Project Timelines


So what’s a typical timeline for opening a new physical retail store? You’ll almost always hear: “There is no such thing as a typical timeline.” Annoying as that might sound, it’s true. And here’s why.

There are of factors that go into the development of this all-important piece of information. Every timeline has a start date (the formal beginning of a project) and an end date (opening day). It’s easy to set the start date, and it’s really difficult to nail down the exact end date, but it can, and often is done successfully.

Let’s start by breaking down the timeline into two categories: Things you can control and things you can’t. Let’s talk about things you can control based on a few assumptions:


Locking in a site early will establish a key milestone that will set the critical path for construction. Let’s assume your new retail store is in an existing mall. The previous tenant’s lease is expiring, and you’ve just signed the lease which specifies the date when the space will be turned over. The turn-over date is the earliest date where construction can begin (p.s. A BrandBox space will have many advantages to a standard tenant space turn-over which we will discuss later).

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Image by Mari Helin

Quick-to-market is critical in todays retail world, and expedited options for store opening give retailers an advantage over traditional construction.

Architect of Record (AOR)

As a brand who wants to make an impact with a brick-and-mortar store that delivers an appealing physical design and a rewarding customer experience, the design agency and architecture firm (the Architect of Record - AOR) is brought on board. The design agency and AOR may the same or separate companies. The timeline for the various phases of the design process will be set up front and agreed to by you, the client. Each phase will have a duration with built-in time for revisions and approvals (client, landlord, etc.). In retail design, this typically includes the following \phases that have definitive due dates:

  • Strategy and Insights
  • Conceptual Design
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents: (Permit and bid drawings)

While it’s possible for the AOR to miss deliverable deadlines, or you, the client, to take longer than scheduled to sign off on the various phases, the timing of this work can generally be controlled and closely monitored. You may opt to have in-depth qualitative and quantitative research done within your brand’s category before design starts, which could add months to the schedule. The AOR will typically create the initial the timeline based on the signed lease specifying the turnover date and durations for the phases of work they will perform. This timeline will include durations for all sub-consultants and an estimated duration for permitting/bidding and construction. And note that if the brand requires digital content to be created, that duration should be integrated into the master timeline.


Now we can talk about items that are out of our control.


The AOR will have performed their due diligence early on, which includes calling the Authority Have Jurisdiction (AHJ) to get an estimated permit duration time. Since there are many factors in issuing a permit, a range will be given, example: “six to eight weeks”, since the permit drawings need to be routed through and signed off by the various disciplines. It’s also typical for each discipline to have comments that the AOR will have to correct and resubmit. This duration of work often goes past what was previously estimated in the timeline.

Construction duration

Once bidding and negotiation is completed, and our client has signed a contract with the General Contractor (GC), the GC will own the construction schedule and update the timeline accordingly. While a competent contractor will estimate the construction schedule accurately, there are factors that are out of their control. Labor strikes, material shortages, out-of-stock product, weather delays, power outages, delivery issues, property damage, and subcontractor delays are some possibilities.Once the hard construction is complete and the fixtures, furniture, and equipment (FF&E) is in place, the timeline will include post construction items such as testing equipment, setting the store (placing the merchandise and stock), and training for new employees. These items are knowable time frames that you as the client control, included in the timeline. And finally, the Grand Opening.


BrandBox Experience

What if you didn’t need a building permit? Or only trade permits that can be quickly issued (electrical, mechanical, plumbing)? BrandBox offers a plug-and-play option where the tenant space is essentially finished, lit, powered, plumbed, heated, cooled and sprinklered. Yea, all that. Then you can install fixtures, furniture, millwork, digital, and signage within the box and dramatically reduce the duration of the timeline. This process helps eliminate or reduce the items out of your control and shave weeks or months of the timeline. Quick-to-market is critical in todays retail world, and expedited options for store opening give retailers an advantage over traditional construction. It also spares you from getting involved in a process that you’re not comfortable with. If you’re a DNVB who just wants to get your store open quickly, efficiently, and with a partner to help you navigate your way, BrandBox is the solution you’ve been searching for.