It’s a funny thing, you have a few days off over Christmas, you come back and actually notice your workplace. If you have had Christmas decorations up, and now they are back in their box, it’s even more apparent – it all looks a bit tired, all the sparkle’s gone.
Then you take a really good look, a mini objective review of that place in which you work, your staff work, your clients visit. Are you inspired? Happy? No? What’s to be done? Those daft makeover programmes on TV won’t help you, you need the professionals. So who’s going to give it a branch makeover?
Every industry has their specialists and estate agency is no different, the masters of transformation, the people who achieve the impossible. So what do they offer – and what makes them the right one for you? We discussed the post Christmas blues with the best in the business – here is what they can do for you to make you, your staff and your clients keen – even desperate – to come into your office.
Finding the right specialist
Estate agencies aren’t like shops. There’s no seasonal fashion to promote, no Christmas goodies, no latest innovation to draw the eye. Just great properties, which lets face it, look pretty much the same from a distance. Mike Simons a Partner at MPL Interiors works with all types of agencies, from large chains like Andrews and Leaders through to independents such as Sandfords and Acorn. “Much of our work is about creating a new corporate identity for an agent or upholding one that already exists. Our work for the Fine & Country brand is an example of consistency, we have brought the brand to life in a number of different locations.”
Similarly, Janice Fairfield at Fairfield Lighting and Displays works right across the UK with independent estate and letting agents as well as the high profile groups. Interestingly though, Janice notes that agency office designs vary considerably between the north and south of the UK, “After many years we understand the subtle differences and can advise accordingly.”
Independents with a desire to be different are the key clients of Andrew Tomlinson, Creative Director at Crucial Projects, “We work with independent to mid-size residential and commercial agencies across London and the Southeast. Our clients include some of the region’s leading agents such as Prospect, Waterfords, Belgarum, Walmsley, Park & Bailey and Grosvenor Billinghurst. The painful bit
The good news is that you don’t have to go the whole hog to bring some sparkle to your office. If getting people to stop and look is the first priority, Sarah Neate, Head of Design and Marketing at Mid West Displays, says, “Our window displays start from as little as £1000 and range up to £10000 with an average spend being around the £3500 mark.” (Based on one double fronted office fully installed with LED illuminated display pockets.)
Mid West Displays specialises in window displays only, “However, with our network of refurbishment associates from fascia and awning specialists to furniture suppliers we can project manage every aspect of a refurbishment from start to finish.”
Andrew at Crucial Projects says that costs start from around £10,000 for a freshen-up or update – which could include new window displays or fascias, a repaint or furnishings. The less good news is that a full refurb can range up to £40-50K. “It is difficult to achieve much for under £10,000 so it is important to focus on elements which will have the most impact to give the office stand-out.”
Mike at MPL Interiors agrees, “It’s hard to Addisons window by Fairfield Lighting. put an average figure on refurbishments, as there are so many influencing factors (like structural work, bespoke items and how large the premises is) but we can almost always accommodate any budget.
choosing the best
Fairfield is The Negotiator Awards’ Silver winner for the best product supplier 2014, “This is not an easy achievement,” says Janice. “Ours is a truly national service with a team of highly trained consultants who are able to visit the site. It is the personal touch and an understanding of the client’s requirements which enables Fairfield to provide truly customised displays. A fully guaranteed installation service ensures clients have peace of mind.
“We look at the entire office, co-ordinate branding with the interior signage, custom wallpaper maps and latest digital signage. Our design consultancy allows agents to see what their office will look like. Fairfield Displays ideas will complement the local area creating a strong bond with clients. Finally, our top quality 3D visuals truly allow the client to clearly anticipate how their new office will look.”
It’s all in the product quality, says Sarah Neate at Mid West Displays. “We strongly believe that the fact that we manufacture our own products here in the UK is a huge advantage to our customers. Why? Because nobody knows our products better than we do, we know them inside and out, the materials and components that go into each light panel display are under constant scrutiny for quality and price.
“Because of this we are incredibly flexible to the client’s needs. You maybe looking for a specific design, or you have an unusual shaped window, we can make light panels to any size or shape at our site in the Midlands. We will not be out of stock, promised deadlines are guaranteed! Mid West Displays are constantly replenishing standard stocks while a specialist team make-to-order your bespoke designs.
“We take great pride in the display products that we design, build and test. We offer a great service, from free site visits and design mockups to installation service and fantastic after sales care.” MPL Interiors boss, Mike Simons says that clients only have to look at their back catalogue of refurbishment work to gauge how they can transform an agent’s office. “The fact that so many respected names in estate agency are current or repeat customers gives others confidence in choosing MPL Interiors. We work in a very visual industry and our portfolio speaks for itself. We specialise in estate agency premises and that is the deciding factor for many of our clients, as they appreciate our understanding of the industry and the facets of a property office.”
The holistic approach is favoured by Crucial Projects. Andrew says, “We like to look at the whole of a client’s business and offer an holistic approach to marketing from brand creation, interior design and project management of refurbishments with the onward execution of the brand through corporate literature, advertising and marketing.”
Top design tips for 2015
Sarah: “If your office window display is not already illuminated, it’s time to get onboard. It’s the current trend it but is also important to differentiate your office from the ‘one next door’. We have the onsite facilities to engrave, shape and colour to your own brand making you truly stand out.”
Mike: “There is going to be a break from the standard blueprint for estate agencies. We have just completed a branch for Hurford Salvi Carr in London, which is very industrial with a breeze block reception counter and property displays influenced by industrial machinery, all offset by a state-ofthe-art nine screen video wall. The boldest and most creative agents are commissioning offices that reflect their area and clientele, rather than trying to emulate other offices in their network or on the same high street.”
Andrew: “There are lots of exciting innovations such as LED media walls which give the opportunity to showcase campaigns or feature properties. The use of drone image photography is a step on from the standard location map. LED illuminated displays are the ‘must have’ window displays. Touch screen windows will continue to encourage customer interest.” inTouch Display Ltd is the leading innovator in this field.
“It’s a really positive sign that more agents are refurbishing, but it’s important to be pragmatic and ensure that a redesign will carry the business forward. Stay focused on the objective, consider how a refurbishment will enhance company image and staff morale and avoid choosing colours and styles that will date.”
Janice: “Agents want to look different. The LED Light Pockets™ are still incredibly popular but clients are looking for different models and design layouts.
“Fairfield has recently launched a complete new range for 2015 including amazing curved units which look like iPads and a larger variety of coloured pockets. Less is more, with the strong growth of using properties of displays from A4 up to A1 to create a non-cluttered look. In the interior entire walls of colourful custom mapping with co-ordinated signage is a must-have. Clients are looking for office designs which relax customers with unique homely effects incorporated into designs.”
Crucial Projects: www.crucialprojects.co.uk
Fairfield Lighting and Displays: www.estateagencydisplays.co.uk
inTouch Display: www.intouchdisplay.co.uk
Mid West Displays: www.midwestdisplays.co.uk
MPL Interiors: www.mplinteriors.com