retail space to improve the customer experience. In addition to an attractive storefront, you need to consider the furniture, lighting, fixtures, floor plans, wall colors and exterior signage. For example, did you know that 90% of buyers turn right when walking into a store? This explains why popular brands like Zara and H&M display their latest collections on the right side of the entrance.

Generally, store layouts can be classified into four main categories. Grid layouts are commonly used in grocery stores and pharmacies, consisting of long aisles. Stores with lots of products but minimal space may choose the herringbone layout, which is characterized by a single central aisle with separate walkways to each category of product. The loop layout ensures maximum product exposure by directing customers in a "closed loop" around the store.

If you're the creative type, you may want to consider a free-flow layout. Unlike other settings, it allows the most freedom and can be easily customized for small spaces. In general, this layout appeals to fashion retailers, jewelry stores and high-end shops with a small number of products.

Depending on how much space you have, you may also use multiple layouts. Think about your foot traffic, merchandise and desired customer behavior.

Maximize Your Commercial Space

When you're trying to get the most out of your new office or retail space, it's essential to keep it organized. A clutter-free work space can increase productivity and help you save time. Check your business documents, throw away what you don't need and digitize the rest. If you have a small office, consider renting a garage or a self-storage unit to keep bulky items.

The same goes for retail space — a cluttered look can drive away buyers and affect employee performance. Plus, it can turn inventory management into a nightmare. Invest in the right storage units to save space and organize your products more efficiently. Mobile storage units, for example, are cheap and portable, allowing you to maximize the space in your warehouse or stockroom.

Pay attention to lighting as well. This factor has a direct impact on overall health, mood and productivity. Good lighting is just as important in retail stores because it can give the impression of a larger space and influence customer behavior. Use a mix of lamps, track lights and picture lights to create special effects and guide buyers through your store.

Both the contrast and color temperature of lighting influence customers' behavior, including their attention and arousal. Good lighting attracts their attention to the merchandise and may increase their odds of making a purchase. Even if you have limited space, you can use different lights to showcase specific products and make it easy for buyers to find what they need.

Eliminate Wasted Space

About 30% to 40% of workspaces in the U.S. are underused in a typical workday. On top of that, more than half of employees would switch jobs for more flexibility. One option is to allow your team members to work remotely. Or you can try to identify and eliminate wasted space, such as private offices, conference rooms and document storage rooms.

According to Herman Miller, private offices are unoccupied 77% of the time. If you have limited office space, consider switching to small-scale pieces and turn private offices into open areas. For example, you could set up small work stations with partition panels for the company’s executives or create a distraction-free zone for projects that require more focus or privacy. This can eliminate the need for private offices without sacrificing personal space.

Another option is to switch to video conferencing and eliminate wasted space, such as enclosed offices and meeting rooms. Consider allowing your employees to work from home at least some of the time. Companies that offer this option experience a staggering 13% increase in productivity. Even if your team members are miles away, you can still control their workflow and hold staff meetings by using Trello, Skype, Asana and other collaboration tools.

Invest in Functional Furniture

Furniture can make all the difference when it comes to optimizing your commercial space. Wall storage units, for example, take less space than filing cabinets and can be used in offices and stockrooms as well as in the hallway. Replace purely decorative pieces with functional furniture and accessories. Use the walls to display presentations, install hanging shelves and replace heavy desks with standing desks or mobile workstations.

If you're trying to maximize your retail space, consider cutting window-like space into the walls. This will allow you to display more products and make your store look bigger. Accent walls, furnishing in neutral colors, mirrors and glass cabinets are all an excellent choice for small stores, creating the impression of a larger space. Opt for modern furnishings with sleek lines and hang shelves at different levels.

Likewise, you can organize your warehouse or stockroom to save space. For example, you may use the space above shipping or receiving doors to store smaller items, reduce aisle width or install a mezzanine above shipping areas. Consider your plans for expansion as well. Modular cabinets, for instance, allow for easy reconfiguration and can help maximize your storage space as your inventory grows.

Make Your Store More Appealing

An attractive storefront is often the key to more sales and revenue. A simple yet effective way to maximize commercial space is to improve the appearance of your store. About 95% of buyers say that a store's external appearance influences their purchase decisions.

Depending on the location of your store, you can improve its curb appeal by refreshing your signage, freshening up the paint or creating eye-catching window displays. Another option is to set up outside displays when the weather is warm and sunny. Show off some of your products or offer free samples in front of your building to lure customers inside.

Use colors, lighting and signage that align with your brand. Keep your customers in mind at all times. If, say, you're targeting an edgier crowd, play with colors and accessories to make your store stand out. For example, you could set up a selfie spot or a small photo booth in your store to encourage customers to walk in and try on clothes.

Appeal to all five senses by using the right colors, music, smells and sights. The smell of freshly baked bread, for instance, can increase foot traffic — all you need to do is to leave the door open and fill your window display with lovely baked treats. Provide comfortable seating for walk-in customers and invite them to try some free samples.

Set Realistic Expectations

Rent is often the largest expense for startups and small companies. If you're still searching for the perfect space to rent, make sure your expectations are realistic. The bigger the city, the more you'll pay. The average yearly cost to rent office space in New York is a whopping $14,800 per employee, reports MarketWatch.

Are you planning to rent office space in San Francisco? Expect to pay around $65.16 per square foot. The average price per sq ft is $33.51 in Los Angeles, $32.10 in Seattle and $20.97 in Atlanta. This means you can end up paying over $60,000 per year for a relatively small office depending on the location.

Even if you get a good deal, you still need to consider the infrastructure of the building, its location and your prospective neighbors. These aspects are crucial for companies that interact with the public. Health stores and clothing boutiques, for example, should be located in high-traffic areas to attract buyers, so the rent will be higher. Depending on the type of business, you may need around 75 to 100 or even 200 square feet per employee.

Types of Commercial Property

Commercial real estate prices have skyrocketed over the past years in the United States. Whether you're renting or buying property, the costs will add up. Therefore, it's crucial to optimize your space so that you get the most bang for your buck. Perhaps one of the most important aspects to consider is the type of commercial space, which may include:

  • Office space
  • Retail Space
  • Land
  • Multifamily buildings or apartment buildings
  • Industrial space
  • Mixed-use properties
  • Other types of commercial real estate, such as hotels and amusement parks

Office buildings, for example, are ideal for law firms, PR agencies, consulting agencies, banks and other service-based businesses. These can be further classified into several categories, such as urban or suburban and single-tenanted or multi-tenanted. The most prestigious office buildings are ranked Class A, offering premium features and amenities. Class B and Class C buildings are affordable to rent but also less convenient than Class A.

Except for multifamily buildings, all of these examples are considered commercial buildings. If, say, you're planning to open a health store, decide whether you'll rent commercial space in a strip center, community retail center or regional shopping center (mall). Another option is a power center, which has a mix of small retail stores and big-box retailers like Best Buy and Target. Check real estate listings in your area to get a better idea of what's on the market.

Consider Your Space Requirements

Consider how much space you need to conduct your operations. Office/retail space requirements depend on several factors, including the nature of work, the number of employees, cultural aspects and more. Canadians, for example, value personal space and may feel confined in a small, crowded office. Additionally, companies that hold frequent meetings or use multiple computers and other pieces of equipment require more office space than a small law firm.

A data center, for instance, may require one or more rooms for computers. An accounting firm may need extra space for storing documents. Other permanent rooms and spaces may include conference rooms, break rooms or reception areas. Employees in executive positions, such as a company's president and managers, typically have their own offices, while programmers and secretaries may work in cubicles or open areas.

Things are a little more complicated when it comes to retail space. You not only have to make sure your premises allow for easy movement and storage but also pay attention to the overall design and create an attractive storefront. Consider the floor plan, store layout, displays and other factors influencing customer behavior. Seek ways to save space, such as identifying products that would go well together and placing them in the same location rather than grouping them by category or department.