Here’s some design inspiration to add sizzle to your store for the fall selling season—from major overhauls to easy updates.
This fall, welcome back dance shoppers with fresh and exciting visuals in your store. From fun new merchandise to brand-new fixtures, there are many ways you can show off a fresh face. By embracing the changes brought about by the pandemic—from real estate trends to fashion trends—you can come out on top this fall.
“New year, new store” is how Kristin Ruggieri, owner of Attitude Dance & Activewear in Norwalk, CT, will be launching into the fall shopping season. She moved into a brand-new location a quarter of a mile away from her previous one in February 2021. While a big move in the middle of a pandemic may seem full of its challenges, the decision was right for Ruggieri, who had been watching this property for several years. When her old lease ended, and she saw commercial real-estate prices dip, she decided to take the leap. “It was the lowest price-point I’d ever seen, and I had just sold my house,” she says. “I used the profit to fund the build-out of the new store. It was a huge leap of faith, and it’s working out better than I could have imagined.”
Ruggieri anticipates that the updates in this new space will have a huge impact on back-to-school shopping. “We’re seeing new faces from much further away than our normal reach,” she says.
While customers dealt with cramped quarters and bad parking last year, “our new space is flooded with sunlight and is a wonderful environment to work and shop in,” says Ruggieri. “Everything is merchandised much better, and customers can easily shop on their own without needing help for every little thing. Our customers are now always excited to visit us.”
Three Summertime Renovations
The slower summer months give you time to focus on some projects around the store. Here are three examples from Attitude Dance & Activewear’s new location.
DIY cash wrap project
Think you need a contractor to create a custom look? Think again! Ruggieri purchased kitchen cabinets from IKEA that she assembled herself. “It was so much cheaper than custom cabinetry,” she says. “I definitely got my hands dirty, too!” Ruggieri was able to install customized cabinet fronts from a company called Semihandmade, which specializes in making alternative cabinet parts that can replace the standard options from IKEA.
She decided on sleek quartz countertops to finish the look. “The countertops are a very popular, mass-produced quartz,” she adds. “Because they are so common, they were under $70 a square foot.” Using a local contractor to install the countertops also saved her money on the project.
Dressing room glow-up
Using drapes she found at RH Teen, Ruggieri was able to build a modern fitting-room area that offers privacy and lends a soft, feminine atmosphere that speaks to the ballerinas who frequent the shop. She used hand-forged, curved rods that she purchased from an Etsy vendor. Outside of the fitting area are a pair of plush armchairs that provide a cozy spot for those who are waiting.
Installing curtain rods and drapes is a great option for spaces that do not have fitting rooms built in already. The cost of custom rods is far lower than hiring a contractor to build out walls. Plus, the unique design adds to the boutique-feel of the space.
Elevated fitting stage
Make your dancers feel like royalty, and give your back a rest, with an elevated pointe-shoe-fitting stage. Ruggieri says this project was life-changing for her. “I no longer have to sit on the floor to fit pointe shoes, and it’s conveniently located right next to our back room,” she says. “This was the first thing I designed and put on my must-have list.”
According to Ruggieri, this project can be easy and inexpensive. She purchased flooring remnants from Harlequin Floors and used plywood and two-by-fours from The Home Depot to build the stage itself. “Materials are very expensive right now, but it was still under $200, and my father built it, so labor was free,” she says.
Small Adjustments That Pack a Punch
Don’t neglect these one-off projects as you prepare for back-to-school shoppers.
Spotlight emerging categories
The pandemic has shifted the way people dress, including dancers. This year, Danielle Hernandez, owner of Beyond the Barre in Westwood, NJ, will be putting more focus on transitional fashion items that cross over into the streetwear-and-fitness category. These “dance-leisure” staples she has recently brought in, like Free People’s FP Movement sets and Daughters of Culture tops, are in demand for competition and convention dancers to wear to class and beyond. “Competition dance is trending, and they are not always wearing leotards and tights to class anymore,” she says. What’s more, dance moms are more inclined to make an investment in new products when they can be worn outside of the studio.
To highlight these new items, Hernandez uses her wall space to display leotards and fashion items in eye-catching color schemes. One wall will feature blacks, mint greens and blue styles, while another wall will showcase apparel in hot colors, like red, yellow and pink.
Gilbert Russell, a retail consultant and coach and owner of Brio Bodywear in Ottawa, Canada, adds that dance-leisure items also display really well laid flat. He suggests arranging them on a table toward the front of your store. “A little stand-up sign or chalkboard is great for messaging,” he adds.
Update your Instagram features
Instagrammable installations are still a great tool for creating effective social media content, which in turn helps to entice customers into your store. Instagram recently announced a shift toward becoming a more video-centric app in a move to keep up with TikTok and YouTube.
Look for ways you can incorporate movement into your displays and installations, says Russell. Props that move are one way to do that. “You know those wings painted on a wall that everyone takes a photo in front of? What’s the video equivalent of that?” he asks.
Thankfully, your customer base is accustomed to moving. Instead of signage asking dancers to “strike a pose,” ask them to perform a favorite dance step for a short video clip that shows off a new leotard. Or announce a dance move challenge with a custom hashtag your customers can use to share their turns and leaps. Add fun props that will encourage creative movement, like ribbon wands, Hula-Hoops or wings. These will liven up your store displays and excite customers.
Keeping things moving forward is the key to a successful back-to-school season this year. When you embrace the changes and have a positive outlook, you will strike the right note as you head into a new season.
Libby Basile reports regularly on visual merchandising, retail strategy and store design. She is a former editor in chief of Dance Retailer News.