12 Ideas to Improve the Retail Experience Through Landscape Architecture

It’s that time of year when shopping seems to be on everybody’s mind and we’d like to take the opportunity to highlight the role that commercial landscaping can play in creating a pleasant shopping experience. An attractive, well-designed and well-tended retail landscape shows that you care about your image and attracts tenants and shoppers alike. When you improve the retail experience, it benefits your business. 

Let’s take a closer look at 12 retail landscape architecture ideas that can create a welcoming retail environment and make your property stand out.

Make a Good First Impression With Color

A great shopping experience starts with a great first impression. The right landscaping not only attracts customers, but ensures that their experience gets off to the right start. 

Bright colored flowers and well-trimmed greenery can attract a lot of attention. Pathways lined with flowers not only guide shoppers in, but can help put them in a relaxed and happy mood. Blooming flowering shrubs by the front door create a welcoming and pleasant introduction to your retail space while at the same time clearly identifying where the entrance is. Trees on either side of the entrance add a contemporary look while highlighting the doorway. In all of these ways, a variety of hues in your landscape architecture palette can improve the retail experience. 

Add Curves to Soften the Look

Buildings and rigid structures have lots of hard lines by necessity. Curved landscape details can be used as a counterpoint to create a more appealing look. Curving paths, landscape beds, planters and benches can all soften the overall impression of your retail space.

Accent Your Signage

Trees, shrubs and flowers are a good way to draw attention to your signage. Use flower colors that complement those in your brand. Pay careful consideration when selecting shrubs and trees, however. Varieties that grow fast or wide may need frequent trimming to avoid blocking signage.

Distract From Building Faults

Trees, shrubs and planters are a great way to hide or distract from building damage or unsightly areas. Even an older unattractive facade can be drastically improved by the addition of beautiful landscape features. Shrubs are a great way to hide mechanical equipment such as air conditioning units or transformers. Just be careful not to block maintenance access to these areas. Some wear and tear on a structure is normal, but you can improve the retail experience by making it less noticeable. 

Mix Annuals and Perennials

Annuals are usually the go-to additions that provide a splash of color, and with good reason. The array of color options available is hard to beat. Sunpatiens and zinnias thrive in the summer sun while pansies, violas and ornamental cabbages brighten up the cooler months. Typically lower growing, annuals are wonderful for planting around signs and other landscape features. Their impermanent nature also makes them perfect for the periodic refresh of the commercial landscape.

Perennials, on the other hand, are typically larger and can really make a statement in green. Many perennial flowers and even ornamental grasses do boast impressive color, however. More fore-thought should be used when placing plants that will last for years, but the payoff in long-lasting beauty is worth it.

Utilize Pots and Planters

Planters and large pots are fantastic additions to the retail landscape plan. Well-placed planters can help to direct foot traffic, guiding shoppers where you want them to go or inviting them to linger and enjoy the beauty closer to eye level. They can also be used to hide unsightly areas or provide privacy for outdoor diners. Large planters can also provide a border between vehicle traffic and pedestrian or seating areas, adding a layer of protection and a sense of comfort for shoppers.  

Planters provide design options beyond the plants they contain, as well. The variety of materials, designs and colors available in commercial planters can really give a head start to the landscape refresh process. They also make it easier to change out and refresh greenery when the time comes.

Create Relaxation Space

A full day of shopping takes its toll. Give your customers an opportunity to catch their breath in the fresh air, surrounded by beautiful and fragrant plants. An outdoor seating area with benches for sitting and trees for shade provides customers with an opportunity to rest before continuing their shopping session.

Add Water

Water features can add significant interest to the retail landscape design. Even a small pool or fountain will be a focal point of your landscape, providing a calming influence for adults and a fun attraction for kids. Make it the center of the seating area we described above for the ultimate relaxing interlude in a busy shopping day.

Light It Up

Lighting has come to be an expected component of the commercial landscape and for good reason. Landscape lighting serves the dual purpose of providing a sense of security while also making the environment inviting and intriguing.

Use spotlights to highlight the best features of your building and landscape. Pathway lights help to illuminate walking areas and guide customers. Bistro-style lights have become extremely popular and can be used to light up outdoor seating and dining areas for a festive contemporary look.

Make It Pop With Mulch

Don’t forget to refresh mulch periodically. While mulch doesn’t grab the attention like bright colored flowers do, it serves as a deep dark background to make those colors really pop. Mulch also keeps beds looking fresher longer by helping to retain moisture and control weeds. 

Improve Parking Areas

The parking lot is perhaps the least appealing part of retail landscape design, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It’s the first place customers see and greenery can both make a good first impression and serve a functional purpose. Islands of green that include shade trees can help break up and cool an expanse of hot asphalt.

Selecting the right plants and trees for a parking lot is very important. Many trees cannot stand up to the tough conditions that occur there. In addition to being robust, the best parking lot trees shouldn’t drop a lot of debris or have low-hanging branches that could scratch cars or pedestrians. They also shouldn’t require a lot of care to maintain. You want to improve the retail experience without creating unnecessary work or expense, of course! 

Don’t Forget Maintenance

Regardless of what plants and features your retail landscape includes, periodic maintenance is key to keeping it looking its best. In addition to the regular upkeep, take some time to take a good hard look at your landscape as if you were a tenant or customer. Does it look appealing and well maintained? Overgrown shrubs, cracked sidewalks, sunken pavers, bare patches and dead foliage can all make a retail space look past its prime.

A Retail Landscape Refresh Is Worth the Effort

There are a number of studies that show the value of high-quality commercial landscape architecture. The National Association of Landscape Professionals reports 7% higher rental rates for well-landscaped commercial properties versus those that are not. Shoppers indicate that they will spend more time and money in an area with a high-quality tree canopy. A beautiful landscape makes people happy and benefits the bottom line as well.

Steve Dana
Steve Dana
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