A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
The Art of the Layout: Everything
You Need to Know about the Science of Store Design
It DOES make a difference in store
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (March 23,
Store planning and design has consistently been at the top of our
list of things retailers need to do well in order to have a
successful store. Merchandise will sell itself when a store's design
is good, but when it's not, even the best product can sit on your
shelves gathering dust. The purpose of your store's design is not
merely to look pretty, its purpose is to create an environment that
attracts customers, entices them to spend time in the store, and
encourage them to purchase impulsively while they are there. It's a
tall order, but it's easier than you might think.
That's because much of store planning is time-honored science.
Professional store planners know that every single square foot of
your sales floor has a specific job to do; you will, too, after
reading this article. So whether you are opening a brand new store
or perking up your existing one, these ideas will keep you on the
Inside the Front Door
The first thing shoppers will notice inside your store is your décor
package; we say package because all of the elements - walls,
flooring, primary and accent colors, fixturing, signing, wall
striping, etc. - must work together to tell a single story.
There are two kinds of colors used in store décor:
Primary Colors (neutrals) and Secondary Colors (bold accent colors).
Primary colors are used in 80% of the store's décor
to create a relaxed atmosphere for customers to shop. Accent Colors
are used in 20% of the store's décor
to make it pop. Think of accent colors as attention grabbers.
Once, after a presentation on store design, a retailer approached
us and asked if we'd take a look at photos of his newly remodeled
store. His newly remodeled RED store. Instead of a store planner, he
had hired an interior designer with wild ideas. The floors were
shiny red, the fixtures were red, the walls were red, the checkout
counters were red – you get the picture. Red is a dominant color,
and exposure to that much color makes most people antsy. It's a
great accent color because it stimulates shoppers to make quick
decisions, but as a primary color it's a bust.
So we asked the retailer to place an associate at the front of
his store for two weeks to clock how long customers stayed in the
store. Just as we suspected, customers didn't stay in the store
longer than they had to, and the retailer had to re-do his entire
store to get sales back on track.
Which Store Layout is Right?
All store layouts are affected by the shape and size of the sales
floor, but the common goal is to expose shoppers to product and to
gain maximum traffic flow. There are three layouts that are
typically used in store design, the Grid Layout, the Loop
(Racetrack) Layout, and the Free Flow Layout.
In a Grid Layout, fixtures run parallel to the walls, so
customers typically grab a shopping cart, start in a front corner
and walk each and every aisle. Grid layouts are easy to shop because
they offer clean sight lines throughout the entire store. Another
plus: Grids allow for maximum End Feature exposure. Grid layouts can
be found in grocery stores, but you will also find them utilized in
many big box stores.
A Loop Layout offers a clearly defined main aisle that circles
through the store like a race track. Fixture placement in a Loop
Layout differs in different parts of the store: The perimeter
fixtures run perpendicular to the wall, and the fixtures in the
center of the loop run parallel to the side walls. In a Loop layout
shoppers typically flow to the right and move up and down the aisles
in a serpentine manner. Loop layouts offer maximum product exposure
because the perimeter walls are just as important as the end
features the layout leads customers to the wall each time they go
down an aisle. Target and Best Buy are two good examples of stores
that utilize a Loop layout.
Small and specialty retailers typically use a Free Flow Layout
because it allows for the most creativity. In a Free Flow layout,
there are no set aisles or straight lines. Instead, fixturing is
placed at angles, encouraging shoppers to easily move throughout the
store, where they will find new merchandise displays at every turn.
This layout offers many opportunities to romance the merchandise and
create lifestyle display vignettes.
If you already have a blueprint of your store, then you are ahead
of the game. A blueprint will help you determine choice of layout
and appropriate locations for merchandise departments. If you don't
have one, don't worry! Get a large piece of paper and draw a
schematic of your own. Measure both the sales floor and non-selling
areas, carefully noting all the nuances including columns, doors,
bathrooms, service areas, etc. Next, mount your schematic to a piece
of foam core board, and overlay it with transparent tissue paper.
Now, you will be able to merchandise and re-merchandise your sales
floor on paper before you ever touch a fixture!
A Word about Fixturing
It's dangerous to fall in love with your store fixtures. Keep in
mind that the true purpose of your fixtures is to house merchandise:
you aren't supposed to see them. Target Stores come to mind as a
good example of correct use of fixturing. When you think of Target
you get an image of great product; what doesn't come to mind are the
fixtures housing that great product. That's because Target makes the
merchandise the star. The company uses basic gondolas and pegboard
to maximize dollars per square foot, and display techniques to make
the merchandise pop. Yes, you will find specialty fixturing peppered
throughout the store, but they are used as features, not to house
Fixture placement will depend upon your choice of layout. The
Americans with Disabilities Act requires a minimum of 3'.6" in
between fixtures. (Visit the ADA website at http://www.ada.gov
for more information.) 3'.6" just makes sense; anything smaller
and shoppers will be uncomfortable. Grab a shopping cart and
maneuver the aisles. Can you do it easily? Do the same exercise with
a wheel chair, a stroller, and a motorized scooter. If customers
can't comfortably shop, they can't buy.
Lake Front Property
Some areas of your sales floor are more important an others.
Think of them as prime real estate or lake front property. As
shoppers walk in the front door, they should be surrounded by
merchandise; this is not the place for the checkout counters or
other service areas. Professional store planners know that if you
mis-merchandise these areas, it will cost you in sales. Here are the
key areas you need to pay close attention to throughout your store:
The Decompression Zone
The Decompression Zone is the space that's located just inside
your front door. The size of your DZ will depend upon the size of
your sales floor, but it's generally the first 5' to 15' inside the
front door. Its purpose is to give shoppers a chance to transition
from whatever happened in the parking lot, to your store – it
refocuses the customer on shopping. Your DZ needs to be open,
inviting, and easy to navigate. Understand that shoppers will miss
anything you place here, that's why the DZ is not the place ideal
for shopping carts, baskets, or signing because customers will blow
right by them. Instead place these items just outside your DZ where
shoppers are more likely to see them.
Just past the Decompression Zone is where you place fixtures
known as Speed Bumps. These merchandise displays work much the same
way as speed bumps in parking lots work: they slow customers down.
They also grab their attention and introduce them to the cool
product for sale in your store. Specialty fixturing, such as slat board
4-ways, make great Speed Bumps. Small tables work well, too. Use
Speed Bumps to feature new and seasonal items, and to tell product
stories. And be sure to rotate the product on your Speed Bumps at
least once a week.
Attention! Right Turn Ahead!
Ninety percent of the customers who enter your store will turn to
the right, so it's important to merchandise this area with care.
Walk inside your front door, stop just past your Decompression Zone,
and look to your right. The wall you see is called a Power Wall and
it's another one of those key merchandising areas. And because it's
the first wall shoppers see after turning right, it's a perception
builder. If you use this area to house basic product you are making
a mistake. Put your best foot forward by using this Power Wall to
display important departments and new and seasonal items; to create
vignettes; to tell product stories; and to feature high-demand and
high-profit items. (Note: Your store has more than one Power
Wall. Stand in various places throughout your store and look around;
the walls that stand out are your Power Walls. If yours are
non-descript, then use slat board to crop the corners, and you will
create instant power walls.)
The Front Right Is NOT the Best Place for the Checkout Counter
A common mistake in store layout is placing the checkout counter
at the right front of the store, smack dab in the middle of your
lake front property. You may argue that it's nice to have someone
right up front to say hello to shoppers as they enter the store, but
that problem can be solved by a Greeter on busy days. Your checkout
should be located at a natural stopping point in the shopping
experience: the left side of the store, close to the front, is good
And your checkout counter should be designed to sell! Embrace these
five rules: 1. Give shoppers enough space to comfortably
complete their transaction. This means room for a female shopper to
place both her handbag and her purchase on the counter. 2. Create
an interesting display of product behind the checkout counter. You
want customers to continue shopping, even while waiting to pay for
their purchases.3. Make sure that your policy signing is
friendly, inviting, polite and positive – nuke the "NO! NO!
NO's!". 4. Load up the checkout counter with "I
have to have this!" impulse items (and "shut-up" toys
as in "Mommy, can I have a ball?" "No."
"Mommy, can I have a ball?" "No." "Mommy,
can I have a ball?" "SHUT UP! WHAT COLOR DO YOU
WANT!?"). 5. Stock items customers need, but frequently
forget, under the checkout counters. Then when cashiers ask,
"Did you find everything you were looking for today?" and
the customer says "No! I forgot X; I'll get it next time."
The cashier can simply reach under the counter and grab it - instant
The next time you are in a grocery store keep an eye out for
displays of product that are placed near or in the aisles. These
fixtures are called Merchandise Outposts, and their sole purpose is
to encourage impulse purchases. Merchandise Outposts make shoppers
stop and think, "I need that!" They provide the perfect
opportunity to cross-merchandise in a big way. Department stores
jump start sales by loading up the aisles during the holidays with
Merchandise Outposts. You should, too.
After you read this article, take a trip to your local mall and
study the bones of each store. You will see how these universal
store planning truths have been tweaked for each application. And
they will work in your store as well. Whether you are gearing up for
a new store, or just in need of a sales floor shuffle, remember that
you are not alone. If you're not sure what to do first, give us a
call, or email photos and we'll share ideas to help get you started.
We'll even pay for the call!
(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants,
Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts
on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything
that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment.
Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their
"Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and
seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the
media, including the ABC National News special report, "How
Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer
Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom
line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by
tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two
of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and
their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the
Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors
(ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.)
You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tip and techniques
to help you grow your business on our Retail Adventures™ blog: http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com.
We really mean it when we say to call us if you want to talk about
your store. We know how tough it is right now, and we're happy to
brainstorm ideas with you – we want you to succeed!