The recent rise in inflation was always going to provide significant challenges for the retail sector. Many prices have risen as a direct result of the wholesale cost of some raw materials soaring, such as wheat and sunflower seeds, while others have been affected indirectly because of the use of oil and gas in preparation or transportation.
Not only does this mean many shop prices have risen, but consumers have had less money to spend due to rising fuel bills, with mortgage holders also affected by increased costs as interest rates have gone up.
In such circumstances, it may be predictable that the latest CBI monthly Distributive Trades Survey has shown that retail sales volumes fell by 35 per cent in the year to April, compared with the long-term norm of this time of year of plus 18 per cent.
Clearly these are tough times, but that is when factors like good retail store design can help.
There are several aspects to design that can greatly increase your chances of grabbing a bigger slice of a shrinking pie. If consumers are being more hesitant to enter a store to begin with, eye-catching, attractive displays near the store entrance to lure people in can be vital.
Another factor of design is to arrange the interior layout so that progress through a store is slow. An obvious example of this is escalators in premises with multiple floors, where instead of offering a continuous journey from bottom to top, customer need to switch to the other side at each floor to carry on in the same direction – passing strategically-placed displays on the way.
At the same time, it is useful to have spacious areas where people can move freely, so that the store is not too crowded and claustrophobic.
Of course, the latter can be achieved in another way – through a lack of customers, but while that may be the fate of some high street retailers, improved layouts can go a long way towards preventing it happening to you.