Streamlined Exterior Services Management (ESM)
Enhancing curb appeal through a cohesive seasonal maintenance program
For a moment, consider the short amount of time it takes to make a first impression. In these few precious seconds, consumers have already created a very important initial judgment of your property; therefore, a primary focus should be on improving a store’s exterior appearance because thissignificantly influences your customers’ first impression of your facility. According to statistics from America’s Research Group, the exterior of a store generates 45% of an entire marketing image. This includes the buildings appearance, the signage, the landscaping, and the parking area. Consumers form impressions about the quality and selection of merchandise inside the store based on what they see outside (Britt Beemer for HQ Trade Magazine).
It is important to ensure that each of the stores in your portfolio is perceived by consumers as functional and aesthetically pleasing. Your retail facility’s appearance needs a “WOW Factor” to stand apart from the competition, intrigue customers to visit your facility and become repeat customers. Developing a comprehensive plan for maintenance, with corresponding specifications for time and scope of services, is crucial in creating and maintaining curb appeal.
Proper maintenance to keep your exterior assets in prime condition year round will most likely require the services of a professional exterior services management (ESM) company. They will develop a customized program that centralizes operations and streamlines delivery of various services including, but not limited to — green care, irrigation, snow and ice control, and parking lot maintenance. This cohesive program can ensure your properties are in peak condition through the seasons.
Designing and maintaining a functional and aesthetically pleasing landscape is a key factor in the curb appeal equation. Some basic seasonal tips are outlined below to help you assign maintenance priorities to each of your locations nationwide.
FALL & WINTER SEASONS
By planning ahead and compiling a comprehensive maintenance plan, you can mitigate some of the headaches that arise as the mercury begins to drop. If you already have a plan in place, verify that it covers all the areas outlined below and includes detailed service specifications. If you do not have a master plan, these suggestions will serve as a basic guideline for development.
NORTHERN REGION PROPERTIES
As we head into the fall and winter seasons, the maintenance requirements for curb appeal and safety increase, especially for properties in snow regions. With leaves and snow falling, parking lots and footpaths can become potentially hazardous, presenting an opportunity for liability claims.
- The combination of cool temperatures and warm soil in the fall creates ideal conditions for establishment of ornamental trees and shrubs.
- Mowing, pruning and planting bed maintenance should continue until turf growth stops completely. Leaves and other debris must be collected from planting beds and turf areas to avoid insect infestation and dead spots.
- General fall cleanup should be scheduled for the late fall months to prepare for the cold season.
- Turf fertilization is ideal in fall as the roots of cool season grasses will absorb fertilizer and store it through the winter, creating a lush, green lawn the following spring. Insecticide may be applied as necessary.
- Irrigation systems should be deactivated by October to avoid broken pipes and heads following the first freeze.
- As early as August, planning should include parking lot plowing, parking lot ice control, sidewalk snow clearing, sidewalk ice control and hauling services.
CENTRAL REGION PROPERTIES
Scheduling new plantings in the autumn and winterizing your assets for the snow season are your best bets for a successful season.
- Depending on the particular location, planting bed maintenance, mowing, fall cleanups and shrub pruning may be scheduled through December.
- If fertilizer is applied when grass growth ceases but the roots remain active, the cool season grasses will better absorb and store the fertilizer.
- Allow for intermittent insecticide applications into December.
- Deactivation should be scheduled by November to avoid irrigation system damage as the ground temperature drops.
- Parking lots should be scheduled for sweeping and maintenance throughout the fall to keep them in top condition and identify any potential problems.
- Snow removal and ice control services may be necessary as early as October.
SOUTHERN REGION PROPERTIES
Property locations in the South and Southwest typically experience much milder fall and winter seasons than their northern and central counterparts, yet there are still a number of concerns that should not be ignored.
- As a 12-month landscaping region, mowing, shrub pruning, leaf cleanup and planting bed maintenance should be the heavy focus throughout the year.
- A quarterly application of turf fertilizer and weed control may be scheduled while the roots are still active to keep the turf up to spec. Insecticide may be applied as needed.
- While not as prone to heavy snow, there are many areas of the South that still experience deep freezes during the cold season. Irrigation deactivation may not be necessary, but there are some winterization steps that should be taken in the late fall to avoid cold season damage.
- Irrigation inspections may be conducted throughout the year in this region, as well as parking lot maintenance and sweeping.
SPRING & SUMMER SEASONS
By spring and summer, the focus shifts from snow and ice control to landscaping, irrigation services, and parking lot repairs. As the temperatures begin to rise again, your exterior assets will reveal the effects of the winter’s harsh conditions. With a bit of proper planning, a spring rejuvenation plan will bring your exterior assets back up to their former splendor in a timely manner.
NORTHERN REGION PROPERTIES
- As early as March, schedule for turf weed control, fertilization, pre-emergent, broad leaf control and insecticide (as necessary), continuing intermittently through the summer.
- Parking lot sweeping and maintenance will be crucial once the snow melts to identify and repair plow damage, pitting, cracking and potholes. Seal coating and striping may be necessary.
- April is a key month for general spring cleanup and mulch installation. Mowing, pruning and planting bed maintenance should be scheduled continuously through the spring and summer, with mulch touch-ups and tree trimming mid-summer.
- Irrigation activation will be necessary by April or May. Inspections should be conducted initially to identify any damage caused during the winter months, continuing through the summer to ensure proper function.
CENTRAL REGION PROPERTIES
Since spring and summer tend to be a bit more predictable in the central regions, the summer months are the ideal time of year to get a head start on winter planning and service procurement.
- General spring cleanup, shrub pruning, mulch installation, mowing and planting bed maintenance should begin as early as March and continue through the summer.
- Irrigation inspections should take place in March, with activation occurring simultaneously or following in April.
- Turf and weed control, fertilization, pre-emergent and insecticide applications should be scheduled as needed through the warmer seasons.
- Parking lot sweeping and repair should also be conducted consistently throughout the year.
SOUTHERN REGION PROPERTIES
High temperatures, droughts, foot traffic and parking lot wear are large concerns during the spring and summer for this region; therefore, it is especially important that Southern property’s assets receive adequate attention to maintain their appeal through the year.
- Mowing, shrub pruning, leaf cleanup and planting bed maintenance should be maintained throughout the year. March is a prime time to install mulch if needed, with mulch touch-ups mid-summer.
- July is a good time to schedule a mid-year tree trimming.
- Monthly inspections of the irrigation systems should be performed to detect any potential problems or inefficiencies.
- Turf weed control and fertilization should be conducted at intervals in the spring and summer. Insecticide should be applied as necessary as determined by your service provider and/or your specifications.
- Intense sunshine and UV light, high humidity, salt air, high temperatures and heavy rains can cause severe damage to parking lots during these months. Sweeping and parking lot maintenance may be scheduled routinely to keep these public areas clean and detect any early signs of damage.
With each of these elements considered in your master plan, you’re on your way to passing the customer approval test. If your retail stores or facilities are struggling to develop a comprehensive exterior maintenance plan for a national format, you may want to consider contacting an ESM company. A management program can help improve your curb appeal, reduce overall expenses, mitigate liability concerns and provide quality assured service to each of your store locations.
Sidebar: Do You Pass the Curb Appeal Test?
Let’s take a short quiz together on the power of your current curb appeal. To begin, stand where your perspective buyer will see your store or facility for the first time. Look at it objectively, as if you are considering entering your business.
- Does the store exterior look a little past it’s prime?
- Do you see any signs of storm damage?
- Are the green areas vibrant and neat?
- Are the planting beds blooming?
- Are the windows dingy?
- Are there pot holes in the parking lot?
- Are the parking lot lines vibrant and fresh looking?
- Are the sidewalks clean and smooth?
- Are the fences damaged or missing paint?
- Is snow removal and ice control maintained for safe passage?
- Has fresh mulch been installed in planting beds?
- Is trash scattered across the parking lot or landscaping?
- Has your building’s facade been defaced by graffiti?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your facility’s curb appeal is most likely suffering and in need of some rejuvenation.