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Construction Project Management for Retail Fit Out

Updated: May 10


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Retail construction projects typically involve refurbishment and/or fit out of a space within an existing or new development. They present a set of unique challenges, from meeting planning requirements to managing construction logistics within busy urban areas.

 

The interior of a recent flower shop fit out project

Design considerations for retail projects


Retail spaces will often have unique design requirements to reflect the retailer’s brand identity and to create an inviting atmosphere for customers. These aesthetic considerations need to be balanced with practical construction considerations whilst adhering to budget constraints.


The design also needs to take into consideration the range of services that will need to serve the space, typically including the following:


Mechanical

Heating, ventilation, extraction and air conditioning to provide a comfortable ambient temperature for employees and customers, and to control the temperature in areas with specific requirements, such as a freezer or comms room.


Electrical

For retail units that have a particularly high power demand, additional capacity may need to be requested from the relevant utility provider. This is usually a lengthy process; the project manager will work with the client to identify this at an early stage so that this activity can be included within the project schedule.


Heating, ventilation and air conditioning services in the ceiling of a retail unit

Plumbing

Water supply and wastewater disposal.


Telecoms

Broadband, Wi-Fi and fibre.


Often, there will be a requirement to incorporate technology such as advanced HVAC systems, lighting controls, and digital signage into retail construction projects, adding another layer of complexity to the design.

Typically, there are additional landlord and/or developer requirements with which the design and fit out also needs to comply, such as coordination and integration of the retailer’s fire alarm system with the landlord’s building fire alarm system.

 

Compliance with regulations


Compliance with local regulations and building codes is essential for retail construction projects, which are often located in public spaces near and/or inside other buildings. Designing spaces that meet safety, fire, and accessibility requirements whilst adhering to zoning regulations and permit restrictions can be complex.


Depending on the extent of the works, planning consent may be required from the local authority and this may be approved with conditions. The project manager is responsible for ensuring the team meets the relevant conditions prior to completion or within the timeframe specified by the planning authority.


Advertisement consent is generally required for any signage outside the retail unit. The project manager will assist with obtaining consent, usually taking advice from a planning consultant that is familiar with the local planning policies.


New signage is installed outside this new flower shop


Stakeholder management in retail projects


Retail construction projects typically involve multiple stakeholders including developers, architects, contractors, third party vendors, franchisees and the retailer. Effective communication and coordination among these parties is essential to ensure that everyone is aligned with the project goals and timeline.

 

Keeping control of the project budget


Cost control and management is particularly essential in retail construction projects which typically have tight budgets. Ensuring that the project stays within budget requires detailed planning, accurate cost estimation, and careful monitoring of expenses throughout the construction process.  To reduce the risk of cost overspend, the project manager will also work with the client team at project commencement to identify any missing requirements by re-validating the project brief and reviewing the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ for the business.

 

Construction


Managing the logistics of construction materials delivery, storage, and inventory control can be complex, particularly in urban areas where space is a constraint. Ensuring that materials arrive on time and are stored efficiently at the construction site is crucial for minimising delays.


In cases where the retail space is leased to multiple tenants, coordinating construction activities to accommodate the requirements of each tenant and their respective timelines can be challenging. Flexibility and effective communication are key to addressing tenant needs while minimising disruptions to the overall project schedule.



Construction works underway in a retail fit out project. Tools and materials are neatly stored in the partially completed shop unit.

 

Operational Familiarisation & Training


Following completion of construction works, retailers will often have a period of training to ensure that employees are familiar with the new surroundings, equipment and technology.  It can be tempting to compress or omit this period if construction works are running late. However, with careful planning and monitoring by the project manager, this period should remain protected.

 

Consent to Trade


Retailers will require ‘Consent to Trade’ from the local authority before they have permission to start trading.  This process can either be managed by the tenant or the landlord and, as with planning consent, the consent may be approved with conditions.  The project manager will help the client to navigate this process to ensure a smooth and efficient transition into operation.



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Author


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Tabindah Akhtar

Tabindah has over 20 years’ experience leading projects within the infrastructure, aviation and commercial real estate sectors, both in the UK and internationally. She has worked for client and consultant organisations, and particularly enjoys the challenge of delivering complex projects with a diverse range of stakeholders.

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