Retailers, let’s talk vanilla shell and planning.

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The vanilla shell is a term that is used to describe an empty retail space that is ready to receive brand specific finishes. The level of finish within the industry varies but it should always be a space that doesn’t need extensive rework before installing your specific finishes and fixtures. I encourage most clients to specify the vanilla shell package within their lease documents for the main purpose of controlling their store program and roll-out costs.


Whether it’s your first store, or you’re rolling out a new store design across the country, it’s important to control as much as possible, and remove variables and unknowns wherever possible.


Construction always has a certain level of unknowns and isn’t always easy to control. At The Design Industry, the goal is to set up retail programs to get as much of the control in the client’s hands as possible. This often means moving fabrication and labour to the fixture vendors and away from the general contractor. This allows the design to be mass produced in a factory or millwork shop, rather than constructed by different trades under different unions and labour rates across the country. The end result is a store that fits on a truck and is made by the same people every time. The level of finish and quality is consistent and controllable, and it aids in store planning and layout.


Shifting much of the fabrication into a controlled environment means we need to define a standard building shell that is required to receive all the fixtures and finishes; that is what we call the vanilla shell. In an ideal scenario, the vanilla shell is a simple enough design that the landlord can do the work and have the space ready to hand over and move in before you take possession.


This approach to planning allows retailers of all sizes to open and/or renovate stores with great success! The earlier in the leasing and/or planning phase a retailer engages us the better, we can advise on what space may or may not meet their needs, what hidden costs a site may have, or how landlord criteria may affect their business.


If you’re in early talks about securing a location for you next retail venture, reach out and get twenty years of retail design experience on your side.


Below shows an ideal vanilla shell.