10 Architectural Design Secrets for Retail Success
In the clothing business, many retailers encourage customers to “dress for success.” As architects specializing in retail store design, our advice to customers is to “build for success.”
There are 10 key areas that require special attention and focus in the design phase. It is important to get it right before you build – as changes are much harder (and more expensive) to make later in the process – or once construction is complete.
Here are our 10 secrets to Architectural Design for Retail Success:
1. Sales Area: Make your merchandise shine.
Lighting plays an important, and often overlooked role in the retail experience. Ambient lighting should be used for general lighting. It provides illumination throughout your store, and the intensity goes a long way in setting the mood. As a rule, the larger a store and the more products it has on its shelves, the more intense the lighting requirements. Big box retailers such as Walmart or Toys R Us are brightly lit, where boutique clothing stores can get away with softer, mood-enhancing lighting.
Accent lighting is used to highlight specific areas, displays, and decor in your store. It is strategically placed to make products pop. As a general rule, accent lighting should be employed near the front of the store, on power walls and in window displays. It is also common practice to illuminate the back wall to make it visible from the front of the store.
2. Focal Point: Sell at eye level.
While it’s tempting to try to bring attention to anything and everything in your store, tried-and-tested design principles tell us that having just one focal point (preferably at eye level) is far more effective in drawing people in.
3. Power Wall: Place featured items where they’re impossible to ignore.
An effective power wall catches your customers’ attention the minute they walk into your store (or as they are passing by). It is your marquee for displaying your feature inventory – be it the latest product additions or your must-have, top selling items.
4. Dressing Rooms: It’s not just clothing were sizing matters.
Dressing rooms are a must in apparel stores. Work with your architect to maximize space, as cramped dressing rooms serve to frustrate customers – which can impact sales. One dressing room should be built larger, to meet barrier-free accessibility guidelines for customers with disabilities. In designing your dressing room, it is important to have appropriate (and flattering) lighting so your clothes (and customer) look their best.
Don’t forget to include mirrors inside – or just adjacent to – the change room. Having mirrors just outside gives sales staff another opportunity to interact with the customer so they can provide advice or potentially recommend an item to complement the outfit. In busy stores that do not have the luxury of individualized attention, placing mirrors inside the change room will allow customers to get in and out faster – and prevent change rooms from being tied up.
5. Resting Area: It pays to cater to non-customers.
Often, a customer is accompanied by a friend or family member who has no interest in buying your merchandise themselves. By giving them a comfortable place to wait, your real customer will feel less inclined to rush and shop a little longer. A good architect will help you find a welcoming area for guests that doesn’t distract from the flow pattern.
Tip: Consider free WI-FI as another way to keep non-customers content.
6. Checkout: The customer is always right. So the till should go to the left.
Research has shown that shoppers tend to veer to the right when they enter a store, walking around in a counter clockwise pattern, and exiting from the left. For this reason, your checkout should be located on the left side (at the natural path of exit).
7. Washrooms: Your customers will thank you.
All new retail locations with an area greater than 600 sq.m. will require public washroom facilities (exemptions will be granted to locations that provide access to common washrooms, such as a mall environment). Always view your washroom as an extension of your retail floor. It should be as inviting and immaculately well maintained as the sales area. Untidy bathrooms can turn customers away. Conversely, well-kept bathroom can help attract customers and keep them in your store longer. This is particularly important in larger stores where browsing is encouraged. It is also a key selling point for customers who are shopping with children (in which case, a change table is also a good idea).
From a design perspective, choose durable finishes and fixtures that are easy to clean, and require minimum maintenance. A nice washroom will enhance a customer’s shopping experience: a bad one will chase them away.
8. Stockroom: Design for access and productivity.
For design firms that lack retail experience, the stockroom is often an afterthought.
This can result in a storage space that is undersized and awkward for employees, which can impact productivity. A tidy, well-organized stockroom will allow staff to quickly accommodate customer requests for items not found on the shelf.
Using moveable shelving racks in your stockroom can help you make the most of the available floor area. Smaller stores can accommodate additional storage in their sales area, through tastefully designed shelving and cabinetry that fits seamlessly into the overall aesthetic.
Your stockroom should also accommodate shipping and receiving. Allow some space that is dedicated to stacking, unpacking, and sorting inbound stock shipments.
9. Window Display: A magnet to attract customers.
Window displays provide a way to showcase your latest and most popular items to passing traffic. It’s a beacon to draw customers inside your store.
The inclusion of a window display is ultimately a marketing decision. There is also a logistical component, as you will require a someone with a background in the art of effective display management to update this area on a regular basis (whether it is an outside consultant or an employee with a strong aesthetic sense). Most modern window displays are typically minimalist in nature, ensuring the merchandise is the star.
It is important to let your architect know if you plan on having a window display, and what it may entail. For example, a raised platform can help bring the display to eye level. Accent lighting is also important. It not only highlights your display, it helps illuminate your store on those winter nights where the sun sets well before closing time.
Also, does the window display have a wall or backdrop, or does the it serve as a window into your entire store?
Tip: Consider including subtly placed power outlets within the platform to accommodate floor-based floodlights. Whether you use them or not, little touches like this are far easier and economical to include during initial design and construction phase, as opposed to adding as a future upgrade.
10. Store Office: Don’t sacrifice floor space for desk space.
You make money on merchandise, not administration. That is why retailers are largely moving away from large offices in new stores. In a world of laptops and compact POS systems, you can get away with less desk space. And since most bills, invoices and records are now sent electronically, there is also less need for filing capacity.