Store layout strategies

Updated April 17, 2017

The goal of any retail location is to draw customers into the store and then persuade them to make a purchase. Good advertising and promotion work to bring customers in, but what happens once customers get into a store largely depends on the layout and design of the store. Both play a huge role in how customers rate their experiences and whether they decide to buy, and if they return or recommend the store to others.

Creating an Experience

Think about the experience you want to create for customers who enter your store. Picture your ideal set-up and how customers will move from the front of the store to the back of the store to browse products and pay for purchases without encountering obstacles. Decide how sales associates will reach customers to greet them and help them with purchases. Identify where you'll place high-end products and impulse items. Determine if the layout will increase the probability of security issues within the store.

The main goals of your layout should be to create a space where customers and sales associates can move freely, maximise space and maximise product exposure. There are three basic types of store layouts that attempt to accomplish these goals. They are the free flow layout, the grid pattern layout and the spine layout. Select a layout based on the type of business you're starting and the type of experience you want to create in your store.

Free Flow Layout

For a spacious store layout that's flexible and ideal for displaying impulse items, opt for a free flow store layout. Arrange products throughout the store using racks and shelves placed so that customers can move around the browse freely and employees can access customers immediately to assist with buying decisions. A free flow store layout is ideal for clothing stores, jewellery stores, boutiques and small speciality shops. Use caution with this type of layout because it can appear cluttered, instead of spacious and free moving, if product displays and racks aren't situated to maximise space.

Grid Pattern Layout

For a more rigid structure that offers less flexibility and encourages customers to search for items on their own, opt for the grid style store layout. To arrange a grid style layout, include multiple rows filled with a variety of products throughout the store. Highlight key products at the end of each row. This type of layout offers customers an opportunity to familiarise themselves with where products are located after repeat trips to the store. Drugstores, supermarkets and superstores typically use this type of layout.

Spine Layout

The spine layout, which can incorporate elements of the free flow and grid pattern store layouts, is the third most commonly used layout strategy. This type of layout uses a single, long main aisle that goes from the entrance of the store straight to the back of the store. With this layout, merchandise can be displayed on one side or both sides using the free flow or grid layout or a combination of the two. Many department stores have a similar theme.

Create a Diagram

Create a diagram of your ideal store layout based on the three types outlined. Include detailed diagrams for where you'll display your merchandise. Include an area for the cash register, a sitting area, a fitting room and a back office, if applicable.

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About the Author

Miranda Brookins is a marketing professional who has over seven years of experience in copywriting, direct-response and Web marketing, publications management and business communications. She has a bachelor's degree in business and marketing from Towson University and is working on a master's degree in publications design at University of Baltimore.