19 Store Layout Tips! + Bonus



How your shop is laid out matters. The more products and services customers see, the more they buy. Have a store where people can walk straight from the door to the counter and you're clearly missing a trick. Equally, people are more driven by emotion than reason, so frustrate their browsing by making it difficult to find things and you'll achieve the same result.


What you need is something in the middle. Something that's easy for those in a hurry and engaging for those that are not. You need a Shop that works.


Shop design is not an exact science but there are ways to make it work more for you than against you. And in our bid to always "wow" you, our customer, we haven't just set out 10 points to help you make your retail space work harder for you: we've set out 19!


1. Make the most of your shop entrance.

Your shop entrance has the highest footfall in your entire premises so it's a great place to place products. And what better way to reassure and confirm a customer's decision for walking in than to present them with a great offer?

This is the place to do it. I'm not suggesting you crowd the entrance, just make an offer the main thing customers see when they start venturing into your shop. Go into any supermarket and you'll see this in practice.


2. Help customers acclimatise.

You walk into somewhere you've never been before. How does it feel? What do you do? Most people need a bit of time to orient themselves and make sense of the experience they're now encountering. They need to feel they have actually walked into your shop – and this isn't the same as having walked in through the door.

Sit in you shop and watch what people do. My own experience - personally and as a shop owner - is that people usually go and pick up the first thing they see. It helps them "get into" the shop. Maybe it only lasts a few seconds but this is a critical time. First impressions matter. So help your customers, don't frustrate them. Keep your entrance uncluttered, if you've got the space use it.


3. Remember the invariable right.

Paco Underhill, founder of the consumer research company Envirosell, observed that customers entering shops tend to turn right. So he coined the term "Invariable Right".

The "Invariable Right" means the right hand side of the shop will get most attention and it'll get it first. Indeed, research also shows the right hand aisles in supermarkets get increased flows.

So pay special attention to what you do with the right hand side of your shop. Give it the attention the attention it gets deserves!


4. Have a "sweet spot".

Combine the invariable right with another piece of consumer behaviour and you get another insight. It's that the front 1/3 of your shop gets greatest attention from customers (if its small, this won't apply, but the invariable right still does).

Put this and the "Invariable Right" together means the front right side of your shop is a place worth giving some attention. It's the place to put your choicest offers and messages. It's the place that'll increase your stock turns.


5. Create a flow around your store.

Even if you have very limited space try and create a flow around the shop. You have to get people in and moving around.

Sometimes termed "penetration" what you want is to expose customers to the maximum amount of merchandise because the more they see, the more they buy. So

  1. Interrupt the door to counter line. Make people at least negotiate something. They'll look at it and whatever's there will get their attention

  2. If you can, create aisles - even if it's just a "race-track". Aisles encourage movement and browsing. Most importantly they help people feel ‘safe' to shop as they want and not obliged to buy or rude if they don't. This point is all about making people look at things and spark thoughts and interest

  3. Avoid dead-ends. People can see the "trap" and will avoid it.



6. Direct people with signs

A customer walks in through the door thinking: "Where are the cables?" or "I'm just popping in to get Ink". Your shop should enable them to quickly and easily find those things without having to ask you.

We're talking navigation signage here – not product promotional signs: that'll be covered when we talk about Merchandising.

Navigation signage is the signage you see high up or hanging from ceilings when you're in a shop – you'll have seen it in any supermarket or department store. It's used to help people find where to go to browse what they want.

And you can use it to great effect too. Its purpose is simple: to make it impossible for customers to not find the major items you sell. So use signage to clearly mark where your different product categories are: "Inks, Media & Paper", "Networking", "Audio Visual" and so on. Also use it for things like "Clearance Corner" or "This Months Special Offer".


7. Convenience matters.

When deciding on where to put things in your shop, after thinking about all the key spots and what you'll put where, layout things sensibly and intuitively. But do this from a customer's perspective, rather than a category perspective.

For example, where would you put blank CD's and DVD's? With other storage devices like drives? No. They go best with how they're used, so with jewel cases, quality papers and possibly inks. Because that's the way people use and think of them.

Place goods that go together so they're convenient for customers. Thinking about your shop this way increases it's practicality. So you end up with a shop that's more appealing and less frustrating.


8. Give products the space they deserve.

If you have high demand items, don't crowd them with other things. It serves to hide them. It makes them difficult to spot without asking. The very thing you don't want for fast movers.

The same applies to crowded displays and products packed into corners. Cramped displays won't best sell your products. They'll also frustrate customers because they can't get at them.

Think about each item you sell give it space accordingly. Don't think "I've some space, how can I fill it?" Think "I've got great products, how do I use my space to say that?"


9. Give people the space they need.

Most people prefer to avoid touching strangers. Everyone has a sense of personal space.

So if your aisles are narrow or you've dead-ends your customers won't be able to help bumping into each other. And this is a no-no: they're violating each others personal space.

It sounds daft and for regulars it clearly doesn't matter. But for new customers and visitors, your cramped space might just be the reason why they leave without saying a word.

How wide? Well, clearly there's the "bottom-bumping" approach to understanding what this should be. The UK Building Regulations 2010 state 1.2m minimum.


10. Use displays as features.

I'm not talking about how you create a display, this is about using displays as a means to draw people into and around your shop.

Well thought out displays will draw people like a magnet, let alone "sell". What's interesting here is you sell monitors. This creates great opportunity for using them to run video or presentations. And things that move attract attention.


11. The eye-line is the buy-line.

As humans it's been shown we prefer looking at things roughly at eye height – between waist and eye level. So clearly it's in this field of view you want to place the stuff you really want to sell.

Now, you can use this space in dramatically different ways – for promoting fast or slow moving items – but what matters is that it's the space that gets the attention. Also, avoid the pile it high approach: people prefer not to look up, it makes your shop feel more cramped, and it makes things difficult to reach.


12. Place products in the places where people don't go.

Sometimes termed "dispersion", you want customers shopping using all your retail space. Remember, the more they see the more they buy. Knowing the places people don't go will help you address dispersion. So watch where they go and where they don't.

When deciding on store layout, site popular, high-selling stock so customers have to walk past other merchandise first. In an IT shop this could mean media or inks go further back from the door. If you had a small convenience store or a car parts shop, things like milk and motor oil have the same effect.

Doing this creates the chance customers might buy something they'd not planned on, or perhaps didn't know you sold.


13. Be well stocked, but not cluttered.

Create an uncluttered, neat layout. Keep your shop tidy, not just from the point of view of dirt, but tidy in as much as every part of the shop is purposefully used and well organised. Retail is detail!

Anything that's just there to fill space, or you've forgotten to get rid of because it's been there so long, needs removing. Stuff that's not really needed is stuff that saps customers time and attention. It distracts, frustrates and puts them off buying.

Help customers relax and enjoy your experience: only show them what they need to see.


14. Don't make people have to talk or ask for assistance.

People prefer to not talk to strangers - so don't make them. And there's a host of causes - like dead-ends and narrow aisles that we've already talked about – that force people to speak to each other or to you.

Be it the embarrassment of speaking to strangers or not wanting to feel obliged to buy in talking to you, they'd just rather not speak to people they don't know.

They also don't like asking 'dumb' questions. Like whether the Bluetooth mouse they're looking at comes with batteries. Don't make them. Include signs and information so this doesn't happen.

Don't force people to talk or ask for assistance. Give this point real consideration. Other culprits include crowded displays, products packed into corners and high shelving.


15. Remember comfort.

If there's any reason a customer might need to wait or for you to do a quick job, think about their comfort - it only takes a chair! Similarly if displays are interactive or there are product demos, a chair for the weary could help make a sale.


16. Place products at the sales till.

Traffic gets concentrated at the sales till. More, it has to dwell a little while you serve. Take advantage of this using the area around your till to display stuff.

Remember, these customers will have already made their major purchase decision so trying to get them make another will be seen as "pushy". Instead, use the till as a point where low value additional extras can be sold: the sort of stuff that grabs attention, that makes people think "I could use one of those" and most importantly, won't break the bank.

Things like batteries, small pen memory, perhaps a good deal on packs of media, that sort of thing. It's the "sweeties at the checkout" approach. It works.


17. Plan for the mood of the majority

Whatever the reason men and women typically approach shopping differently. For men it's more about getting stuff they've already decided they want, whereas women shop with less set ideas – it's more about seeing what the options are and trying things out. Men just "go and get" whereas women "go, consider, try and then maybe get".

What does this mean for shop layouts? In simple terms make layouts straightforward, with clear navigation and easy access for men: for women, use layouts that encourage more browsing.

Clearly you could have a problem doing both at the same time. The best you can do is plan your layout for the majority of your shoppers.


18. Don't forget your storage, back-office and receipts spaces.

It's easy to only focus on those parts of your shop customers see. Clearly your retail area is one and maybe so is your open workshop. You'll spend time and effort making these look good because you want to create the right impression. But no-one sees the other parts. So what's the fuss?

Well they don't, but they might see the consequences of them. A small or poorly laid out stock room will challenge you keeping stock levels right in the shop. A cramped untidy office will mean you lose papers, can't find stuff and make errors. Your goods received area is critical: what happens when you can find part of an order or worse, part of what a customer dropped off? Make sure you have clear areas for receiving goods inwards.

A dirty loo? You can work that one out.


19. Shop layout is part of your customer experience.

For customers, shopping is an experience. For retailers shopping is the commercial success of selling stock to customers. But that can mean a room full of stock just becomes a room full of shelving with stuff on it.

Do you see where this is going? When you start thinking about your layout you have to think about how you want people to feel when they use your shop. You have to think emotionally in order to think rationally. You have to think about creating an experience that leads customers through the shop using a layout that is logical, sequential, intuitive, seamless and convenient. Sure, interrupt the flow, but make it with a display that's got real "wow" about it. Overall, give something people they will remember. For good reasons.


20. Bonus - Smell.

Have you been eating Fish and Chips or a Pizza for Lunch? Or been working hard in a hot store all day? Or cleaning a computer out that had a bad smell? Bad smells can put customers right off, maker sure you store smells fresh at all time, you can use something like Neutradol Odour Destroyer or you could go a bit fancier and give your store a distinct smell with an oil diffuser. Just don't go over the top and make the store smell like the perfume section in Boots!



Exercise: How's your layout?

You're now ready to review how your own shop is laid out and draft out the relevant part of your Retail development Plan. Grab a pen and pad of paper and do the following:


  1. Go outside and take a 5 minute walk down the street. You need to do this to mentally get out of the shop and to psyche yourself into being an honest shopper

  2. Open the door and walk in. Stand still and make some notes – what you see and what you feel – regarding your first impressions

  3. Now walk in and start browsing. Walking around the shop, going to where you feel drawn to. Does the shop seem to be laid out sensibly? Are things that go together placed together? Make notes - what you see and what you feel - as you slowly stroll around

  4. After 5 - 10 minutes go to the till. What do you see and how does it make you feel? Make notes

  5. Walk back to the front door using the easiest path to get there. Is there anything you notice you hadn't noticed before? Write down what you see and how it makes you feel

  6. Open the door and leave. If you had to write down a word to describe the experience your shop gives, what would it be? Referring to the 19 points in this article, go through your notes. Rate yourself against each. Note any actions you need to make to bring your shop more into line with the guidance we've provided. Finally, structure your notes into the format below.

  • Entrance, acclimatisation and sweet spot

  • Overall traffic flow, navigation and shopper space

  • Product positioning, convenience, stocking levels and space

  • Use of displays and eye line

  • Shopper comfort

  • Use of sales till

  • Overall experience and design mood

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