This section explains how you could go about improving the look of your shop and the shops of your neighbours. Shop front improvements can range from small actions to quite elaborate projects. Sometimes removing redundant signage and adding a new layer of paint to a row of shops can make a huge difference. Sometimes you need to do more, including renewing all the signage, changing window frames and adding new materials to the façades.


The first step is to think (with other shop owners) about what you’d like to achieve with the improvements. You may have a limited budget and need to make choices about what to do. Your goal can range from just making your parade look more consistent to promoting the High Street as an attractive shopping area. If you have a clear goal, that’s your starting point to talk about how you are going to change your shop fronts, ie the design.

Next step is to have a design workshop with all stakeholders (landlords and traders) involved. Some tips are:

– make sure you have photos of the shop fronts you want to improve
– take material to make drawings (eg tracing paper, pens and colour pencils)
– take examples from other places to inspire participants
– invite a designer or architect from your community or elsewhere to lead the workshop

It is important that everyone gets a chance to say what they want to say. Work in groups and present ideas to each other. Discuss the best ideas from the groups and talk about how these could work together. Think about every element that constitutes your shop front:

– door
– windows
– window frames
– brickwork
– signage
– displays
– lighting
– if you’re on a corner, the blank side wall

When discussing these elements, talk about how you could create unity (for example by using similar colours, materials, etc.) but also leave space for individual promotion of shops. Think about roughly how much improvements would cost to be able to make choices and decisions.


If there is a traders association in the area then this should be your starting point, whether you are a member or not. It is likely that by talking to them you get a clear sense of whether people are interested in the idea or not.

Landlords are an important group to engage with as well so to try to get them involved. Enthusiastic landlords could help convince reluctant traders and landlords to participate. If everyone gets involved, the project may well raise the value of the whole street.

Every shop owner and landlord should be involved in decision making. However, you may want to set up a steering committee that is given responsibility to manage the project. Discuss amongst each other how tasks and responsibilities should be divided.


Before you start, it is worth speaking to other groups of traders who have already carried out improvements and ask them about project plans, tips and pitfalls.

Small shop front improvements can be done very quickly, especially if they affect your shop display rather than your facade. However if you are planning for larger interventions along with other traders it can become quite an extensive project for which you need to plan properly. You may want to appoint a (part-time) project manager who has a good overview over all major aspects.

In the latter case, you need to plan time for getting everyone involved, work with an architect to create designs upon which everyone agrees , to get planning permission, and of course factor in the time your contractors will need to deliver the improvements.

A helpful tool for planning your project is a Gantt chart. It allows you to set actions in time and track completion.

Gantt chart for Excel

Considering the range of things you can do to improve your shop front, it is hard to estimate costs. For larger projects however, you should think about costs for:

– consultants (eg architect)
– materials (usually cheaper when bought in bulk)
– contractors (man hours)
– planning application
– project manager (if you’re hiring one)

Also reserve a sum for contingency for unforeseen costs. This sum can be reduced once more costs become confirmed.


Even small shop front improvements may require planning permission and it’s always good to get advice from Council Officers from Development Management.

In case you need to apply for planning permission you can get a good idea of how your proposal is going to be evaluated by reading the Sutton Urban Design Guidelines, which are part of the Local Development Framework.

Sutton Council shop front design guidance

To help you with the planning application, you can get pre-application advice from Planning Officers.

Pre-application advice
Application form and guidance

Also for just changing the signage on your façade you will need consent from Sutton Council. Some smaller changes may already have consent automatically (called “deemed consent”). You should check with the Council’s planning department which changes are regulated under “deemed consent”.

National guidance for outdoor advertisements

You should also check if your building has a specific heritage value, ie if your building is “listed”. if this is the case you will also require listed building consent. There are national “statutory” and “locally” listed buildings and you should check both lists.

List of statutory listed buildings in Sutton
Locally listed buildings
Additions to local list

In general, in conservation areas regulations are much more strict. Therefore you should check at the start of the project if you are in a conservation area and if so, which extra regulations apply.

List of Sutton Conservation areas


Once the work is completed you will of course want to celebrate this. Think about what kind of event you would like to organise early on. It could be anything, from just having a few drinks with a couple of people to a guided walk along all renewed shop fronts. If you invite someone to speak, make sure it is someone people know (eg local councillor or celebrity that is connected to the area) to give the event more prestige. Check our event section to see what is involved in organising an event.

You can also create publicity by sending out a press release. They are free of charge and can reach a lot of people. If you have done something with a considerable impact, local press may want to attend the opening or invite you for an interview.

How to write a press release
Sutton Guardian
Surrey Comet


Sutton Council Development Management
Please send your query via we aim to respond within 48 hours.
Planning Department
24 Denmark Road

Town Centre Manager
24 Denmark Road