An Insider's Guide To Designing Retail Spaces That 'Sell'

Have you ever entered a store and felt your hand instinctively reach out for your wallet? If yes, what you’ve found is a cleverly designed retail store! Every retail space is designed with two simple motives - one, to get consumers over the store threshold, and two, to influence them enough to part with their money! While it would help to have merchandise that naturally draws a consumer, a well-designed retail store helps to master the art of ‘merchandising’!

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Here’s some ‘insider’ advice on how to design a retail store that can get your cash counters jingling!

An Insider's Guide To Designing Retail Spaces That 'Sell'

In order to design the ideal retail store, it is important to focus more on ‘customer experience’ rather than just revenue. Let’s take a look at the elements you need to pay attention to while designing a retail space that ‘sells’!

Do Note: While we have detailed it all below, for more in-depth understanding of various aspects, don't forget to check the slideshow at the end of this post.

1. Store Layout:

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Each floor plan and store layout will depend on the type of products being sold and how much the business can invest in the overall store design. A solid floor plan is the perfect balance of ultimate customer experience and maximized revenue per square foot. Here are a few common store layouts:

  • Straight Floor Plan: This floor plan makes use of the walls and fixtures to create small spaces within the store, and is also one of the most economical store designs. However, the sight lines in this plan may be a problem. Depending on the front entrance, it may be difficult for a customer to see the variety of merchandise or find a location quickly.

  • Diagonal Floor Plan: This plan works best for self-service types of retail stores. It offers excellent visibility for cashiers and customers. It invites movement and traffic flow into the store. Contrary to the maze-like structure of the straight floor plan, the customer has a more open traffic pattern in this plan.

  • Angular Floor Plan: This plan suits high-end specialty stores. Since this design has the lowest amount of available display place, it is best suited to specialty stores that display edited inventory. The curves and angles create better traffic flow throughout the store.

  • Geometric Floor Plan: This plan makes use of racks and fixtures to create an interesting and out-of-the-ordinary store design without a high cost. Clothing and apparel shops should use this floor plan.

  • Mixed Floor Plan: This plan combined the straight, diagonal and angular floor plans, and appeals to a larger audience. The layout moves traffic towards the walls and the back of the store. It is considered to be the most functional store design.

2. ‘Threshold’ Of The Store:

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The threshold, also known as the "decompression zone", is the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world and first experience what you have to offer. The space this area consumes depends on the size and layout of the store. It is in this area that the customers begin to engage with the physical environment of the store. They will notice if the lighting, fixtures, displays, and colours are coordinated, and will normally skip noticing any merchandise or signage placed here.

To make the transition between the environment outside and within the store more noticeable, it is ideal to display only a few key items and use lighting and flooring that contrast with the outside environment. The shift in colors and textures will alert customers to slow down and notice what’s around them.

3. Focus On The ‘Right’:

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Research into retail interior design has shown that customers naturally veer towards the right when they enter a retail space. To capitalize on this, the retailer should have visually attractive displays and signage. It would be ideal to have new or seasonal items, high profit or high demand products displayed here.

4. Defined Pathways:

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Once it is understood that almost all customers will turn to the right, it is now the retailer’s job to make sure that they continue walking through the entire store, allowing maximum exposure to the products displayed. A well-defined path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of the traffic in your store, and also increase chances of making a sale. Ideally, brands should lead customers on a path that increases dwell time and leverages sales.

To ensure that customers don’t just rush past the displays, retailers can create breaks in the path, often referred to as ‘speed bumps’. Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage, and special or seasonal displays.

Another point to consider is the ‘butt-brush’ factor - it is observed that customers are less likely to buy merchandise from an aisle where there’s a possibility of brushing another customer’s backside or having their own backsides brushed. To avoid such congestion, it is ideal to place merchandise that customers spend a long time examining in a more remote area of the store.

5. Colours and Lighting:

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The influence of colours on customer behaviour is not just restricted to the merchandise. The colours surrounding the customer while shopping can also influence whether they make a purchase. Since colours increase brand recognition, finding a way to work the company logo colours into the store design will help customers associate the colours with the company and its products. Bold colours like red and yellow, used sparingly, can be used to highlight certain products and catch a customer’s attention. However, it should be noted that colours should just highlight - not overpower!

The lights used in a retail store go a long way in determining the overall mood of the store. Lighting highlights architectural elements, product qualities and creates virtual spaces - impacting how a customer feels, what customers think of a product, and ultimately the choice of whether to purchase or not. There are several types of lighting, some of which are mentioned below:

  • Ambient lighting: This refers to your store’s overall lighting concept. Ambient lighting creates the overall atmosphere in your store and has the largest impact. For example, if you have a large light fixture in the center of your store, this would create the ambient lighting in the space.

  • Accent lighting: This “spotlight” type lighting allows storefronts to draw attention to a few products. This technique is common in luxury stores.

  • High-activity lighting: Traditional lighting concepts often leave stores with dark corners and shadowy spots. But high-activity lighting focuses on covering the entire space with bright lights to eliminate the possibility that customers will miss any of your products.

In fact, choosing the right kind of lighting is essential for all kinds of interiors, including residential spaces.

6. Checkout Counter:

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If the threshold is where the customer forms the first impression of the store, the checkout counter experience is what the customer will leave the store with. The checkout counter should ideally be located at a natural stopping point in the shopping experience or at the end of a path a retailer has purposefully designed.

It is necessary to ensure that the checkout is not claustrophobic for the customers. The quality of the checkout countertops and fixtures should not be compromised upon. Also, there should be enough room behind the counter for the staff, as well as sufficient storage space.

That’s all there is to designing a retail store! All it really needs is to know what the customer wants.

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And as always, here's a quick slideshow summarising it all...