Every week fans of BBC2’s Mary Queen of Shops must cringe at the screen as failing small retailers try to bring their businesses into the 21st century.


In a couple of the programmes, retail guru Mary Portas has turned to Callum Lumsden, creative director of design agency Lumsden at smallbackroom, to give the shops a fresh new look.


Recent episodes have included his transformation of the time-warped Kingston-upon-Thames interiors shop ‘Under the Moon’ to trendy ‘37 Old London Road’.


Callum says:


“Your retail interior must work as hard for your customers as it does for your business. It must reflect your retail brand and convey professional service, trust and great value. You must consider every aspect of how you are communicating to your customers.


“Ask staff and customers what they think you stand for as a brand. Are you aiming at a mass market or are you a specialist? What are the key messages you want to convey? Think of three key words that describe your business and apply these to every aspect of how you operate.”


37 London Road was redesigned by Callum Lumsden for BBC show Mary Queen of Shops  37 London Road was redesigned by Callum Lumsden for BBC show Mary Queen of Shops  37 London Road was redesigned by Callum Lumsden for BBC show Mary Queen of Shops


But what would Callum say about your shop? Here are his practical steps for travel agencies.


Can you convey your holiday deals in a way that communicates the message without using handwritten posters everywhere?


Travel agencies constantly succumb to what I will call a ‘Sellotape culture’. Handwritten posters stuck onto walls and windows signals a ‘Cheap, bargain, kiss-me-quick!’ method of communication.


That’s fine if your business is about the best deal, but with the powerful emergence of the cheap internet holiday, surely the best of the high street travel business should rise above this with a more refined and authoritative way of selling their product?


Digital photo frames are very common now and relatively inexpensive. Why not graphic up your different offers and put them on a repeat loop with enough time for your customers to read each page. Imagine a whole wall of them.


What’s the best way to strike up a meaningful conversation with your customers?


A desk with a computer screen communicates a ‘them and us’ attitude. Think about a more domestic seating arrangement. Coffee table, armchairs and iPad? Think outside the box. 


What kind of ambience suits your business best?


Red spells cheap, while natural materials communicate warmth. The chalky Farrow & Ball colours can’t be beaten. Use natural light whenever possible. Create ambience with low-level lighting where you need it, and spotlighting for highlights. Be different.