Start thinking outside the big box

    Leon Williams Contractors customers should be aware of changing retail scene

    There’s so much bad press about the future of brick-and-mortar retail lately, it’s as if we’re all going to revert to a hunter-gatherer society with occasional drone deliveries to our crude shelters.


    Leon Williams Contractors – a leading design-build firm specializing in franchise, medical facility and church construction — has no shortage of robust retail projects in the Knoxville area, make no mistake. But we are not blind to the fact traditional models of retail are undergoing substantial change, thanks in large part to the proliferation of online shopping and home-delivery systems.

    We are by no means experts in retail trends, but it’s good for our customers to keep in mind some of these changes when it comes time to siting a store.

    While multiple industries, including journalism, department stores and network television, have indeed seen some dramatic shifts courtesy of the digital revolution, all is not lost – at all. Some evolution is in order in the retail industry, that is true, but here are some ways to stanch the bleeding of traditional retail storefronts:

     -Make your brand stand for something. Millennials, a future gold mine of a generation increasingly coming into its own in terms of buying power and wealth, don’t just want to buy a new button-down Oxford. They want to support brands like REI that have core values like conservation and philanthropy. This is where robust social media comes into play: Trumpet your values to stand apart and ultimately bring traffic into your store.

    -Position yourself. Some feel the future of retail lies in its presence in mixed-use developments that are anchored by establishments and services that won’t likely fade from fashion any time soon. Think fitness centers, restaurants and movie theaters. Many developments are even incorporating the ultimate destination place into their layouts: Residential units or houses. They represent a literally captive customer base.

    -Engage the community. Incorporate meeting spaces into your store, and offer classes or lessons that coincide with your brands and products. Own a clothing store? Consider seasonal fashion shows that have a charitable component. Own a restaurant? Offer cooking classes that feature your signature dishes.

    -Unleash your employees. Happy employees can be your best brand ambassadors. Encourage them to tout your store, its values and offerings on social media. Make sure they exercise common sense, of course, and you want to have a solid social-media policy in place, but the buzz for virtually all brands now begins in the digital sphere. The risk of a rogue employee is outweighed by the weight people give to online engagement.

    Traditional storefronts are rapidly entering the evolve-or-die reality of modern consumerism. There will always be a place for hands-on commerce in our economy, but it’s time to start thinking outside the big box.

    As an East Tennessee design-build firm with endless creative contacts, Leon Williams Contractors can help you do that. Give us a call today at 865-982-1734.

    Keeping these tips in mind will help you better navigate the changing consumer landscape and ensure you have a clear vision in mind when it comes time to step into the design-build process. When that time comes, give us a call at 865-982-1734.

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    Three traits of smart retail design

    Think about your favorite places to shop and ask yourself what they have in common. Many people would say that there should be plenty of parking spaces, the interior should not be cramped and everything inside the location should be easy to find. While this may seem like common sense, a number of retailers often overlook the human component that makes a retail location successful. If your retail business needs a new look or wants to update an existing space, the team at Leon Williams Contractors can help you understand the best ways to take advantage of your retail design.



    While some franchise retail locations may be limited to what they can do from a design position, the design/build, pre-construction consultation and value engineering services offered by Leon Williams Contractors can work within your requirements to create an amazing retail experience in Blount County, Maryville, Knoxville, Lenoir City and East Tennessee.

    What are the traits of smart retail design? Some of the best ideas include:

    Analyze your potential traffic
    A great retail design might be wasted if potential customers are not able to easily access your location or if the parking lot can’t handle a heavy influx of traffic. The design/build services of Leon Williams Contractors can help determine ease of access and available parking during your site selection process. From building orientation to parking designs, our teams can help you make the most of your retail site investment so you don’t have to lose customers because of traffic flow and parking issues.

    Make your customers comfortable
    Having customers linger may not be a good thing for restaurant owners, but for retail, building for comfort can encourage your customers to linger and shop longer. If your retail design is cramped for space, customers may not want to stay as long, minimizing your opportunities for additional sales. Similarly, if you don’t have a checkout design that encourages quick transaction times, customers may decide to skip on a purchase instead of waiting to pay. Having a design that maximizes your current retail space while allowing for a comfortable retail experience can drive higher sales and customer loyalty.

    Blend your budget with function
    While it may be great to have an unlimited budget to work with, many retail locations need to find a way to manage their budget while still offering an inviting, functional environment for their customers. The value engineering services that are offered by Leon Williams Contractors will help blend the retail design requirements that you have in mind with the budget that you have to work with to create a functional, enduring, affordable design that will hit all of the check boxes that you have for your retail design.

    If you need assistance with creating the perfect retail location or redesigning an existing retail space to meet your needs, contact the team at Leon Williams Contractors today to learn how our knowledge and expertise can be used to your retail advantage.

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    Retail Construction Trends

    The team at Leon Williams Contractors, LLC, offers complete general contractor services, including a full range of construction services, pre-construction consultation and site assessment, construction management, value engineering, and construction management. One of the key client areas for Leon Williams Contractors, LLC, is our Retail Construction Services, where we have worked to create memorable retail space designs for a variety of clients. As we continue to expand our commercial and retail construction design/build services, we have noticed retail construction trends for the industry that can be used to help deliver outstanding customer experiences for our retail clients. While some of the latest trends in retail and commercial construction may not apply to all businesses, keeping these ideas in mind can differentiate your retail space when it comes to time to build. Retail Construction Trends

    Latest Trends

    Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable:

    Utilizing opportunities for environmentally friendly and easily sustainable retail space is becoming increasingly important for not only retail customers, but for the owners of new retail and commercial construction. From the addition of open-air retail spaces, designed to promote less use for air-conditioning for more natural airflow, to the use of high-efficiency lighting to reduce electricity use and the incorporation of other types of sustainable products, being able to create an environmentally friendly retail space can pay dividends for retail customers and the owners themselves.


    The old adage of “location, location, location” is still a very important consideration for retail companies, but more often, being able to take advantage of existing locations can offer outstanding results for retail clients. If your retail location space has unique attributes, take advantage of the natural aesthetics available with a design/build process that incorporates these into your retail design. If your retail site location is closer to an urban area or positioned more in the suburbs, finding a way to take the surrounding space and make it more appealing to potential customers can help drive long term retail growth.

    Technology is key:

    The use of technology in the retail construction process has allowed construction teams and retail construction clients to better visualize the entire process, leading to quicker delivery times for retail construction companies and less time lost to changes during the process. Incorporating 3D scanning technology to offer virtual walkthroughs of retail space, incredibly realistic renderings of retail spaces and even 3D printing of scale physical models of the retail construction space offers levels of realism that could not be achieved with traditional floor plans and elevations. Additionally, for the build out phases of the retail construction process, determining retail client’s needs for actual technology that will be used in the retail location can also help minimize completion delays related to the retail project.

    Leon Williams, LLC has worked with East Tennessee clients on a wide range of retail and commercial construction projects, including banks, medical facilities, commercial offices, residential projects, restaurants, and retail locations. To learn more about the advantages that Leon Williams Contractors, LLC can offer your retail or commercial construction project, please contact us today to learn how we can assist you with your next retail building project, general construction requirements, pre-construction consultation/site assessment and value engineering to drive greater value and utilize the latest retail construction trends for your retail and commercial needs.

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    Leon Williams Contractors works with Simple Bites Gourmet

    Simple Bites Gourmet, a healthy meal delivery service, has teamed up with Leon Williams Contractors to find and develop its first retail location.

    “I started cooking for one family and really fell in love with the process,” said Erica T. Hopper, owner and head chef at Simple Bites Gourmet. “I began delivering food in Knoxville a little over a year ago and word spread. I just kept getting more and more business and finally decided it was time to get out of my home kitchen and find a commercial space.” Leon Williams Contractors Simple Bites Gourmet

    Finding the right space wasn’t an easy task for the chef turned business owner. “I knew what I needed, but I didn’t know all the ins and outs of codes and permitting details,” said Hopper. “I had been searching for more than a year before a friend referred me to Leon Williams. It was nice to have someone come in who was knowledgeable about the whole process. They dedicated a lot of time to helping me find the right space. They even wrote a really detailed bid on another space I was looking at and how it wasn’t the right fit for me.”

    The new Simple Bites Gourmet will be located on Sutherland Avenue in the Cherokee Mills building.

    “I was happy to help Erica with the selection process,” said Jimmy Hawkins, president of Leon Williams Contractors. “Finding your first location for a business is a big deal, especially when you’re in the food service industry. There’s a lot that goes into selecting a space that not only works from a financial standpoint, but also from a usefulness standpoint. Is the current space setup for an exhaust hood? Are there provisions for grease? Are the wall and floor surfaces ready for cooking? Are there special fire separations required? How much structural work will need to be done? These are just a few of the questions that needed to be answered in order to find the right location for Erica.”

    Construction on the space began on Monday, May 9, with completion scheduled for early July. A grand opening will be held on July 15, 2016.

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    Retail Store Technology Trends on Display this Black Friday

    It won’t matter if the turkey isn’t yet out of the oven, retailers will open earlier than ever this Thanksgiving and Black Friday, showcasing in-store technology that is changing the landscape of the holiday shopping experience as we know it.

    From multi-channel shopping to more personalized store experiences, commercial construction gets a tech boost this holiday season as retailers vie to capture the attention and loyalty of consumers.

    Here’s a look at the trends:

    Tech Integration – Brick and mortar stores will be more technologically connected than ever. For example, Apple Stores are putting iPhones in the hands of employees so they can assist customers and process payments from anywhere in the store. Others are integrating LCD displays that create more customized, interactive buying experiences for shoppers.

    Multi-channel retail and outreach – The buying experience isn’t what it used to be. Stores must connect the online buying journey to the in-store experience. An example of this is streamlining the process so consumers can flag products they like online and pick them up inside the store or return them inside the store in a seamless way. It is also important that the design of your online store matches the design of your brick and mortar location, so that the consumer has the same visual experience regardless of how they shop.

    Personalization – Is it possible for technology to enable a more personal Black Friday shopping experience? Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology lets Bluetooth 4.0 devices (think PayPal Beacon) communicate with mobile devices and send customized notifications based on where shoppers are in a store – this can mean receiving special deals for certain products in one area of a store and other offers for another area.

    From the design-build process to putting products in the hands of consumers, there’s no doubt technology is revolutionizing the start of the holiday shopping season. Leon Williams Contractors has the experience to develop a retail location that highlights your technology offerings and the branding for your East Tennessee location.

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    Project Profile: Westbrook Center

    Westbrook Center, a 13,000 square foot retail center located at 2016 W. Broadway Avenue in Maryville, was a design-build development completed by Leon Williams ContractorsWestbrook 115 Westbrook 086 Westbrook 085 Westbrook 079 Westbrook 043

    There was extensive preparation prior to the build, due to the plot not being conducive for development because of the grade. We worked extensively to grade the lot and poured a concrete retaining wall behind the structure, in addition to stepping the building grade at each tenant separation in order to create a cost effective and attractive retail center.

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    The completed Westbrook Center features, what are called, “vanilla boxes,” which allow tenants to completely customize the interior. However, we completed The Bed Store finishes, which is located at the center of the location.

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