Retail Design Tips: 5 Important things to remember

If you own your retail store or manage one, then this article is for you.  If you are a seasoned owner or manager, these tips may just be a quick reference list for ‘tweaking’ your design plans.  Then there may be some of you who started a retail store and never had any formal training on how to design and merchandise your store.  If you are just opening up a store, then I hope that these tips will help you in your planning stage. I hope for all of you that this will give you a few quick tips on how to make your customer’s experience at your store more enjoyable.

Why does it matter that your customer’s experience at your store be an enjoyable one?  Because if they enjoy being at your store, they will spend more time there and ultimately purchase more of your products and services.  This is a win-win situation for both your customers and you as the owner.  They will be comfortable while they look around for the product that they are hoping to find.  If they can’t find it then they will leave your store with the thought that ” I am sorry I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I enjoyed the experience and will return”.  Now realistically speaking, design isn’t everything to building a favorable experience for your customers, but it is a large part of it.

Design for Effective Selling Space

Design for Effective Selling Space

Here are a few important things to remember when designing and merchandising your store:

  1. Traffic Flow – Typically people will come into a store and turn right, browse around the store in a counter-clockwise direction and then exit the store.  However, you have the power to stop and re-direct where you would like them to go by setting up focus points.  You can use your displays to do this, but remember that it still needs to feel natural so have it make sense and no drastic direction changes.   Aisles should be min. 2.5′-4′ (depending on the size of your store).  Main aisles and two-way traffic areas should be wider to allow for two people to pass easily.
  2. “Power Wall” – This is the wall to the right as you enter the store.  This is the area that your customer will look to first (since they are naturally turning to the right).  If you have orchestrated the traffic flow to be otherwise, consider the first wall they look at to be your ‘power’ wall.  This is an area to put featured items, or seasonal items.
  3. Tell a story – Does your store tell a story?  Men to the left, women to the right is a start but it needs to be more than that.  Is there a logical progression from one purchase to the next?  Are there opportunities to have accessories next to large purchase items for add-on sales? For example:  Bike stores will typically have their bikes in one area, but they will probably keep the road bikes and the mountain bikes separate.  Next they may purchase shoes & pedals that will go along with your bike.  Then a helmet which is a key safety product that we all use when we ride.  And so on.
  4. 5 Senses – Make sure you are appealing to all the senses to heighten your customer’s experience.  The sense of smell is a very powerful memory trigger.  New research shows just how powerful this can be – read more.  Selling baked goods?  Think of how the smell of chocolate cookies baking would get you in the mood.  How about a Spa environment and the smell of lavender in the air?   Sound is another powerful sense.  For instance, if you are selling high-end women’s clothing, you should probably not play loud rock music.  Make sure all senses contribute to an enjoyable shopping experience for your target audience.
  5. Displays – Much to cover on this topic, but some key things to remember – size smallest to largest / front to back, people don’t see what is below their knees, and use color blocking / or color stories as often as possible to keep the visual clutter to a minimum.  When thinking about the overall look of the store when designing your displays, remember that the perception by your customers (typically) is that fewer displays and fewer items on display often means a higher ticket price.

These are just a few key points to keep in mind when merchandising your store.  Each of these points deserves more time, but I hope that it will give you a starting point or a quick refresher.  Future blog entries will offer a more in-depth look at each point. The tips above are from my experience in retail as well as theory I learned in school.

If you already have your store set up, you have a point of reference for your own research.  If not spend some time in stores that are similar to yours.

  • Research – Watch patterns of behavior.  Ask a friend for some honest feedback.  Ask your staff for their input.
  • Analyze– What can i do to make my store better?  How much is it going to cost to try this?
  • Implement – Make some changes.
  • Assess – Was it good?  Do I notice an increase in sales of a certain product because of my new layout?  Feedback from customers?

Ref:  The image above is from the cover of a book by Joseph Weishar – “Design for Effective Selling Space”.  A textbook from my days at Humber for Business (Retail Specialty).  Points above are my own, but after looking through the book again, realize that there is a wealth of retail design knowledge in there.  A great retail design reference.

Retail – remembering our past while moving to the future

Successful ‘brick and mortar’ retail stores – What are they doing that is so special?

There are a few key points to why certain retail stores have been successful. These points haven’t changed since the early days when local community members could go to the general store to purchase a bushel of apples or some penny candy for the kids.  Remember the days that Eaton’s opened their first department store in Toronto?  Yes, there are still a few people around (including my parents) that remember shopping downtown Toronto at the Eaton Centre where the horses and buggies were all lined up out front waiting for the opportunity to take deliveries to their customers.

Retail is defined as a store that offers a place to buy small purchases.  Some stores are big, some are small.  Some are chains, and some are independent.  Some are in rural communities, and some are in a downtown core.  Retail stores come in all shapes and sizes, as well as offering different products and services.  Some have prospered and some have failed, but the ‘brick and mortar’ store will continue to live on and be successful if they remember a few key timeless points.

  • Customer service  Hands down it will be superior customer service that will sustain our brick & mortar retail stores – product knowledge & experience, and willingness to go the extra mile to keep the customer happy.  For many retailers their customers are more than just someone who buys a product or service from their store, it is a form of friendship – a mutual relationship that both sides benefit.   However, not all customers will be loyal customers and those are the ones that prefer to go wherever the price is the lowest.  But those that frequently support their local retailer know that when they enter the store they will be welcomed by name, employees will offer their undivided attention, and extra service  will be given.  You have a questions?  “Let me answer that for you!”  or “I will find the answer out for you right away”.  Staff in many retail stores are quite experienced in their areas of expertise and so the answers that they give are quite valuable.  This is part of the retail experience that you just don’t get online.
  • Location, Location, Location – is one of the key points of success for our retailers, but if you noticed, I put this point second.  Accessibility and Visibility is still important, but remember – people will drive a distance to a place that offers good value – in price, product and service.
  • Innovation – Stay up with the times, but know your customer.  Successful retailers listen to their target audience and offer to them the innovations that matter to them.  These innovations may be in the form of a new product in the store, longer hours, email notification of upcoming events, service clinics, Facebook page, etc.  Whichever it may be – Listen & Respond.

Take for instance the Wilmette Bicycle & Sports Shop in Chicago.  They are still ‘thriving’ after 80 years – everyone’s measure of success is different, but the lessons they teach can be used for all retailers today.  Watch and see why they are still in business because this is a story of how and why retail brick & mortar stores are surviving today.  A little nostalgia and lessons learned for us moving into the future.  Watch the Video clip.

“Chicago’s Wilmette Bicycle & Sports Shop was featured in a four-minute segment on NBC’s Today show this week, held up as an example of how old-school retailing can thrive despite the odds.” says Bicycle Retailer

Are their retailers in your community that are making a difference?  How are they setting themselves apart from their competition?

For the Love of Retail…