Is Your Appearance Turning Customers Away?


Create favorable appearances to bring customers in and keep them coming back

Your excellent customer service and competitive pricing won’t matter much if your store’s appearance doesn’t lure customers in. It won’t matter at all if your appearance causes them to walk right back out once they come inside. The reality is that people may judge a store in seconds based on their first impressions of its external and internal signage, organization and cleanliness.

Why Looks Count

Tips for the Outside: Create an Inviting Exterior and Entrance

Knowing how important a store’s external appearance is, you can’t take your store’s appearance for granted. Think about your signage and impression compared to other pharmacies in your community. And, ensure that the exterior is clean and inviting each day.

  • Make sure all external signage is clear, modern and compelling. Ask yourself what impression your sign makes on potential customers.
  • Ensure all exterior signage lighting is working so your store name is clearly visible from the street.
  • Remove all trash from the exterior of the building and sidewalks.
  • Clean the parking lot (plow if needed).
  • Clean windows and remove any outdated information posted in windows, entryway, on bulletin boards, etc.
  • Sweep and clean the entry (or shovel as needed).
  • Make sure the store entry is uncluttered.

Shopping is like buying a house, said Rick Segel, a retail and marketing expert who wrote Retail Business Kit For Dummies. “If [a store] doesn’t have curb appeal, a potential customer isn’t going to go in.”

Based solely on the appearance from the street, more than two-thirds of consumers decided not to visit a business, according to a 2011 survey by Morpace, a market research and consulting firm.[1] Other findings from this survey include:

  • 95% said stores’ external appearance influences their decisions about where to shop.
  • 52% said they avoided a store because of a dirty appearance from outside.
  • 39% said they won’t enter a store that doesn’t “look like a place I would normally shop.”

Once Inside, Continue to Impress

After your store’s external appearance has induced customers to enter, it is important to continue to make a positive impression. Also, front-end sales can help make a huge impact on your bottom line. Specifically, $1 in front-end sales generates 9 cents more profit than $1 in prescription sales, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association’s 2011 NCPA Digest. Some retailers fail to capitalize on this opportunity. Dirty shelves and poor organization can keep first-time customers from visiting a second time. When asked why they decided not to return, 32% said because a store was dirty and 53% said they couldn’t find what they wanted.

It is important to see your pharmacy through your customers’ eyes and to create positive impressions that will help boost sales.

Start by asking yourself what people expect or look at when walking into an establishment like yours, advises Billy Nitz, former pharmacy tech who now leads retail pharmacy optimization for McKesson. Because a pharmacy is a healthcare establishment, consumers expect it to be clean, professional and well organized. That includes the appearance of the staff as well. “The way the employees look is visual merchandising,” Segel said.

The First 10 Feet

Once customers enter, your pharmacy’s initial appearance must make a positive impression and convince them to stay. “The crucial area is the first 10 feet of the store,” Segel said. He recommends having:

  1. A price-sensitive offer. To get their attention, consider presenting a good deal as soon as they enter.
  2. An illustration of what your store represents. That could be a product the store is known for or a company you represent. It also could be photos of your pharmacists with a few words that highlight their expertise.
  3. A schedule of classes or events. Successful retailers bring people back to their store with various community-based educational opportunities and activities, Segel said.

Give customers a clear view of the pharmacy — the heart of your business — as soon as they enter the store, reinforcing your image as a healthcare provider.

Sell with Signs

Tips for Interior Appearance: Look Like a High-Quality Healthcare Destination

  • Clean floors and shelves, dusting products as needed.
  • Review appearance of branded point-of-purchase materials (e.g., shelf talkers, danglers, tent cards).
  • Return shopping baskets to the front of the store and pick up any merchandise that’s fallen.
  • Ensure shelves are well stocked (e.g., 3 of each OTC product on the shelf).
  • Shelf-by-shelf, ensure all items are faced, pulled to front and aligned.
  • Ensure all displays/end caps are well-stocked with faced items and have pricing/savings signage.
  • Identify and order any out-of-stock products using your inventory-replenishment process.
  • Remove and dispose of any damaged products. Some items may be moved to a clearance section.

Signage is extremely important. Customers want shopping to be easy and fun, and signs can make it both. According to Segel, signs should serve four functions remembered with the phrase “I SEE”:

  • Inform. Show customers where various products are and the way to the restroom.
  • Sell. Flag “Just Arrived” or interesting products and advertise deals or promotions.
  • Educate. Teaching customers about products or services can motivate them to buy. For example, a “Flu Prevention Tips” poster could increase sales of hand sanitizer, tissues and flu shots.
  • Entertain. Shopping today is a form of entertainment, and signage can put shoppers in a good mood. For example, a dairy posted a sign reading, “Milk so fresh the cow doesn’t even know it’s missing,” and a hardware store’s sign said, “Husbands cannot buy paint without a signed note from their wife.” When a sign makes customers smile or chuckle, Segel said, “you’ve moved the focus away from price.”

Nitz also recommends reinforcing your brand throughout the store, by making it highly visible on everything from a rug at the entry to the lighted sign on a drink cooler.

The Key Takeaway: Appearance Matters

You want your external and internal appearance to complement, and not detract from, your personal customer service. A great external appearance makes a positive first impression, has curb appeal and invites people in. A good internal appearance can help convert one-time visitors into ongoing customers.

Creating a welcoming environment isn’t magic. It requires seeing your store through your customers’ eyes and establishing daily processes to help ensure your store’s signage is effective, and that the store is well-stocked and clean. Investing in a great appearance can help reap dividends for your bottom line.

[1] “Consumers are influenced by the physical appearance of a retailer,” Morpace Omnibus Report, April 2011,
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