What to expect from your shopfitter and the fitout process

Finding the right shopfitter and knowing exactly what you can expect throughout the process is a big unknown for many first-timers. A shopfitter ideally, will be your end-to-end solution, like our teams here at Total Fitouts New Zealand. We can support you through the full journey and organise all the things you didn’t even think of!

A good shopfitter should be able to help you with everything from design, sourcing materials, managing trades and the complete build. While a shopfitter may not manage all the moving parts in-house, a good shopfitter will work with a trusted trade network to complete all the required works. Equally, your shopfitter should be happy to collaborate with the architect or designer of your choosing.

Before we get to the nitty gritty of the fitout process and what to expect, let’s look at the fundamentals.

The role of our shopfitters 

Fitout companies like Total Fitous are capable of far more than just carrying out a build or installing joinery. Still, many people are surprised to know just how much we can do and how far we’ll go to get your dream up and running. Over the duration of the fitout, we’ll happily cover the following things for you: 

  • Connect you to our network of commercial real estate agents to assist you in finding a suitable tenancy
  • Prepare concept designs, right through to full construction drawings
  • Work with tenancy design coordinators or centre managers to ensure your fitout is approved and that there will be no hold ups along the way
  • Work with you to obtain any required approvals
  • Manage the ordering and arrival of materials
  • Help you source any required furniture or equipment
  • Manage all internal aspects to the fitout, including management of trades and equipment installs, shopfronts, signage and pretty much anything you need relating to your fitout! 

Building regulations

A shopfitter is responsible for adhering to the rules and regulations of the New Zealand Building Code. There may also be other council or building approvals and guidelines that need to be met. Our shopfitters understand the requirements of and responsibilities in each state and will always have work reviewed by an independent building certifier. Each shopfitter should be licensed according to their country or state rules. You can talk to your local or state building authority to understand what licences, certifications or insurances are required of your shopfitter. 

Preparing a brief

Before you engage anyone or get an accurate quote, you’ll want to pull together a brief for your project – this is required for any size project, whether it’s a defit, redesign or fitout. Your brief should outline the full scope of works you want done including all superficial and structural changes and what your hopes are design-wise (including colours and finishes). If you need help with design planning, don’t worry – we can guide you. A good way to start is: 

  • Jumping on Pinterest and creating a mood board – check out Total Fitouts Pinterest for ideas
  • Talk to our experts about your concept, they can take you through a complete design process 

Tip: Any specific info you have about the finishes, fixtures and materials you’d like is very helpful to our shopfitters. Then we’ll get to work imagining what you want in your space, with the addition of great functionality and everything you need to succeed as a business.

Setting a budget

When scoping out your project, your shopfitter will want to understand your ideal budget and your absolute budget. As in, the budget you’re aiming for and then the budget that you can’t go over. Our aim is to make your dream come true within your budget without compromising construction integrity. A good shopfitter will be able to tell you if your project budget is too high or low for the amount of work and materials you’ve proposed. 

Another thing to consider is keeping an extra fund should you decide to make variations or changes during the fitout or should any unforeseen issues with your site arise that require money for workarounds. Having this money aside can save a lot of heartache and delays in the middle of your project as you won’t need to find extra funds to cover additional work.

Your shopfitter should be able to explain to you where your money will be allocated and what expenses might be required for other factors like repairs, maintenance, moving fees and any other costs you may incur setting up your new space. You want to be sure all of these considerations are covered in the budget.

What a commercial space should already have

Before committing to a commercial spacel, the basic shell should be set and ready for construction – this is called “base building works” or “landlord works”. The inclusions for your space will differ depending on the location and site but is something that can often be negotiated during the lease negotiation stage. 

It’s important to understand what your landlord is including and excluding when handing you the site for construction. A few things to consider and potentially negotiate with your landlord are:

  • Electrical (Have they provided enough power to the tenancy for your requirements)
  • Lighting inclusions
  • Plumbing inclusions
  • Air Conditioning inclusions 
  • Ceilings and partitions

Our shopfitting experts can help you understand your requirements and potential areas for negotiation with the landlord. Make sure you speak to your shopfitter prior to signing the lease, as once you’ve signed, it’s too late.

Before you engage a shopfitter

Before you decide which shopfitter to use, you should ask:

  1. If they understand the licensing and insurance requirements for your job and location
  2. To meet the business owner and understand their team’s experience
  3. For a free detailed quote – expect transparency and ask your shopfitter to show you where your money will be allocated

For shopping centre fit outs – you’ll probably find that centre management will verify the chosen fitout company for you and request to see their credentials. However, it can be helpful to get a jump on this before requesting tender.

Shop fitout contract

After you’ve accepted the quote but before any work commences, your shopfitter should produce a contract for you to review and sign. The construction contract will detail the terms and conditions of the job including project timelines and payment terms – this ensures both parties are safeguarded and covered by a written agreement. In most cases, your contract will outline a deposit amount to be paid before initial works begin

Your contract should outline:

  • Construction amount with all inclusions and exclusions (including an provisional sums)
  • Full scope of works including design or interior design
  • Estimated Timelines – how long the project is expected to take (bare in mind, unforeseen things can impact, like product availability or issues with the site)
  • How fees are to be paid and when
  • The shopfitters obligations as well as any client obligations
  • How disputes can be resolved

Shopping centre fit outs

Shopping centre fit outs will often require your shopfitter to attend pre-start meetings with centre management – here they’ll discuss the construction plans, safety/emergency procedures and any other requirements the centre may have. 


This is where the fun begins!

Your shopfitter should take this time to understand exactly how you intend to use your space – even down to placement of windows and doors.

Next it’ll be about the details and branding – wall colours, shelving type, custom lighting features, signage and lettering and final fittings. In this time you can request a 3D render of your space-to-be – this is the best way to get a real feel for your space and make any adjustments or note any variations you want made. 

The design process is crucial. A good shopfitter will help you get it right and consider all the ways your business needs to operate. They’ll then help you make your design both beautiful and as functional as possible.

Approvals, Permissions and Permits

Before getting started, your shopfitting team must acquire certain permissions and permits based on your designs and requirements – these may be state, local or building approvals based on where your project is located.

The fitout process requires a lot of interaction with local councils for approvals of designs – these approvals are required right from the get go. At Total Fitouts we manage the whole process, from planning to council approvals and build – we’re here to take the load and the stress off you.

Shop fitout construction ramp up

As a new client, during construction ramp up you can expect to meet with your assigned project manager or shopfitter prior to any work beginning. 

At Total Fitouts, the following will happen during the ramp up period: 

  • The site supervisor and project team are briefed 
  • Final project schedule is agreed upon and set (this includes client meetings, site visits and progress payment schedule)
  • Material availability will be checked and ordered
  • Trades are scheduled and booked
  • The site is prepared for workplace health and safety measures
  • Any required inspections are booked and client meeting will be had to discuss site rules, access and ongoing scheduled site meetings

If yours is a shopping centre fit out, your shopfitter will likely work with centre management to organise things like concrete floor construction, the shopfront and resolve any problems or adjustments that may need to be made to tenancy walls before the fitout commences.

During the shop fitout 

At different stages in your fitout, you’ll likely receive invoices – these payments are called “progress payments” and should be outlined in your original construction contract with amounts and payment dates. 

During your fitout you want good communication from your shopfitter or the site foreman assigned to your project. You should expect to be kept in the loop about any obstacles or delays that may occur, and promptly. 

Your site foreman will know all the details and changes in your build and should be able to answer any questions you have at any stage of the project. In the instance that your retail fitout requires variations or unforeseen issues arise – this should be communicated with you and a separate invoice issued for your approval.

Your shopfitter should organise all the necessary trades from tilers to installers and electricians. They’ll also be the people to order in any materials and make sure items arrive and are installed on time, to meet shop fitout deadlines. 

Any problems that do arise can and should be solely dealt with by your shopfitter. They’ll coordinate fixes and trades to keep the project running as smoothly as possible. At Total Fitouts our shopfitting teams will work with designers and contractors to make sure any changes to your shop fitout are done quickly and keep with the integrity of the build.

Your shopfitting team is responsible for meeting structural requirements outlined in the New Zealand Building Code and any other relevant building regulations at your location. When the job’s done, you should expect to see a shop fitout built to the quality standard and with the materials and finishes specified in your contract. 

Shop fitout post-works and handover

At handover you should expect that: 

  • Shop interiors and installs are totally complete 
  • Commercial cleaners have been through and your shop is perfectly clean, ready to go!

If your shopfitter is Total Fitouts, we’ll take you through your project and do an official practical completion process (this may include the Design Manager). As a part of the practical completion, you’ll do a defects walkthrough and declare that the site is ready for use. Any defects will be noted and a rectification schedule put in place and provided to all parties.

Finally, once everything is checked and agreed, your shopfitter will ask you to sign a Practical Completion Certificate and make the final payment (bank cheque or direct deposit). Once paid, Construction Certificates will be provided to both the client and Certifier for final certification and we will complete the handover – giving you the keys to your brand new space.

If you are looking for a shopfitter, who can deliver an exceptional fitout, on time and budget, whilst working in harmony with your business – talk to Total Fitouts today. CALL 0800 348 888 or email us at [email protected], or fill in our handy form.