Jul 4, 2022
10:00 am

5 Key Considerations When Designing Retail Space

Designer working on floorplan

Have you ever been out shopping on vacation and decided to check out one of your favourite big-brand stores? Odds are it looked very similar to the one in your hometown. This is no mistake. Large-scale international brands conduct endless research and measurement on human psychology and buying habits to create stores designed for repeatable sales success. It’s this knowledge that solidifies them as retail leaders worldwide and why you keep going back to buy from the brand.

To understand how to develop a winning store design, it is important to consider several different factors. Let’s have a look at five key considerations that should go into retail floor plan design and space utilization, and the impact they can have on our bottom line.

1. Floor plan

The second a customer enters your store, they should be ushered through a preplanned journey that will offer the best experience possible. Store traffic should be funneled strategically so that customers see as much of the inventory as possible and are instinctually directed to payment stations. Moreover, your layout should have generous spacing so that shoppers aren’t awkwardly bumping into each other. The design and layout should be accessible, barrier-free, and spatially conscious.

There are several ways to lay out a store. How you approach this will be influenced by four factors:

  1. The size and configuration of your space
  2. The types of products and services you offer
  3. The volume (and value) of merchandise in your store
  4. Whether your products cater to one gender or a unisex offering

The most common floor plans are:

  1. Grid layout – This allows customers to browse up and down aisles. Buyers can quickly access what they are looking for.
  2. Loop layout – This design guides customers along walls and funnels them back up the middle for maximum exposure to your merchandise.
  3. Free-flow layout – This setup encourages browsing by creating angles. Ideal for smaller spaces and businesses with a limited product offering.
  4. Mixed layout – Where space permits, different sections can feature any of the layout formats above – tailored to the product offering.

Consider merchandising as part of your layout as well. Most stores have some sort of loss leader that gets customers to pass all the other merchandise to find what they came for. There’s a reason why milk is at the back of a grocery store, or the clearance section is tucked away past all the new regular-priced merchandise. Be sure to design your layout considering the placement of loss leader items. 

2. Checkout kiosks

Where your customers make their payments will have a huge influence on customer movement through your store. Checkouts should be situated for convenience and visibility. Usually, stores will place checkouts near the center or the entrance. Checkout areas should be placed to give your staff an unimpeded 360° view of your store so they can keep an eye out for theft and security concerns.

When it comes to the future of retail, one thing store owners might consider is self-checkout technology. While it’s mainly used in grocery stores and QSRs, many retail stores might benefit from fast, contactless checkout stations (some Dollarama locations are now using it).

Always keep room for cueing in mind and remember it’s a good opportunity to guide shoppers past impulse purchases.

A common trend these days is to have one long queue lineup feeding into multiple tills with an announcement system alerting you to the next available register. This allows customers to feel like they are all treated equally and takes the guessing out of which line is the fastest or feeling stuck behind someone slow. And it allows the retailer to create that loop of impulse POS items that the customer must file past to pay.

3. Lighting

Having the best possible lighting ensures your inventory always looks appealing to customers. LED lighting solutions are now the norm as more people opt for energy-efficient, aesthetically pleasing options. There are a few different ways to use lighting in your store:

  • Overhead ambient lighting This generally offers enough light to set the mood and showcase your goods. 
  • Accent lighting is recommended for signs and feature displays. 
  • Task lighting helps ensure your employees can see what they are doing and is a consideration around the POS area.

It’s also important to consider lighting temperature when choosing lights. Light temperature is measured on the Kelvin scale and ranges from 1000K (candlelight) to 10,000K (clear blue-sky sunshine). LEDs come in a wide range of temperatures. The most common is 3200K, which is a warm white, and 4000K, which is a cool daylight.

Lighting temperature affects the vibe and ambiance of your store. Warm white can be seen as welcoming, cozy and relaxed – while cool daylight can be seen as invigorating, crisp, and energetic. Whichever light temperature you choose, make sure all your lights are similar in range. Everyone can spot the light fixture that has four warm bulbs and that one cool daylight bulb that sticks out like a sore thumb. 

4. Change rooms

Change rooms offer a unique opportunity to go above and beyond for your customer, and overlooking them can be a huge mistake. With the rise of social media and ‘selfies,’ putting a full-length mirror and even perhaps a hashtag, slogan, or logo in the corner of the mirror, you can encourage customers to promote your brand for you. What’s more, the more aesthetically pleasing the change room, the more likely customers will enjoy using your facility to highlight their outfits.

Another important component of the change room is lighting. If it’s too harsh, customers may not like how they look in the clothes they are trying on and likely won’t buy the product.

Unisex change rooms are very much the norm. If you go this route, it should be placed in a central location with convenient access for all.

Finally, having a place to sit outside the change room is another wise choice to accommodate those shopping with one or more people. Shoppers will spend more time in your store and help friends choose the right garment for them without feeling pressured by salespeople.

5. Storage and workspace

Is storage at a premium? If so, many racking systems allow for maximization of vertical space for storage, perfect for stores with high ceilings. Horizontal mobile shelving can also allow for flexible storage access depending on what products need to be reached. The point is, that there are innovative storage options for unique spaces.

The amount of storage and workspace you need will depend on the size of your business, your merchandise, and your supply chain. A small workspace that can be used for accounting, cash management, and operational work like scheduling can be a huge benefit to your managers. Make sure boxes are never blocking any exits, as you never know when you may receive a surprise visit from the Fire Inspector. 

These tips will help you create and execute a vision for your store design. There is an art to it. Experienced design professionals can work with your suggestions and advise on proven best practices. A collaborative approach can be quite rewarding and help set your business up for a prosperous future.

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