Window dressing

Painted Zebra's North Bend storefront is memorably attractive, but what would consultant Seanette Corkill say about its effectiveness? She'll share tips for retailers on May 22.

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COOS BAY — You’ve risked everything to open a store. You’ve scrubbed and painted your building. You’ve agonized over furniture and fixtures. You’ve arranged your merchandise just so.

Now, as the final touch, you’ve ordered a great big sign for your window.

Wrong, says Seannette Corkill, a retail design consultant from Vancouver, Wash.

“Why would you plaster decals on your windows and block your best sight line?” she said.

Corkill will destroy other cherished illusions of retailers in a free workshop May 22 at the Coos Bay Fire Station.

The workshop is sponsored by the Coos Bay Downtown Association as part of the Main Street program for revitalizing downtown. But it’s free for anyone to attend.

Instead of using the windows for signage, use them for displays that lure in customers, Corkill advises.

You might think letting organizations hang posters in your window shows your community spirit, but there’s a better place for them.

Corkill wouldn’t identify that place, because she didn’t want to give away one of her best tips before the workshop. But she did share more general principles for an inviting storefront.

“Your front entryways, I find a lot of well-meaning but rookie moves,” she said. Putting too much information up front tends to kind of kill the buzz coming in.”

Instead, use the outside to give cues that what’s inside is attractive — displaying merchandise in a clutter-free way.

“Catch their eye, like dangling a lure in front of a fish,” she said.

“When they see your sign, is it connotative of what you’re about?” she asked.

Don’t just do what the sign guy suggests or copy your neighbor. Every building is different, and what you do should complement your building’s architecture, color and materials.

You don’t have to be a retailer to benefit from some storefront design savvy. A real estate agent or a hairdresser also needs to create a welcoming storefront.

At the very least, “Keep your blinds open and your windows clean,” she said. “It should be approachable, not, ‘Don’t come in, I’m working.’”

For offices, “One of their best displays is the actual office environment,” she said. “What’s the most visible wall? Maybe your logo should be on that wall and lit up.

“I’ve got a great photo of a real estate office in Denver — I fell in love,” she said. “They put chairs out there, they had a doggie dish, they had a sandwich board.”

Have an office on the second floor?

“Second stories are great for destination business where you have an appointment, like a hair salon,” she said. “Bring your signage down to pedestrian level. Where’s the best first chance for your sign to be seen? If traffic is going by fast, they aren’t going to look up.”

You can learn more about what Corkill does at her website,, or by finding her company, Front Door Back, on Facebook.

After Corkill’s presentation, she’ll draw the names of five attendees and give them one-on-one evaluation.

“That’s where the rubber meets the road,” she said. “You can go through the process, but still be blind to your own obstacles.

But a little change can make a big difference.

“I feel like I’m printing money,” she said.

Reporter Gail Elber can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 234, at, or on Twitter at @gailtheworld.



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