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Make Room

Giving customers space to create can really pay off.

Have a seat. Make a necklace. You can at Lindsay Cain's two stand-alone bead shops, Femmegems, in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut. Cain, 33, has given up valuable retail floor space to make room for her staff of jewelry designers and her customers to work.

"By keeping the work space visible, it creates customer curiosity, whether it's a designer making a necklace or one of our customers," Cain says.

But what about all that product that could be sold where the table and chairs sit? Don't assume that lost floor space is lost revenue, says Russell Sway, international chairman of the Institute of Store Planners. Creating a space for customers to spend more time in your store can pay off in the long run if you teach them how to use products or help them acquire new skills. For example, a hardware store might let customers practice faux finish techniques, or an art supply store might host meetings for craft enthusiasts.

"Whether you're doing paid classes or demonstrations or just getting more people in your store, this kind of space can help you create a better relationship with your customers by spending more time with them," says Sway. "It's another way to make your store memorable."

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans.

This story appears in the May 2007 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »