When it comes to retail design, one of the most crucial aspects to get right is the layout. There are no fixed rules as to how this should be done, and sometimes a quirky layout works well. However, most retailers prefer to stick to a tried and tested formula. Here are some of the most common layout ideas.
Retail designers will often refer to customer flow when planning the most beneficial layout for a store. This means the customer journey around the shop floor from start to finish. It’s measured, monitored and analysed in great detail by retailers, because it leads to better sales, without the need for more shop floor space, or extra staff.
The customer flow is influenced by the physical navigation of the store, such as the placement of aisles, tables, and shelves, and also the wayfinding markers and product placement. A good customer flow reduces bottlenecks and queuing, and helps customers find what they want easily.
Analysing the movement of shoppers in the store can also help to identify which areas of the store are being ignored by customers, and how this can be improved. The overall impression of the store can be influenced a great deal by the movement of traffic.
We have all had the experience of walking into a cluttered, congested store, been unable to find any signs to guide us to the product we are looking for, and decided to look elsewhere. Therefore, it’s really important to have the most appropriate layout. Here’s a look at some of the most common designs.
The grid layout favours a series of long aisles across the length of the store. It’s a classic layout used by almost all supermarkets and convenience stores, because it maximises shelf space, and allows customers to access a wide range of products with minimum effort. The layout is predictable, and regular customers know where to look for what they need.
The grid suits retailers with a wide range of products, but it can be a hindrance to customers unfamiliar with the layout. If you forget to collect an item in one aisle, it can be annoying to have to make a long trek back for it. If the aisles are too close together, they can be easily congested in busy periods, which is off-putting and creates bottle necks.
The loop layout
The loop or ‘forced path’ layout is a simple continuous path which leads around the floor space with no deviations. The customer will walk past all the merchandise on their way, so it may encourage impulse purchases, or suggest items that the customer will return to buy at a later date.
It suits stores where customers are not necessarily in a rush to buy and go, such as high-end clothing, gift, or homeware stores. The centre of the store may be reserved for visual merchandising, or smaller areas of product display. However, this layout is best avoided for high traffic stores, where customers tend to buy quickly with minimal browsing.
The free flow store layout
The free flow layout makes no attempt to guide customers on a predetermined journey. This creative layout tends to work well in high end stores, where customers spend time browsing before deciding to make a purchase. It is often also the most practical choice for small stores, where other layouts would feel crowded, or fail to offer much shelf space.
However, this is not to say that the layout should not be well thought out. Customers will still expect the checkout to be in a typical place, such as to the left of the main entrance. The store should also avoid crowding shelving or tables too close together, and consider the overall visual coherence of the design.
Other factors to consider
These are just a few of the most common types of store layout. Other important factors to consider include the direction customers naturally turn when they walk into the store. Studies show that this is influenced by the traffic patterns.
For example, in the UK, we drive on the left, and customers are more likely to turn left and move clockwise around a store upon entering. Therefore, it makes sense to put the most profitable or bestselling merchandise in a prominent place to the left of the main entrance.
However, it shouldn’t be too near the entrance, as shoppers will still be scanning the whole store to get their bearings, and may not pay much attention to what is directly in front of them.
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