Store Layout Secrets from the Pros

When it comes to store layouts, it pays to leave nothing to chance. The right mix of featured displays, aisle navigation and shelving height can make or break your store’s sales. So before you finalize those renderings, take note of these lessons in layout, borrowed from big-name retailers and experts in shopper behavior.
Shopping. Woman choosing bio food cheese products in dairy store

Make an Entrance

Your entryway is a critical spot, where the shopper decides whether she feels drawn into your store, or compelled to leave just as quickly as she came in. Retail strategists Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender claim the area 15 feet from your front door is a “decompression zone” for shoppers, in which they do not notice products, but rather your store’s overall tone, mood and story. Keep it clutter-free.That’s not to say you can’t have a single eye-catching display at the front of the store. Costco often has a large seasonal display at its entrance, often with a product like an appliance out of its box for shoppers to touch, smell or try. If you utilize shelving at the entrance, make it low enough that shoppers can look beyond it to get a glimpse at the rest of your store.

Work Against the Clock

Studies show that while people’s eyes move from left to right as they enter a store, they prefer to move to the right of the entryway and walk counter-clockwise around the store. Entice your shoppers to walk the same route. At Safeway’s upscale Marketplace stores, the floral department is strategically placed to the right, pulling customers in with bright colors and scents that also serve to elevate their mood. Other knowing retailers make the aisle to the right of the entrance noticeably bigger than that at the left.

Give Em A Break

Retailers from Wal-Mart to Anthropologie create stopping points in the middle of long aisles to give shoppers a visual break, and an opportunity to make impulse or seasonal buys. While Wal-Mart takes a more obvious approach by using distinct product displays and eye-catching signs to break up its long warehouse aisles, Anthropologie is more subtle, changing or ending the pattern in the paint or wall covering behind its wall displays to get shoppers to stop where they want them to (and it seems to be working on Anthropologie fans like our Director of Retail Sales). These “merchandise outposts” can also serve the dual purpose of cross-merchandising, affinity testing and seasonal promotion.

Respect the U

As Entrepreneur magazine reports, humans are attracted to round and u-shapes. Retailers can utilize circular signs and u-shaped backdrops, like a low wall with forward-curving sides, to draw shoppers in. Nordstrom often utilizes u-shaped walls for apparel displays, placing them behind mannequins in highly visible spots on the sales floor.

Consider the Counter

Your checkout counter can go a long way in adding to the overall customer experience, leaving shoppers with a positive impression of your store. It shouldn’t be so big that it serves to isolate store employees from customers throughout their shopping trip, but it should be big enough to be comfortable, and also allow for a tasteful display of impulse items. Remember that women appreciate a place on the counter to set their handbags. Shoppers also like their personal space, so enough room should be left between multiple cash wraps and registers so they don’t feel cramped.

The wall behind the counter or empty space adjacent the register are two places to display impulse purchases. But avoid temptation to cram too much in the space, lest the shopper become overwhelmed and skip the impulse buy altogether.

Like everything else in your business, your store layout should be considered malleable, ready to bend to accommodate the ever-changing demands of the customer. Make time to frequently stop and evaluate what’s working and what’s not, and make changes accordingly. Your retail sales will thank you.

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