With memories of disgusting gas station bathrooms in my head, I couldn’t help but think what your bathroom says about your retail experience.
Bathrooms have become as important in our homes as our kitchens — they’re one of the first areas where we spend big bucks to create an experience worthy of a five-star resort. Even the Travel Channel has jumped on the bandwagon, creating a Top Ten Bathrooms program.
Bathrooms come in two types — public and not public — and I’ve been in them all. Private bathrooms are in Hugo Boss (filled with supplies, mops, a vacuum and not as clean as you would expect) and a small beauty retailer (filled with supplies, boxes, backstock and more — it was an obstacle course that you had to crawl over to get to the toilet).
On the public sides there’s Target (utilitarian, clean but dingy), Trader Joes (back in the warehouse, which might as well have been a gas station given the state of the bathroom), Pottery Barn (beautiful, like a bathroom in a home with all the accoutrements you’d expect from a home-oriented retailer) and McDonald’s (for the most part, the pride of the pack with utilitarian, well-kept bathrooms but hardly a reflection of their brand other than being clean).
Restaurants do the best job of making sure their bathrooms fit their brand. I’m not talking about McDonald’s but rather smaller, independent cafes and higher-end restaurants. They create spaces in their bathrooms that carry their dining room design right into the bathroom and that makes for a great experience (even if patrons aren’t washing their hands before exiting the bathroom as I experienced at a high-end Las Vegas restaurant last weekend).
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Your bathroom is an extension of your brand. Too often, retailers consider it non-revenue producing space and thus, it gets the short end of the stick from a design perspective.
To create a public bathroom or not? State laws vary, and depending on the type of retailer you are and what state you live in, you may have to build a public bathroom. It’s up to you but your customers will appreciate that you have one when little Johnny has to take care of business.
So what do your customers think? It’s all about them — they are the lifeline of your company so make sure you’re giving them the customer experience they deserve. And that includes a bathroom. And not a bathroom that’s also a storage closet. A real, live honest to goodness public bathroom. Bonus points for a diaper-changing panel that drops down.
You don’t have to spend a fortune to make your bathroom an extension of your brand. Sometimes, all it takes is a coat of paint in a warm color and some tastefully appointed furniture like a small side table with accessories and a burning candle that make it feel like home. Add a small table lamp and turn off the overhead fluorescents. Can you picture it in your mind already? The key is to make it feel like an extension of the your brand and not the tiled, dingy room that it really is.