Australian Shopfitters and what they do for you

What does a shopfitter do?

Shopfitters are concerned with the design, production and installation of general retail and commercial shop-fittings including counters, showcases, display units shop fronts, floor coverings, fixtures, doors and architectural joinery.?? Shopfitters are also required to specify and cost estimate the amount of material required, prepare quotes and tenders, and create drawings for design and construction. Shopfitters work closely with tradespeople from other backgrounds, including but not limited to electricians, machinists, and plumbers.

 What are the roles of shopfitters?

During the course of their work, shopfitters perform the following tasks:

  • Assemble and install counters, workstations, shop fronts and other internal fittings for shops and commercial buildings
  • Prepares design, working and construction drawings
  • Specifies, orders, and prepare materials for construction
  • Using tools to make custom furniture and fittings that are part of the project
  • Assemble and secure components together to form segments of furniture and fixtures
  • Work closely with networks and professionals who perform other aspects of work during the shop fitting process e.g. plumbers and electricians.

When should I consider hiring a shopfitter?

Shopfitters should be hired when seeking to improve the look of existing stores or to renovate, restore, and revitalize shops bought from other retailers.?Many retailers are trying to find a new edge in store design to make them stand out against their competitors. You might want to consider employing a shopfitter for a number of reasons:

  • Manage difficult projects by making the best use of available space.
  • If you want or need a specific ‘look’, but feel unsure of how to go about achieving it.
  • Want Access to discounts and exclusive ‘industry only’ products.

Which bodies oversee shopfitters?

As shopfitters typically incorporate professional expertise in interior design, the main representative body covering shopfitters is the Design Institute of Australia. Members agree to adhere to a code of ethics and may have their membership revoked if they breach this code. ?There are a wide variety of industry associations and bodies to oversee the quality and standard of professional services shopfitters offer. A small sample of bodies include:

  • Builders Registration Board (WA)
  • Building Practitioners Board (Vic)
  • Building Services Authority (Qld)
  • Form
  • Franchise Directory of Australia
  • Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (SA)

The Office of Fair Trading in each state is the consumer watchdog responsible for most disputes involving shop fitters and interior designers. In Victoria, the Building Commission, which is responsible for regulating the building industry, deals with disputes involving registered interior designers.

 How can I find a list of shopfitters? provides a comprehensive database of shopfitters. A number of architects specialise in shop fit-outs, renovations and interior design. There are also a variety of construction and building professionals offering shopfitting services for large and small-scale projects.

 Who can tell me about good shopfitters?

Check with local businesses that you know have been recently renovated, ask the local chamber of commerce for recommendations, or look through trade magazines and directories. is an excellent resource for searching for professional shop fitters. Many sites offer ratings, portfolios, background information, and references for their members. ?After narrowing down your list of potential choices, contact each shopfitter and ask them to come take a look at the job before officially employing their services. Ask each company a set of designed questions to see if they meet your criteria and compare their responses. Be aware of each company’s personal touches and unique qualities, and avoid deals that sound too good to be true.

 How can I learn more about a shopfitter?

Many shopfitters, particularly those more established have well-designed websites that include photographs and descriptions of past work. These online portfolios provide a useful way of getting a feel for the shopfitter’s work, but remember that these websites often feature the designer’s most extravagant and expensive projects.?For this reason, you should also get in touch with the shopfitter and ask to see examples of projects that are similar in scope and budget to the work that you want done. Make sure that you are as happy with this work as you are with their more upscale projects. ?Remember that working with shop fitters and interior designers is as much about your taste as it is about their vision, so look for a designer who seems responsive to their clients. Ask them to explain how their work responded to the client’s situation, needs and desires, and then ask for and follow up references or testimonials to see whether past clients agree with their own appraisal.

 What should I include in a brief for Shopfitters?

The brief needs to set out clearly what you want done and how much you are prepared to spend. It should detail your budget, the desired time frame for completion, the extent of work, the style that you are aiming for, your likes and dislikes, and any specific information that you have about preferred finishes, materials, furnishings or colour schemes. This process will help make your space functional, attention grabbing, and unique.

 Do I need to sign a contract?

Yes, a contract is an important way to ensure that you will be satisfied with the outcome, and to establish the ‘ground rules’, in order to prevent disappointment or misunderstandings down the track. Often a clear design brief can form the basis of a contract.

 What should the contract include?

The contract should clearly specify:

  • The overall budget of the project
  • How the shopfitter’s fee will be calculated and how much it is likely to be
  • How and when fees are to be paid
  • How long the project will take to complete (but keep in mind that product availability will be a significant factor in this, and you can’t always be sure that the curtains or paint you want will be in stock at all times)
  • The scope of the work to be done by the interior decorator – and what they are not responsible for
  • How any disputes can be resolved

At this stage, you should also discuss any other specific requirements that you have. If you have a preferred supplier that you would like to use, or if you are working to a tight schedule, you should tell your shopfitter and ensure that you agree upon an outcome and get it in writing.

 How can shopfitters help develop my brand and identity?

Shopfitters are needed when your existing or proposed business may need a new or revitalized image. Many shopfitters offer assistance through professional network partners or their own expertise and experience in specialising in branding and marketing.?If you can create an environment through shop fitting that displays products clearly, gives easy access to products, and makes customers feel good in store, you will have one of the most powerful and valuable advertising tools available.

How can I identify the latest trends and requirements for a particular shop fitting?

There are varying requirements for different branches and types of shop fittings. Fashion shop design for example requires up-to-the-minute awareness of stlyes and design trends to create stores that will draw customers in. Pubs and bars on the otherhand are successful for creating entertaining environments that also help customers relax and feel at ease. Top range cosmetic shopfittings have small sized products with typically high prices, needing a fit-out emphasising the display and presentation of perfume and personal care products in an inviting manner.

Who looks after Development Applications, Building Approvals and various regulations?

The shop fitting process demands a great amount of interaction with local authorities for the approval of any proposed design scheme from conception. Shopfitters generally manage the whole planning process for you from ‘end to end’, removing the typical stress that dealing with your local authorities can bring.

How do I locate a potential site for a shop fit-out?

A number of shopfitters offer assistance with leasing commercial premises. Shopfitters may also be involved with strategic alliance partners who can assist in sourcing a site, negotiating a lease and preparing and signing a lease agreement.

What are the design stages and processes for shopfittings?

Shopfitters first survey a potential site to accurately assess the space they are working with. This enables a designer or design team to create a concept solution that matches the exact space available whilst controlling design integrity. Once a design scheme for a shop fit-out is approved, full working/construction drawings are produced that enable an accurate quotation to be carried out. Alternatively a client may have their own drawings prepared by an independent interior designer or architect.

Who managers the projects for shopfittings?

Most professional shopfitters employ an ‘end to end’ solution, handling all aspects of the fit-out and allocating a Project Manager to your project. The Project Manager provides you with a single point of contact, dealing with all the processes including timelines, schedules, sub-trades, and overseeing the final installation and handover of the project.

What is the typical construction schedule for projects?

The general programme times below cover the design, manufacture and fit-out of typical store fit-outs, including finishes, services, merchandising, storage areas and so forth:

  • Department store of 7432 m2 sales area
  • Design and procurement: 8-16 weeks (overlapping)
  • Manufacture and production: 12-16 weeks (overlaps with installation)
  • Installation: 18-22 weeks
  • Fashion store of 743 m2 sales area
  • Design and procurement: 6-12 weeks (overlapping)
  • Manufacture and production: 8-12 weeks (overlaps with installation)
  • Installation: 6-10 weeks
  • Convenience store of 185 m2 sales area
  • Design and procurement: 4-8 weeks (overlapping)
  • Manufacture and production: 4-6 weeks (overlaps with installation)
  • Installation: 4-6 weeks

How can I protect myself against scams and unethical practices?

Because there is no formal accreditation or licensing system for shopfitters in Australia, you should always check the qualifications, experience and reputation of your shopfitter carefully before work commences and money changes hands. Look for someone with substantial experience and reputable qualifications who may also be a member of professional industry associations and bodies so that qualities and standards are adhered to. ?To prevent unpleasant surprises, you should also agree upon a fee structure and get it in writing before a shopfitter begins work. Make sure that you set out all fees and charges, including what mark-up the designer will charge on materials and furniture, and any extra costs that you are likely to incur.?When awarding contracts and purchasing materials, you should also be alert to possible conflicts of interest. If your shopfitter is influenced by financial concerns or personal attachments, they may not be acting in your best interest. If you think this is a possibility, ask for all contracts to be put out to tender and request to see different bids or prices so that you can compare for yourself – but remember that the cheapest deal does not always represent the best value and that your designer may be doing you a favour by choosing a more expensive but more reputable product or subcontractor.

Above all, you should set out a clear and comprehensive contract before you begin. Getting your agreement in writing will give you a better chance of achieving redress if anything goes wrong, but it will also clarify the expectations of both parties and therefore help to avert conflict.

Ensure that your contract has a dispute resolution clause. If you are uncertain or if your project is expensive, it is probably worthwhile asking a lawyer to look over it to ensure that it will hold up if challenged.