Shop Sign

Retail stores have come a long way from when Harry Selfridge pioneered the storefront display window in the early 20th century. Today, stores do more than lure people inside, they keep them in. It is quite like The Eagles’ song, “Hotel California”.  

It is hard to discuss store layout designs without referencing IKEA’s legendary maze-like floor plan. With each unsuspecting turn, shoppers are drawn into a more exciting reason to spend time and buy more. This article will explore the science behind certain retail designs and why human beings are compelled to behave the way they do when they enter a shop. 

Small Shop Front

Why retail floor design?

Retail floor planning and design has consistently been a critical aspect of many retailers’ “strategies for success” list. Merchandise will easily sell themselves when the retail plan is good, but when it is not, the best products can languish on your store shelves for months.  

“The idea behind an attractive retail design is not merely aesthetics. The main goal is to provide an atmosphere that attracts customers, encourages impulsive buying and add to their emotional experience for repeat visit.” – Slatwall Accessories – Shop Design Experts 

It may seem like a difficult feat, but it is achievable. Much of the work that goes into retail planning is a well-practiced science. Professional retail designers will tell you that every Sq. Ft of floor space has its job to perform. As a store owner or budding retail manager, you too will be expected to deliver. Here are some tips to guide you. 

Shop Display

The inside front door

When customers enter your store, one of the first things they will observe is the décor set. This set comprises all the visible elements from the walls to the floors, warm and bright colours, fixtures, wall design, posters and so on. Each element must work together to portray the beautiful story you want people to see. 

Consider using your two colours; primary and secondary in the ratio 80% and 20% respectively. The primary colours are used to create a calming atmosphere for shoppers to buy. Secondary (or accent colours) are used to make the retail store’s décor pop. Secondary colours are ideally attention grabbers. 

Clothes Shop Display

The right store layout

Every retail store is impacted in some way or the other by the size and shape of its sales floor, but the main objective is to reveal the products to shoppers and optimise traffic stream. There are 3 typical store design layouts: 

  • The grid layout 
  • The loop (racetrack) 
  • The free flow layout 

In the grid layout, the fixtures are placed parallel to the walls so that customers start from the front corner with their shopping cart and approach every aisle. They are often preferred because they offer a clear sight line throughout the store. 

The loop layout, like a typical racetrack, circles round the store. The fixtures are not as uniform like in the grid layout, and will vary with each section of the store. While the area fixtures lie vertical to the wall, the fixtures in the loop centre run parallel to the walls on the side. 

The free flow layout has not straight lines or pre-set aisles. Rather, the fixtures are placed at angles, guiding shoppers move through the store more freely so they can discover new merchandise and shop on the go. With this pattern, retail owners can create lifestyle display frontispieces. 

Choosing any of these designs will depend on the floor space, type of merchandise sold and the strategic objective of the retail store. 

Arcade Shopping

What is fixture/fixturing?

Be mindful of getting too attached to your store fixtures. Bear in mind that the function of your fixture is to stock merchandise. Hence, they shouldn’t be seen. The star of your retail store is the merchandise. They should therefore be in the face of your customers.

The position of your fixtures will be based on the type of layout design used in the store. Remember to consider the disabled by making the space in between fixtures at least 3’6”. Can two or more customers study a product without bumping each other? This is some thing to take into account. 

There are other tactics such as the decompression zone which is an “ease up” space between the entrance and the main sales floor, and speed bumps. The ease up space allows customers decompress after a possible encounter in the parking lot. Speed bumps are attractive decors that allow shoppers pause to admire a feature. 

As a retail store owner, it is advisable to experiment regularly. Trying out new styles regularly can reveal practical ways to improve traffic flow. 


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