Fit Out Companies: What Retailers Should Expect From Their Builders

Fit out companies do more than just build and install joinery, yet many retailers seem uninformed of exactly what is included in shop fit out costs, and what they can expect shop fitters to arrange and coordinate when undertaking a commercial fit out.  So we’ve provided a breakdown of what retailers should expect from their builders.

Fundamentals: What Fit Out Companies Should Have Before You Consider Them

When gathering quotes from fit out companies, one of the first and most important things you need to ensure, is that the shopfitting company holds a valid builders licence, all required insurances, such as public liability and workers compensation, and that these are up to date. If construction is being done within a shopping centre, this is usually something verified by centre management administration; however can save a lot of time if you establish this before requesting a tender.

Pre-Works: What Shop Fitters Do Before Building Even Begins

For new clients of a commercial fit out company, it would be anticipated that the shop fitter assigned to your project would meet with you prior to project commencement. Here you would discuss your expectations and briefly outline the project timeline. This also allows you to both put a face to the name, so to speak.

As reassurance for both parties, a construction contract outlining the terms and conditions are commonly signed prior to initiating works. The contract should also outline payment terms. Retailers should expect these payment terms to include paying a deposit prior to commencement of the commercial fit out.

One shop fitting tip we strongly recommend is to assign your fit out company as early on in the project planning as possible. This is guaranteed to minimise your workload. Shopping centre retailers can expect fit out companies to attend the centre’s pre-start meeting. Pre-start meetings discuss matters such as inductions, construction plans and emergency procedures.

Furthermore, the fit out company will arrange building permits, coordinate base building works, known as category one, or CAT 1 works. This includes items such as sprinkler and EWIS fire services, and required air conditioning service works that are necessary for any commercial fit out. Your shop fitter will coordinate with centre management in regards to concrete floor construction, the external face of your store, any issues or alterations to tenancy walls and even organisation of the construction hoarding.

Essentially, the only reason a retailer would need to communicate with centre management regarding the shop build, is to sign off on the costings. Any further issues and interactions with centre management should be handled by the fit out company.


During Fit Out: Know What’s Required of, and Organised by, the Shop Fitters

Like when building a house, it’s desirable to maintain one contact person from the fit out company. This person would handle all your enquiries throughout the duration of the project. A Site Foreman is usually assigned this role, and knows the project inside out. Consequently they are able to answer any queries you may have concerning the store build.

Fit out companies arrange their own trades. From plasterers to plumbers. Flooring installers to electricians. The shop fitters coordinate these trades throughout the fit out. This includes supply and installation of all building materials and fixturing, such as lighting, flooring and paint. Any concerns or issues that may arise regarding the build are dealt with by the shop fitters with their trades, the retail designers or tenancy deliver managers, whichever applicable, and where possible.

Shop fitters are responsible for the fit out to meet the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and structural requirements. Relevant building regulations will also be adhered to, and are the responsibility of, the fit out company. Retailers should expect their store to be built within the contracted timeline, feature quality joinery using specified materials and finishes, and as per the quoted price.

In the unlikely and unfortunate case of costly variances or issues arising, it would be assumed that the fit out company would discuss these with you. Outlining the necessity and expense, and issuing a separate invoice for the variance (also known as a variation).  Progress payments are highly probable. Progress payments are deposits paid throughout the store build. The progress payments will be outlined in the contract provided prior to project commencement.

Post Works: What to Expect at Handover

As a general rule of thumb, a retail property up to 300sq metres in size, should expect around a one month turnaround on a complete store fit out. Handover of the store should be as per the agreed date outlined within the original project timeline.

Shop interiors should be 100% completed at handover, There should be no trades in the store finalizing their work.  Commercial cleaners (arranged by your fit out company) should have previously been through and have the store looking spick and span to allow retailers full access to stock the store in preparation for trade.

If this standard of shop fitter involvement and project management is not what you have received in the past, then shop around until you find one who will provide this.

Because this is what retailers should expect from their builders.

AAFS Shopfitting: A fit out company guaranteed to meet your expectations

Eliminate the anxiety and stress out of your next fit out by allocating shop fitters that are guaranteed to meet, or even exceed, your expectations. 

Fit Out Costs: Best and Most Effective Ways to Save on Shopfitting Expenses

Let’s talk fit out costs. Due to so many variables in shopfitting, we’re not comfortable answering questions like, What is the average costs of a shop fit out? or What are shop fitting costs per square metre? What we can provide advice on is how to keep fit out costs to a minimum.

Listed below are what we believe are the best and most effective ways to reduce fit out costs. Five techniques guaranteed to keep more money in your back pocket.

Allow time for tender submission

Putting the plans out to tender in good time permits shopfitters to request and receive contractor quotes, rather than estimating fit out costs solely based on previous jobs.

Shopfitters appoint a number of contractors to build a store; electricians, plasterers, painters and sign writers to name a few. When provided with little time to submit a tender, it is common practise to approximate each of these costs, including a safeguard amount on top to prevent making a loss.  This may result in paying a lot more for your fitout than necessary. So be sure to allow reasonable time to gather shopfitting submissions.

Engage shopfitters early in the planning process

Get more value for your money by assigning a shopfitter during the initial stages of project planning. Most shopfitting companies will provide a project management service within their fit out cost. Make the most of this by contracting them early, relieving you of valuable time and unnecessary stress.

Shopfitters can prevent pushing the schedule back by identifying errors in design that may cause lengthy delays in obtaining permits. These documents are essential and must be certified before any building works may commence. Therefore, the earlier these are discovered the less it will impact on the timeline, if at all.

Common design error: The retail design error we uncover most regularly is in relation to DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) compliance throughout stores and trafficable areas.

Some of the best shopfitters will have endless knowledge and experience with current products and shopfitting trends and can assist in product selection. They know, and understand the pros and cons of materials and product design from a construction perspective and can provide insight on how this can assist, or affect, you and your business.

AAFS Shopfitting are multi-award winning shopfitters

Offering our clients the best possible price, at the most advantageous value, whilst meeting time restraints and not wavering in quality. Just some of the reasons we are recognised as one of Australia’s leading shopfitting companies.

Substitute expensive products for a cheaper alternative

Being open to alternative products and materials within you fit out is crucial to cutting costs and remaining under budget. Many products have an equivalent option of the same or similar quality from a cheaper supplier.

Take solid surface (Corian®) for example. Solid surface replicates the luxuriousness of marble, natural stone and caesarstone® varieties, but with a much more affordable price tag.  Additionally, solid surface has the ability to mend chips or cracks, unlike its expensive rival products which require replacing. Repairing Corian® can even be arranged on site with minimal mess or fuss.

Please note: AAFS Shopfitting are certified Corian® suppliers, manufacturers and installers.

Excellent use of corian solid surface to save money on fit out

These luminous Corian® solid surface pods were fabricated and installed by AAFS Shopfitting at the NAB Docklands branch in Melbourne CBD.

Schedule fit out works during off peak

Whilst undergoing a complete fit out, your bricks and mortar business will be closed for a duration of time known as ‘shutdown’. Fit outs take time, and time is money. We know this. You know this. So reduce the impact of the closure by being proactive and arranging the closure during a forecasted quiet period based on previous years.

Advise staff of the store redevelopment in advance, encouraging them to take leave during the works to further minimise outgoing expenses. To avoid unnecessary consumer frustration, it’s also recommended to inform customers of the closure ahead of time. If possible, arrange an alternative purchasing method or location during this time. If your business provides a service, this allows time for clients to schedule their appointments around the project and are less likely to reach out to a competitive company during shutdown.

Variations leave a bitter aftertaste

Ensure quote includes everything to avoid costly variations

The nasty ‘V’ word; variations. Those supposedly ‘unforeseen’ exorbitant costs that shock you at the end of the project. Like opening a block of chocolate, only to take a bite and realise you grabbed the 90% cocoa block. It leaves you with a bitter aftertaste, wishing you had chosen another block.

Make certain you’ve chosen correctly, by reading through the quote carefully to certify it includes everything specified in the construction plans. When comparing quotes, be sure you are comparing apples with apples.

Unfortunately some companies use the technique of lowering the overall fitout cost by excluding components to win the job, then charging the client variations post build. It has also been said that the term ‘PC SUM’ is used, meaning Provisional Cost. This is an approximate amount that could potentially be significantly increased at a later stage.  If you are unsure of anything on the quote – ASK! If they have nothing to hide, then they will be completely transparent and be able to explain everything in detail to you.

Please note: This is NOT a process we condone, nor is it a technique we use. AAFS Shopfitting provide all-inclusive quotes broken down line by line, ensuring easy of readability for our clients.

Our last fit out cost saving word of advice would be to research your proposed shopfitters. As Benjamin Franklin once said, ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest’.

Looking for experienced shopfitters to tender on your upcoming project? Contact our Melbourne office on 03 5943 0581.