What do fashion retailers mean by Linear Conversion

In our work designing shops for fashion retailers we are always striving to achieve the delicate balance between;
  • providing enough display space to merchandise the desired range of stock, and
  • keeping enough breathing space to create the right selling environment.
Along the way we often find ourselves discussing linear conversion figures of 10%, 20% etc.
But what does this mean and can retailers really compare themselves to their peers using this figure?
When to use Linear Conversion in Retail Design
It is clearly important for retailers to be able to show their ranges in the least possible space but at the same time create the right ambience to match the aspirations of the brand. 
Too much stock density and you create an image of cheapness, too little and you have the opposite effect. 
That’s where Linear Conversion comes in.
How do you calculate Linear Conversion?
Unfortunately for the younger reader, the figures are calculated in Imperial measures and using Metric measures will result in different results. 
Yes it’s true the calculation is mathematically challenged, but it has become industry standard!
Simply put the formula is            
 Linear capacity in feet
 Net sales area in sq ft

Understanding Linear Conversion
To understand Linear Conversion we first need two common definitions.  A common misconception is that linear capacity is a measure of wall space and another that it records the number of garments on display. 
In reality when talking of linear capacity we are referring to the amount of space available to hang product from. 

For example
Think of a 2 gallon bucket.  If you have 2 buckets you have a capacity to carry 4 gallons regardless of whether the buckets are beside each other or on shelves. 
Take a simple example of a 2ft wide D bar.  In a typical 2ft wide wall bay you might have 1 D bar, 2 D bars, 3 D bars etc.  2ft of wall bay could therefore provide 6ft of linear capacity if 3 bars were used.  Once you have counted up the total amount of hanging space you have your linear capacity figure.

Net area
This also needs attention as not all retailers measure space in the same way.  The majority agree that the net square footage of a shop includes everything forward of the door to the back of house, including fit rooms, window beds and till area i.e. the total selling space.
A quick guide
So in a typical 2000sqft shop,
  • with single hanging around the perimeter and a spacious layout this will achieve an 8-10% conversion
  • with double hanging and more dense interior this will achieve around 20% conversion. 
If you would like to use our expertise or to clarify any points raised in this article, please contact us at info@rpfprojects.com.
CDM 2015 - Views from a Retail Design perspective
The news that 2015 CDM Regulations have changed is filtering through to those of us who design shops.  It appears that gone are the days when we can simply rely on the CDM Coordinator to worry about Health and Safety.  All of a sudden the burden of responsibility for making sure shops are safe places to be, rests with the Designers.  ‘Yikes’ say the Designers!  The theory goes that matters such as personal safety and welfare should be designed into the building from the outset and not considered as an add-on.  Make the Store Designer responsible for such matters and the resulting designs will be properly considered, goes the thinking.  All very well but Designers are not trained in Health and Safety and now find themselves facing possible criminal action if they get it wrong.  The theory may be good but the practical thinking seems lacking.

So how can Designers respond?
At RPF Projects we accept our role as Principal Designer (as we are now referred to under the latest regulations) but our designers, like 99% of designers, are not qualified to understand the applicable legislation (for example Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, Building Regulations, Equality Act 2010 et al).  To blindly continue as we were, hoping that nothing untoward happens would be irresponsible.  Instead we have recognised when we need help from experts and now, with every project we undertake, we employ a Health and Safety Adviser who gets involved with the design work right from the outset.  That this Adviser happens to be a former CDM Coordinator is no coincidence, because the nature of the duties remains fundamentally the same under the new regulations – but the point of responsibility has changed.

Does this make any difference to the Client?
Not really.  Instead of paying for a CDM Coordinator they now pay for a Health and Safety Adviser (we pay the same fee as before) and just as before we design shops that are safe, legal and considered.

So has the new legislation changed the way RPF designs shops?
No.  We have always produced shops that meet Health and Safety requirements and we continue to do so.
If you have any further questions and would like to know more about this subject please contact us on peter.daniels@rpfprojects.com
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a selection of the FAQs we are often asked.

We know RPF as Project Managers, but what is RPF's Design offer?
Our design team comprises of skilled store designers, all with many years' experience in the retail design market. Coupled with the capabilities of our Project Managers, we can offer a fully comprehensive store development service, enabling clients to rely on RPF as a one stop shop managing every aspect of opening new or refitted shops and concessions.

What sets us apart from the other Designers?
There are plenty of (usually expensive) design agencies who can come up with fresh ideas and new concepts that look great on paper, but few who can do so with an eye on cost and practicality.  It's this that sets us apart; we are a highly creative team who always adopt a common sense approach to retail design, helping you to achieve your goals successfully and within budget.

How does the UK market differ to the US market?
Understanding the UK market environment is crucial to good retail design.  Just as the US demands adherence to certain rules, so does the UK market and applying the US model to construction in the UK is not to be advised.  Our team are all well versed in the nuances of UK legislation and the commercial drivers that lead to fast efficient shop builds.  We design shops around the legislation - a much more successful strategy than going head-on against UK regulators.

Are you fees competitive?
 Obviously fees will vary depending on what you need so we always negotiate a fee structure to suit you and work with a fee matrix against different shop types.  We are confident that RPF's rates are competitive and certainly cheaper than the mainstream agencies.
Why?  Because we design shops that work in the first place, we listen to our customers and don't waste time along the way on abortive designs.

In which markets does RPF operate?
We specialise in the UK and Irish markets and will operate in other European markets which have similar environments.

What sectors does RPF operate in?
Our background is in fashion retail and we have applied our learning from this sector into food, restaurants and non-apparel retailing. If it's a shop we can handle it.

How has the growth of multi-channel retailing affected RPF's work?
We believe bricks and mortar retailing is here to stay for the long term but the successful retailers and designers have to adapt to the newer technologies.  RPF encourages retailers to consider shops as 'brand ambassadors' used not just to generate sales but as part of an overall sales strategy.  Shop designers need to adapt and create showroom-like environments promoting the brand and encouraging customers to buy from the shop and their laptops when they get home.

Does RPF operate as a Principal Designer?
Under the 2015 CDM Regulations, greater onus has been put onto store designers to incorporate health and safety into the design process right from the outset.  Not only that but clients have a duty to ensure that designers are qualified in matters of health and safety and of course in practise, most designers are not qualified health and safety experts.  RPF employs the services of a qualified CDM expert to advise our designers from the outset and this seamless service gives you the confidence that RPF will design shops safely.

We all know the UK has complex planning laws, can RPF help?
Yes.  We are experienced in dealing with local authority regulations, building control officers, fire regulations and even Scottish building warrant officers. Get it wrong and these issues can cause enormous delay and cost.  Come to RPF and we will get it right!

If you would like to use our expertise or to clarify any points raised in this article, please contact us at peter.daniels@rpfprojects.com