Profitable Times Newsletter

Layout & Design #2

This is the second of two articles on store layout and design. The first installment explored some of the basic retail foundations, applicable to most retail environments, on which layout and design decisions are based. This installment will examine the application of those guiding principles to a few critical and specific details.

Let's begin at the front of the store.

First Fixture

The purpose of the first fixture is to draw customers across the threshold into the retail space or into specialty departments. This fixture should be close enough to the entrance to attract customers, but back far enough to not clog the foot-traffic pattern into the space.

The products on this fixture should make a strong, simple visual statement, highlighting a special selection that is directly related to the season or another theme. One of my favorite displays for this fixture is to feature a primary item surrounded by all the products that will enhance its use.

Fixture Height

In general, the height of fixtures should increase deeper into the space and off to the sides from the entrance. The fixtures on the back and side walls should be the tallest in the store. The goal is to allow a customer who enters the store to see as much of the space as possible from the front one-third. It is from this location and in these first few moments that people make a decision about how much further they will penetrate into the space and how long they will stay. The more they see from this position the better the chance they will find something of interest, move toward it and linger longer.

When reviewing the sightlines from the front of the store, be most aware of wide or tall fixtures placed so close to the entrance they block a panoramic view of the remainder of the space. The most frequent violators are spinner racks and armoires.

Back Wall(s)

The back walls of the store should act like a magnet to draw people deep into the space. The back walls should be one of the brightest places in the store with dramatic, simple displays that are easily perceived from a distance.

Interior Signage

The most visible location for departmental signage is above eye level and perpendicular to the foot-traffic. Signs that stick out in front of the customer are more visible than those parallel to their path through the space.

Horizontal Areas for Displays

In the first article on layout and design, getting the customer to linger was listed as perhaps the most important design goal. A well-lighted, attractive retail environment and appealing product with music playing in the background will go a long way toward encouraging the customer to linger. But how products are presented is also important.

It is the height of retailing arrogance to think that every product in the store is so wonderful that all the customers who come in will take the time to look at every individual item.

Displays are little vignettes of products that highlight select products, attract the customer's attention, slowing their progress through the store and suggesting products that may be of interest. Some of the most effective displays include:

  • What's New
    This is a constantly changing display featuring the newest products drawn from multiple product categories. This specific display is most effective when located in the back half or two-thirds of the space to draw customers through the entire retail presence.

  • Add-On
    Feature products that compliment the item that is the primary focus of this display. Customers rarely think about additional products that go with their main purchase. This display can result in a more satisfying purchase for the customer, additional revenue for the store and an enhanced perception of customer service. So, if the focus is on bird feeders other products included in this display might include seed, identification books, CD's of bird whistles, DVD's of birds, etc.

  • Seasonal
    This is the most obvious and easily constructed display. They can include religious and other holidays, and simple reflection of the seasons.

  • Slow-selling
    Only you and your staff know what is not selling as well as you would like. Typically, the customer doesn't have the foggiest idea. By including slow-selling products in displays you are raising the visibility of these products and that change in focus will result in more of them being sold at full price before you may have to put them on sale.

Location of Checkout Counter

The checkout counter needs to be a balance of customer service, merchandising of selected products and security. Remember, when the customer is ready to go, THEY ARE READY TO GO!

From a customer service and security standpoint, the checkout counter should be within easy sightline of customers entering and leaving, and close enough to acknowledge their presence when they enter. It should not, however, be the first thing they see — product should be the most prominent upon entering.

The primary products merchandised in the immediate vicinity of the checkout counter include small, relatively expensive items like jewelry and impulse products that can easily be added to the primary purchase. Regardless of the products, this presentation becomes part of the last and lasting impression of the store and should be merchandised in an uncluttered manner.

Background Music

Background music can increase sales by enhancing the atmosphere of the store, blotting out other noises and slowing the pace with which customers move through the space, thus increasing lingering.

A simple rule to follow regarding music is to play what you sell and sell what you play. The music should primarily appeal to the customer, not necessarily to the store staff.

In conclusion, put your feet in the shoes of your customers when making any decisions about the layout and design of your space. The priorities should be the customer first, function second and design elements third. This does not mean, however, that the store cannot be beautifully designed; the design just needs to wrap itself around the needs of the customer and retail functioning.

Click here for the first Layout and Design article.

See the complete list of Profitable Times™ Newsletters.


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