5 Key Considerations for Retail Floor Plan Design and Space Utilization
Visit any two stores in a national retail chain and you will quickly notice similarities in the store design and layout. It’s no coincidence. The successful chains – the ones we know by name – spend a great deal of effort and resources researching human psychology and buying habits. Armed with this knowledge, they design their stores to optimize sales.
Today, we look at five key design components common to most retail stores and the design considerations around each: floor plan, placement of checkout kiosks, lighting, change rooms and storage.
1. Floor Plan: From the moment a customer enters the threshold of your store, you want to create the best shopping experience possible. You want to funnel traffic so they see as much of your inventory as possible and are naturally directed to payment areas. At the same time, the layout must allow plenty of room to shop without the awkwardness of bumping into other customers. The design and layout must also comply with barrier-free accessibility and egress spacing requirements.
There are several ways to lay out a store. How you approach this will be influenced by four factors:
- The size and configuration of your space
- The types of products and services you offer
- The volume (and value) of merchandise in your store, and
- Whether your products cater to one gender or a unisex offering.
The most common floor plans are:
Grid layout – Allows customers to browse up and down aisles. Buyers can quickly access what they are looking for.
Loop layout – This design guides customers along walls and funnels them back up the middle for maximum exposure to your merchandise.
Free-flow layout – This setup encourages browsing by creating angles. Ideal for smaller spaces and businesses with a limited product offering.
Mixed layout – Where space permits, different sections can feature any of the layout formats above – tailored to the product offering.
2. Checkout Kiosks: Where you place your checkout kiosks will have an impact on the flow of traffic in your store. Checkouts should be situated for customer convenience and visibility. Most stores will either put the checkout area in the centre of the store or near the entrance. If near an outdoor entrance, be mindful of sheltering your staff from the cold when the doors are open.
Checkout areas should be placed to give your staff an unimpeded 360° view of you store so they can keep an eye out for theft and security concerns. Some retailers put sales staff on a riser for a better vantage point. Lately, the trend is to keep staff on the same level as customers to make the sales experience less intimidating.
Always, always, always allow plenty of room for cueing. Stores that anticipate longer lines will often use the opportunity to guide shoppers past impulse items. It is important to place your checkouts in the right spot at the outset, because the wiring for POS systems will need to be incorporated into the design.
3. Lighting: You want to show off your goods in the best possible light. Fortunately, designers are moving away from fluorescent lighting – and instead opting for durable, long-lasting LED solutions that create a more inviting environment.
What kind of lighting do you require? Overhead ambient lighting 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.
A good design firm will discuss your needs and follow latest guidelines based on lumens to ensure ample visibility throughout the store. Since wiring is involved, this is another area that is important to consider at the outset of the design process.
4. Change rooms: In some stores, change room placement seems like an afterthought. Be sure to place change rooms in a logical location with central access to your merchandise sections. Unisex change rooms are now the norm in stores catering to male and female fashions. Some retailers are now placing change rooms in the middle of the store. Don’t forget to include mirrors inside or outside of the change room.
5. Storage and work space: Your need for storage is largely guided by the amount of merchandise you require on-hand and your supply chain system. Consider a small work space in the back for counting cash, accounting and operational work such as scheduling. If you don’t have enough storage space and end up improvising, you may find yourself in violation of fire code, which could result in potential fines.
While it helps to have a vision for your store before meeting with your design and engineering firm, the experienced ones will be able to determine if your plan will work – and offer suggestions if they feel your space lends itself better to a different setup.