Sweeney Architects

Promote your premises

How can your premises and its design help promote your business? The design and appearance of shops has a huge impact on the appearance of individual buildings, streets, localities and in turn our everyday environment as a whole. The impact can be positive; with attractive, lively and dignified streets, or all too commonly negative; being jumbled, shabby or just plain ugly. While retailers may feel the need to shout or advertise their presence, if the outside is uninviting or the shop grim, people will think twice before entering.

Retail business began in open street markets with temporary stalls. From this, in the middle ages, plots of land around the market place were purchased by traders and craftsmen who constructed houses. These usually had open fronts to the ground floor from which goods were sold or trades purveyed. As trade developed, workshops moved to the rear of the building or the upper floors. By the beginning of the 17th Century, shops in the larger towns were beginning to erect shopfronts with the open area above the stall being enclosed by a glazed screen, windows and doors. Thus the form of the shopfront was created- the stall riser beneath the stall, or sill, the window, the door and the fascia above.

Shopfront design evolved as architectural fashions changed in the nineteenth century and with technological advances. The recessed doorway became almost a standard feature from the late 18th century onwards, allowing shelter for customers and providing a greater window display area. From the 1820's cylinder glass became available, allowing larger panes, usually divided with vertical glazing bars with the moulding on the outside. The fascia, previously vertical, now in some instances became angled downward to allow for greater visibility.

The console bracket became an opportunity for the joiner or shopfitter to display his skill, with scrolls, foliage, fruit or beasts with these sometimes denoting the trade of the occupant. Street displays were not uncommon, particularly by ironmongers. Butchers and fishmongers were typified by a full width vertical sliding sash windows, which could be opened to enable the wares to be displayed to the street.

An important consideration is that regardless of the period of construction, a shopfront nearly always incorporates 4 key elements: fascia, sill, palister and stallriser. These must be applicable to the context of the shopfront itself, and by relating to each other create an acceptable appearance. Your shop front is your customers’ first impression of your overall business. Much depends on how they see you. If well designed and well assembled, it entices people to venture in and discover more. With the help of your architect, your shop front can send out the right signals and open the door to more customers. Remember that the primary consideration in achieving a well-designed shopfront is that it should be conceived as part of the whole building into which it is installed.