What’s in a Façade? Exploring the Art of Retail Curb Appeal

Greg Geilman
Greg Geilman
Guest Contributor

Business owners who do their part creating and maintaining ‘curb appeal’ stand a better chance at attracting the clientele they target, and a well-kept façade tells potential customers the owner cares about the impression she’s making on her customers.

Retail store owners rely on their initial impression to entice people to make their way into the store. Whether the impression conveys value, innovation, or luxury, there are a variety of ways to make customers alter their plans and stop in. To really get the most out of curb appeal though, owners may want to concentrate on the façade of their store. See how basic elements such as signage, awnings, windows, and colors can all add up to more profits.

Before Getting Started

Owners should work with what they have before beginning to branch out. For example, a building may have a beautiful façade that’s been layered over or decorative elements that could be reconfigured to fit an owner’s vision. Owners should check with local officials to be certain they’re allowed to make changes before generating ideas of how they can improve their curb appeal. No matter what an owner wants though, the general rule is to keep messages as short and simple as possible — regardless of the type of retail store an owner has.

Creating Signage

Signs are one of the most economical ways to improve business because they’re both affordable and eye-catching. However, store owners need to remember that it’s not usually the flashy signs that draw people indoors. Too much activity on a sign can cause a pedestrian to tune out entirely, which may mean they don’t even remember the name of the store they passed. Owners should examine the scale of the building before determining the dimensions of the sign. Too big and it may look ostentatious, too small and the message will be lost entirely. As a general rule, the square footage of the sign should be about a third of the total width of the store.

Putting Up Awnings

Thinking of curb appeal in a private residence, the idea of adding a feature is to improve the overall interest of prospective buyers. For retail shoppers, curb appeal works in the same way by enticing them to walk in. An awning can not only help a storefront look a little more welcoming, it can also be a priceless addition for those who prefer to shop away from the worst of the weather. Awnings can also help store owners keep their best merchandise away from the sun. Much like signage, awnings should be simple, clean, and well-kept. Typically, zoning regulations will limit the size of the letters to no higher than 12 inches and the total square footage of the awning to 12 feet. Owners shouldn’t advertise anything more than their name and address to both satisfy local laws and not overwhelm their customers.


Lighting has a way of scaring off criminals and making a store look cozy and warm inside. Store owners can also use elements such as neon to highlight certain features of the business. For example, a pizzeria may want a bright yellow on the interior to beckon in busy parents who can’t find the energy to cook. However, they may also have a neon sign that advertises ‘Pizza by the Slice’ to catch busy professionals who may just want a snack. Owners should check their local laws to determine what types of illumination are allowed before hiring a qualified electrician to complete the job.


When it comes to color, owners need to consider the underlying architecture of the building before settling on a color scheme. While the branding of a company is important to helping people remember the business, the message can be lost if the colors clash with the building façade. For businesses that are relatively straightforward, it can help if an owner picks a unifying color scheme that’s both simple and classy. For businesses that cater to an edgier crowd, they may want either two complementary colors or one bold color that really makes the business stick out from its nearby competition.

Business owners who do their part when it comes to maintaining curb appeal stand a better chance at attracting the clientele they want. A well-kept façade tells potential customers that the owner cares about the impression she’s making on her customers, which can subconsciously influence them to take a look at all that’s inside. While local laws will limit the full extent of what an owner may have in mind, they still have quite a bit of choice and flexibility when it comes to their signage, lighting, and color scheme. 

About the writer: Greg Geilman is a Los Angeles native of over 40 years and owner of South Bay Residential. Greg believes many of the principles that guide homeowners and sellers can help business owners optimize their look and drive traffic to their stores.

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