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A good store layout is a key element in your business’s success, making sure satisfied customers return time and time again. With growing competition from online retailers, the importance of keeping the customer happy when shopping in your physical store can’t be over-emphasised.

To complete the whole instore experience, customers take in everything about their surroundings, so it’s crucial that everything is right. What people want is an easy shopping trip without any hassle, so be sure to do some forward planning to fulfil every requirement.

Shop layout

© technomatix / Adobe Stock

Where to start

A good retail store becomes a great one when you first plan the layout on paper. Work out the building specifications, product placement and customer traffic flow before you actually install a single display unit. By thoughtfully planning your premises, you can explore the available options, creating a layout that’s maximised for success and that encourages customers to browse and buy.

There are different preferred floor plans, depending on the type of business. A grid floor plan is commonly used for grocery, big box and convenience stores for shelf-stocked goods including toys, books, speciality foods, homewares and hardware.

Loop floor plans will maximise your wall space, leading customers along a set path. It is popular for retail stores selling clothing, accessories, toys, kitchenware, homewares, personal care items and speciality retail stores.

The free flow floor plan is commonly used in upscale, speciality and boutique stores including clothing, accessories, personal care items and mixed-use stores such as bakeries that also sell packaged goods.

Whichever plan is used, the store layout is a vital part of the customer experience, with the important consideration being the accessibility of the goods, as this impacts on sales. Not only must retailers consider the natural flow of the store, they must also take into account strategic methods to help increase sales.

Predicting consumer behaviour

It makes sense that the longer customers are in a shop, the more likely they are to make a purchase. There are several ways of positively influencing a store’s traffic, such as the arrangement of the escalators, the placing of the fixtures and the location of departments. An example is when food stores put necessary items, such as milk and eggs, towards the rear of the shop, so customers have to walk past other merchandise to reach them.


Maximising retail space

When the retail space is maximised per square foot, it follows that the store will make more money. If one area is under-performing in terms of sales, rearrange the merchandise – the idea is to put a good array of merchandise on the floor, such as high and low-priced items mixed with fast and slow-selling products.

An example of this is displaying an expensive HD television with lower-priced accessories. The higher-priced items are allowed more retail space, with the lower-priced items stacked on fixtures so more products can be displayed together.

The layout should organise product categories together, enabling customers to find the items they are searching for all in one location. This takes advantage of the fact customers are more likely to buy products linked to the one they have gone to the store to purchase. For example, merchandising winter scarves, hats and gloves in the same area is a sound practice, as is grouping together products by different designers that have a similar feel.

Comfortable environment

The shop’s layout can govern the emotions felt by customers. When they enter a store where they feel comfortable, they are more likely to browse and purchase items. Factors such as the décor, how the merchandise is displayed, and the width of the aisles can affect the overall mood. No-one wants to squeeze down narrow aisles, or to be looking in dingy corners. Similarly, tall fixtures restricting visibility can evoke feelings of anxiety.

Congested layouts in clothing stores in particular, can create tension and make shoppers rush through their purchases so they can leave as soon as possible. An open layout where all the merchandise is clearly visible and accessible will reduce tension and customers will want to stay longer.

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