Nabco Retail Shelving Systems


The Essential Guide to Shopfitting

Ryan Willis

Setting up shop is something every retailer has to do. This can be a daunting job, which is why so many store owners turn to a professional shopfitter to install the fixtures and fittings that transform an empty shell into a functioning store. Shopfitters can work in a range of commercial spaces, from shops and restaurants to hotels and banks. They often work with tradespeople like tilers, electricians and plumbers to complete the fit-out and get the job done.

What does it take to be an efficient shopfitter?

The day-to-day duties of a shopfitter can be incredibly varied. One day you could be refurbishing a shop front, while the next you might be creating design plans or preparing tenders for a completely new store. Your duties could include:

  • Marking out and working with wood, metal, glass and plastic to make shop units and fittings
  • Estimating material quantities and costs, and preparing tenders for new jobs
  • Arranging for specialist firms to install radiators, ventilators, phones and carpets
  • Measuring and setting out jobs on site
  • Taking charge of the whole project and giving instructions to subcontractors involved in plastering, floor-laying and heating.
  • Potentially working overnight to reduce disruption to the client’s business

But what makes a good shopfitter? We believe the answer to that question hinges on the following five factors:

  • Training
  • Project management skills
  • Application of visual merchandising
  • The use of tools
  • Tech and equipment

In this guide, we will address each of these points in more detail and highlight the different resources and tools that can help you progress your shopfitting career in the right way.


Like any skilled manual trade, professional training plays an important part in the journey to become a shopfitter. Employers usually prefer that you have GCSEs or equivalent in subjects like maths, English and design and technology.

Apprenticeships are a common route into the industry (you can find out about quality apprenticeships in your area here). You’ll also usually need a background in a construction trade like carpentry and joinery, or have completed a relevant college course in construction.

CITB, GoConstruct and the National Association of Shopfitters all have information on the training and qualifications you’ll need to work as a shopfitter.

Project management skills

On the worksite, the shopfitter is in charge of getting the job done. They will have to liaise with a number of other subcontractors to make sure the fit-out is completed to the highest standard and within the agreed time period. In the initial stages of a project, there are two key areas of focus:

Building a relationship with the design team and management

A shopfitter must agree on every aspect of the fit-out with the design team and store management before work can begin. The client’s requirements must be identified and understood, costs and budgets should be presented and agreed, and key project milestones defined. At Nabco, our design and consultancy team works with shopfitters and store owners to provide assistance with every aspect of your project, no matter how large or small.

Time and task management

Once the project has been broken down, individual tasks need to be planned and assigned, with start and completion dates agreed. There’s a wide range of project management software out there that can help you, with the most popular platforms including Asana, Microsoft Project, JIRA and Wrike.

Application of visual merchandising techniques

There are lots of different visual merchandising theories and techniques that shopfitters must be aware of to create a store that delivers the best possible customer experience while maximising sales. Everything from the store layout and fixtures and fittings to the store entrance and placement of products has to be considered. At Nabco, we create resources to help shopfitters achieve the best possible results. Here are just a few:

Using the right tools

When it comes to delivering the best possible shopfitting service to your clients, it pays to explore your options and understand the different resources and tools that are available. For example, at Nabco, we can create low-cost bespoke shelving and accessories to meet a specific brief or design plan. This can be invaluable when an ‘off-the-shelf’ solution won’t do.

We can also provide expert advice on the best shelves for your intended audience, store design and layout. Finding the right tools for every aspect of your work, from store design to creating quotes, can make your job so much easier.

Technology and equipment

Technology has a key part to play in retail design, with new equipment, techniques and products regularly hitting the market. As a shopfitter, it is your job to keep up with the latest trends and know how to use them to make shops and commercial spaces the very best they can be. A few of the latest developments include:

  • LED shelf lighting that can be installed in minutes without an electrician
  • Experiential design, such as green-screen technology, which allows customers to interact digitally with brands
  • 3D laser scanning which can model a commercial space with unbeatable accuracy
  • 3D design software with photo quality renders to create effective lighting layouts

Shopfitters must be able to work with all of these new trends to retain or create their competitive edge.

The expert assistance you need?

Ready to take your shopfitting career to the next level? Here at Nabco, our design and consultancy team are on hand to help with everything from quotations and store layouts to project management and delivery. To discuss your shopfitting requirements, please get in touch with our team.

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