Vital signs: what your shop front says about you!
We’re always taught not to judge a book by its cover, but how about a bookshop? I’d argue that Number Eight Books in Crown Street is the most attractive looking shop in the town, and that can only help in drawing people inside. Once there, it’s up to the proprietor to secure your custom and future loyalty, but without getting people over the threshold he doesn’t get that chance in the first place.
The point is that how shops look is hugely important in getting new customers through the door. It’s also hugely important in attracting shoppers to the town more generally and indeed attracting new shops, because it is the appearance of our shops that collectively create the image of the town.
So, how good a job are they doing? Like Number Eight, there are some clear stars of the street scene – shops with attractive frontages and well-presented signage. There are many which are fine but could be better, and a few that really let themselves down. I’m not going to point the finger at the real rotters, but here are a few that go somewhere in the top or middle categories (I’ll let you decide which) and some with potential.
First off, my dear old dad at Ken Francis Butchers in Market Street: I had a hand in designing this, but it didn’t come out quite right – the name should probably have been in capitals. The colours are fine though, and the style, although a bit dated, suits the shop and the business relatively well.
This is Shelley’s Florist in Crown St, next to Number Eight Books. I think they’ve made a great job of this one – it’s classic, subtle and has style, which is presumably just what the business wants to say about itself.
Parallel to Crown Street is Bell Street, where you’ll find Telford Musical Instruments (lately Salop Music). This is one of those independent shops to be proud of, staffed by experts and one of just two or three musical instrument shops left in Shropshire. The only problem is, the sign is blank! Hopefully this is something Mick will sort out soon – this shop is too good to be anonymous.
There are some very smart hanging signs around the town, but a few more would be nice. These two are recent additions at new businesses further up Bell Street at Escape and Wrekin Rambler.
For me, this next one is a real missed opportunity. Barber & Sons has been in business on Church Street since the mid-19th century. Evidence of its longevity in the same premises can be found fixed to the brickwork a the top – two sturdy cast iron name plates, one of which is pictured below. Shouldn’t these be picked out in all their Victorian glory, rather than camouflaged in magnolia with the rest of the building?
Power Point can be found near the top of New Street, and sells electrical appliances. The stock is high quality and wide-ranging, and anyone I speak to who’s bought from there has been very pleased with the end result. I’m not sure the signage would inspire much confidence from new customers, however. In an age when many of us seek comfort in the big retailers – Curry’s, Comet and the others – independent shops selling this sort of stuff need a crisp, clean, contemporary brand to match. You don’t really get that from the current sign…
A near neighbour of Power Point is JP Fruits, star of a recent blog post on Fruit and Veg vs Health and Safety. I’m not going to chastise the owner for his bomb-damaged paintwork again (but LOOK at it!), I’m going to stick to the signage. I’m not sure what I think about this one: on the one hand it’s a bit tired and dated, and I feel like something bold and grand and fanfaring should replace it – something like one of those old PROVISIONS shop signs from the 1910s. That would suit his smart regimented rows of produce on display outside the shop. On the other hand, the existing sign is simple and unpretentious, and the dancing fruit raise a smile.
This next one is a nice little sign, one of the beneficiaries of the townscape heritage initiative (THI) a few years ago, but it feels like there’s something missing…
In 2011, CJ’s Coffee Shop relocated from Market Street to an existing cafe business in New Street, and somehow ended up as the linguistically awkward ‘Cafe CJ’s’ (Cafe CJ, surely?). It serves one of the town’s better cups of coffee. Their sign is attractive enough, but something hand-painted and a bit less shiny (remember Number Eight)might have given it an edge. That aside, the brand fascist in me would like to see the notice in the window about breakfast specials with at least some of the same fonts and colours as the main signage. Consistency in publicity and print materials is something a lot of businesses fall down on. It’s not a big deal, but it undermines the business’s identity.
I love The Dhaka in Tan Bank – I’ve had plenty of good meals there – but what were they thinking of when they put this new sign up recently? It’s blocking out half a window! They serve excellent food but obviously don’t have much time for aesthetics.
Wellington has a lot of very good independent businesses, and as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, more are appearing month by month. Some have carefully thought-out signage to welcome us in, but some need to think a bit more about how they present themselves, both for their own good and the town as a whole. There are some excellent sign writers and designers around Shropshire who can help get it right, and we need to use them.
So, businesses of Wellington: you have a lot to shout about. Make sure you’re shouting about it in decent lettering.
There should be rules that say they whole of the town should have the same style shop frontage and choice of colours much like the modern outlet villages.
Thanks for the comment… although I don’t quite agree. One of the things that gives market towns their character is the variety they contain, and that includes their shopfronts – I wouldn’t want to see each one a carbon copy of the other. In terms of styles of shopfront, there are already some rules in as much as new shopfronts must follow certain standards set down by planning regulations. Indeed we’ve seen some lovely new fronts installed in the last few years thanks to grants from the heritage lottery’s THI fund. The problem of course is that many shopfronts were installed 30 or 40 years ago when planning was sadly a lot more lax on all this, and the council can’t force shopkeepers to put new ones in at great expense – they can only influence them when the owners make changes.
As for colours – again, I wouldn’t want to see the same colours, that would look too regimented, but I do believe we should establish a palette of colours for the town that are encouraged, based on a building’s period, and which the planning people would look favourably on. As it stands, property owners use their own judgement and have their proposals accepted or denied, so it’s very reactive, where as giving them some proactive guidance in advance – i.e. ‘have you thought about these colours?’ – would be helpful. This picks up on a comment made in an earlier post, and which I’ll be blogging about separately soon!
I sympathise with your comment about the Dhaka’s sign but the windows and general appearance is to be admired. They must wash the windows every day. One or two shops might learn from that.
Thanks Mary. Yes, keeping a place looking clean and tidy is of course very important too – and The Dhaka is one of those businesses that always looks pretty pristine. That sign is mad though!
I work at Barnardo’s Brides By Appointment and am a little disappointed not to see on your website a picture or comment for our beautiful window display (which are changed every week) hee hee. 😉
We always receive such lovely comments from customers and my team work really hard to ensure our window is clean, well presented and imaginative.
Thanks for the comment Suzanne. I agree that yours is one of the star window displays – maybe you could give some of your neighbours help with theirs!