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Starting a retail store is a huge endeavour, particularly for first-time retailers. While the business model appears to be simple enough, there is so much more to managing a retail store than you may think. There’s the business side of things, of course, but there is also the development and creation. When it comes to new retail construction, there is a lot of ground to cover.

This article primarily examines the construction aspect of the process. However, if you want to learn about design trends, read our article, What Are The Modern Retail Interior Design Trends.

Introduction to new retail construction

“Retail” refers to selling goods to the public solely for use or consumption rather than resale. This is in contrast to wholesale, which is the sale of goods in larger quantities for retailers to sell at a profit.

Generally speaking, retail buildings are broadly described as “shops.” However, they can take on an array of common forms:

  • Retail parks and warehouses.
  • Supermarkets and superstores.
  • Town center shops.
  • Mixed-use buildings, often with retail spaces present on the ground floor. These can either be purpose-built or converted housing.

When it comes to construction and everything afterwards, commercial buildings are different from homes in several ways. They must follow certain building codes, endure the elements of nature, and withstand high-traffic conditions from customers whenever they are open.

There are various factors to keep in mind when building on commercial property. For the most part, businesses are on a much larger scale than homes. Therefore, they require more robust equipment and more workers to create the structure. Moreover, there are more top-of-the-line materials than what you would find in a home. Retail constructions costs are also something you need to remember when launching your project.

Cost for electricity

According to an annual survey from Chain Store Age, the cost of interior lighting rests at $3.30 per square foot. The electrical aspects do not have to be overly complex. They can retain simplicity by utilizing existing wiring and fixtures to preserve low costs.

Lighting is not the only thing that needs to be considered. Does your business have other power needs (ex. salons and dog groomers using hair dryers)? If so, you should assess how much power your ideal store location can handle before signing a lease. This way, you can either seek out another location or incorporate an electrical upgrade into your budget if need be.

Flooring & Ceiling

Based on Chain Store Age’s research, in retail build-outs, flooring will typically take up $2.76 per square foot. Ceilings will take roughly $1.81. No structural issues with the flooring (be sure to check your lease to verify the landlord’s responsibility for these costs) means that what you do to the floors will be superficial. In this case, where you are refurbishing the current floors or applying tiles, the project probably won’t require a permit.


Air conditioning and ventilation are essential for new retail construction. Fixing, replacing, and/or installing an HVAC system will cost, on average, approximately $2.61 per square foot. Alternatively, around $13,000 for a 5,000-square-foot space. Much like everything else, this average could potentially swing in either direction. It ultimately depends on what you have, what you desire, and what you are able to afford.

New retail construction in a post-COVID world

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic on retail spaces have proven to be quite impactful. With these changes come new beginnings for the retail experience. Consequently, both retailers and retail contractors should take certain things into consideration when building or renovating spaces.

  • Design with a “customer comes first” mindset. Retailers can take advantage of their space by evaluating the needs and desires of their customers. They can then adapt to those needs in how they design the space.
  • Evolution of the in-store experience. Future retail spaces have a design that properly adopts post-pandemic procedures and business realities. A notable example of this is social distancing. This may include remodelling aisles, implementing a one-way traffic flow, and decreasing clutter for customer comfort.
  • Air filtration and the overall flow. Proper HVAC systems and HEPA filtrations and air movement are crucial in reducing any airborne risks. You should employ a general contractor or mechanical engineer to better understand the space. Moreover, to boost direct clean airflow.
  • Incorporate permanent transaction screens. Replace temporary plastic windows with the permanent variant, as well as designer glass countertop partitions. This will provide better protection for both the customers and staff. Incorporating these elements into the space’s aesthetics and design will enhance the natural feel of these inclusions.

If you want a quote for your retail construction project, don’t hesitate to contact our Calgary construction location.