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  1. Introduction
  2. Designing for customer flow
    • What happens when customers enter a retail store? 
    • Use all five senses 
    • Keeping customers engaged
    • What are speed bumps and power walls?
  3. Choosing a retail store layout
    • Basic Layouts & Uncommon Layouts
  4. Deciding on a retail interior design 
    • Colour Theory
    • Your POS Area
    • Fixtures and fittings 
    • Window displays 
Speak to a retail solutions expert

Ready To Learn About Effective Retail Store Design?

The team at KSF are here to help. Read on for our top tips on creating a unique store from scratch.

The world of retail store design has gone through some profound changes over the last decade. Online shopping has revolutionised the way people shop and today's customers demand unprecedented levels of convenience.

Despite online competition and the rise of 'showrooming,' many retailers continue to excel on the High Street.

If you're wondering how they do this, the answer is innovative retail design. If you're looking to increase sales in retail, smart retail store designs are a vital part of driving sales and boosting customer engagement.

If your retail store design is effective, you can expect to see the following impact:

  • Footfall will increase in your store 
  • Customers are more likely to engage with your products
  • Customers will save time and enjoy an improved shopping experience
  • You will increase the chance of repeat customer visits and brand advocates

Do you want to redesign your retail space into one that works? We've created the ultimate guide to retail store design, covering everything you'll need to create impactful retail spaces.

So, what are you waiting for? Read on to find out more.

Retail Store Design for Customer FlowRetail Store Design For Customer Flow

The first rule of thumb when it comes to effective retail store design is to understand customer flow. Customer flow refers to the way shoppers move through your store and why they take certain routes over others. For example, people tend to move differently through supermarkets than department stores.

In supermarkets, customers weave their way from aisle to aisle, while department stores offer a much more free-flowing environment. This is almost always deliberate and predetermined by the design of a store.

Analytics software can help you understand the flow of your existing store and give you a better idea of what needs changing to enhance customer experiences.

When designing a retail store from scratch, you want to be able to control customer movements to boost engagement, without ruining the shopping experience.

Retail Store Design: What happens when customers enter a retail store?What Happens When Customers Enter A Retail Store? 

Where do you want your customers to go, and where will they naturally gravitate?

In the UK, shoppers usually turn left straight away. It's thought this is due to the side of the road on which people drive, so if you're based in a different country, you might expect people to turn right instead.

This doesn't mean you want to inundate them with shelves and displays on their left as soon as they get through the door. Another important factor is the transition area, a space at the store entrance that gives customers a chance to adjust to the change in scenery.

You'll want to leave this area empty as much as possible, to avoid turning customers off straight away. Take a look at our easy guide to optimising your store design to meet what the customers need

Use all five senses in Retail Store DesignUse All Five Senses 

Whether your store is located on the street, inside a shopping centre or somewhere completely different, customers are almost certainly going to experience different sights, sounds and smells as they walk through your doors.

If they are immediately faced with products, offers and shelving units, it can be overwhelming, which makes them less likely to want to stay.

Once customers have passed the transition area, they're most likely want to move clockwise around your store. With this knowledge, you can start to influence their behaviour as they make their way around the building.

Keeping customers engaged with retail store designKeeping Customers Engaged: Speed Bumps, Power Walls And Space To Move 

It's not enough to simply set up a bunch of shelves and call it a day. You need to think about what drives your customers and what kinds of shoppers you are dealing with. Get started by having a read of our blog, which outlines the most common types of customers in retail.

As customers move around your store, you need to make sure they are engaged and enjoying the shopping experience. There are several tactics you can use to improve the retail experience by embracing your customers' identity and offering personalised services.

For example, one thing you don't want is for people to hurry through your store, looking solely for one or two items. It will be much better for your business if they stop to browse. Many retailers use 'speed bumps' to slow down the shopping experience. These aren't literal bumps in the floor, of course, but they serve the same purpose -- to create friction and slow people down.

What Are Speed Bumps & Power Walls in Retail Store Design?

At its most basic level, a speed bump is simply an eye-catching display. Use enticing products and unique shelving to set it apart from the rest of your products. Sprinkle these around your store, but you won't necessarily need too many of them. Once a customer is in the right mindset to browse, they will likely do so without further prompting.

You should also think about your power walls. These are the areas in your store that are most naturally visible to customers. One of these will often be immediately to the left of your doors, but there may well be others scattered around the shop floor. Think of these areas as your premium retail spaces and as a prime opportunity to push your most profitable items.

With both power walls and speed bumps, it's important to change your displays regularly. For speed bumps, you'll probably want to do this once a week, while power walls can last a bit longer. If you don't, these areas will lose their impact as their novelty wears off on your customers.

Make sure shoppers have room to move in between your shelves. If they feel hemmed in, they'll feel uncomfortable and will be much more likely to leave empty-handed.


Everything you need to plan your next retail project

Choosing a retail store design layout Choosing A Retail Store Design Layout 

Are you starting a retail store  from scratch? Learn how to plan a successful retail marketing project today.

Have a think about the different retail store design layouts you've seen, and examples of businesses that do it well. You've probably noticed that supermarkets are designed one way, while smaller boutiques take an entirely different form. In truth, there are many different layouts, but most stores use one of a few basic patterns.

Choosing the right option for your retail store design depends on what you're selling and the kind of customers you're trying to attract. Here's a rundown on some of the most common layouts, as well as some more unique options

Basic Retail Store Design Layouts

Retail Store Design: The grid

The grid

This is the most common layout you'll see in supermarkets. Most of the shelving units will be standardised and laid out in aisles, with occasional variations in certain sections. Grid layouts tend to be reasonably easy to predict customer paths -- allowing for strategic placement of speed bumps and power walls.

Because this layout is relatively intuitive, it means customers can usually find what they're looking for with ease. Predictability and conformity can be both a blessing and a curse as it improves the experience, but it also cuts down on browsing time. Grid shopping can also feel quite sterile to shoppers which makes it difficult to boost customer engagement.

Retail Store Design: The loop racetrack

The loop/racetrack

Large retail spaces are often laid out in a loop with a very predictable customer path. This could be a single path through the store or a looser network of shelving units that use signage and lighting to guide customers along a predetermined route.

If you're expecting a lot of browsing, a loop layout is a good option. Customers tend to move slowly, and many retailers use loop layouts as a way to combat 'showrooming' and to encourage customer interaction with the store.

However, you need to make sure you're keeping everything visually appealing and not focusing too much on a strict path. A rigid route can make customers feel rushed as they lose the freedom to browse.

Retail Store Design: The free flow

The free flow

Increasingly, stores are rejecting strict layouts in favour of something more free-form. A free flow layout isn't a case of putting shelves down randomly -- you need to use different types of display units and make the most of open spaces to create a shop that feels more casual and free.

The free flow option is ideal if you want customers to feel relaxed and to encourage browsing. However, customers will be frustrated if they're unable to find what they're looking for. Free flow works best for high-end stores where customers are unlikely to know exactly what they want when they step through your doors.

Uncommon Retail Store Design Layouts

Retail Store Design: The set path

The set path

Probably made most famous by furniture retailer Ikea, the set path layout has a very clear route for customers to follow. As with Ikea, there are always ways to skip ahead or go back without having to follow the whole path, but on the whole, most customers will stick to the course you've laid out.

The set path layout is perfect for telling stories. Sticking with Ikea as an example, the business uses a set path to take customers through each room of a house, enabling the Swedish furniture designer to craft a narrative and make the best use of homely displays. However, you typically need an extremely large retail space to pull this off.

Retail Store Design: The angled

The angled

The angled approach is the kind of layout you'll typically see in a smaller business such as a corner shop. It's very similar to the grid, but the shelves are positioned at an angle. This enables maximum visibility, with customers viewing as much of your stock as possible at any one time.

This is a good option for smaller retailers, and you can use it to clearly guide customers to the check-outs. However, if you're utilising a larger retail space, you need to be careful -- poorly-designed angled layouts can be challenging for customers to find specific items and can lead to frustration.

Retail Store Design: The retail boutique

The boutique

Most commonly seen in department stores, this layout involves segmenting your retail space up into separate areas. This is usually done by category, and works well in high-end stores as it stimulates curiosity and encourages plenty of browsing. The 'marketplace feel' can significantly enhance the shopping experience.

However, this is one of the more difficult layouts to predict customer flow, so you won't be able to utilise tactics like speed bumps very effectively. It also requires a lot of space and isn't particularly efficient. Only opt for a boutique layout if you're sure you're going to be able to afford it. Take a look at our case study of how another retailer made changes to its layout and yielded amazing results

Retail Store Design: Deciding on a retail interior designDeciding On A Retail Interior Design 

Crafting a layout is a crucial part of retail store design, but we're not at the end of the process yet. Your store isn't going to perform particularly well if it looks like a bare warehouse with plain wooden shelves.

What is your retail design strategy? Your overall marketing strategy should feed into this, and you need to make sure your store is appealing as well as functional. That means utilising colour and displays to attract customers, while also tailoring areas like the point of sale section to provide them with a positive experience.

If you are unsure of what your retail design aesthetic needs to be, download our free retail design template to help you.

Retail Store Design: colour theory

Colour theory 

When it comes to the colours you use inside your store, there are a couple of traps you need to avoid. While it's good to want to stand out, you need to bear in mind that your interior decor isn't just about looking good, it's about using colour effectively to engage customers and improve their experience. A bright red shop, for example, might look distinctive, but it will make shoppers feel uncomfortable.

This is due to colour psychology. Red is associated with danger and urgency. It can be a powerful highlight colour to draw attention to a product or window display, but if it's too prevalent, it can make customers nervous.

Orange and yellow can also make customers more energetic, and the latter is also associated with wealth, so it might be useful as an accent for premium products. Similarly, black is associated with luxury and sophistication.

The key is to be restrained. You don't want one colour dominating everything, but nor do you want an eclectic mix of shades with no unifying theme. Think about how you want your customers to feel and pick tones that match those emotions. You don't want there to be too much of a sudden change when your customers walk through the door -- remember your transition area!

Retail Store Design: Your POS area

Point of Sale Displays

Did you know that choosing the right point of sale displays can increase sales by 445%?

The secret to successful retail store design is to put yourself in your customers' shoes. Think about how they might feel as they walk around your store and identify key opportunities to drive sales.

A point of sale display is designed to grab the customers' attention at or near the check-out to encourage last-minute impulse purchases. The best point of sale displays will use eye-catching designs and strategic positioning for maximum impact.

Promoting products at the check-out is particularly effective as customers are already in the right frame of mind to make a purchase. For example, if a customer is about to spend £100 on a new duvet, convincing them to splash out an extra £10 on pillowcases should be a walk in the park.

Do You Have A Point of Sale Display Area?

Your point of sale display area needs to facilitate selling in every possible way. Whether you're looking for a temporary cardboard display to promote a one-off sale or a more permanent plastic solution, point of sale stands come in all shapes and sizes.

Not only is the point of sale display area a fantastic place for impulse buys, but it is also a handy opportunity to push commonly forgotten items. Make sure you design your store to have plenty of room around the check-out to maximise point of sale opportunities. If your employees are on-the-ball, you'll be able to add to a lot of purchases this way.

As for impulse buys, remember that your customers will often be waiting in the queue for a little while. Their eyes will be wandering, so make sure they can settle on an exciting and relatively inexpensive product that might appeal to your audience.

Finally, make sure customers have enough space to enjoy their shopping experience. Give them room to put down any other bags they might have while they pay and make sure they feel comfortable. Remember, the check-out will be their final interaction with your store, which may well determine whether or not they come back.

Find out more about POS Marketing Strategies for Optimum Sales or our Top 7 Retail POS Design Tips.

Retail Store Design: fixtures and fittings

The Best Fixtures & Fittings For Effective Retail Store Design 

Fixtures and fittings should be designed to facilitate your customers' experience and encourage purchasing. For example, you might have been planning on using fairly basic, industry-standard shelves. But is that the best way to display your products? Would some of your products be better off on a display table, or on a larger back-lit shelving unit that helps them pop?

Whether it's adjusting lighting or exposing existing aircon units to match with your aesthetic, make sure you think about how every aspect of the building can be used to achieve your goals and create the ideal store layout.

Retail Store Design: windows displays

Window displays 

Finally, you need to entice customers in from the street. This is where your window displays come in. The general idea is to tell a story about the customer that catches their eye.

Take a retail clothing store, for example; the best ones will have mannequins suggesting the emotions that buying a certain outfit will evoke. Whether that's relaxing in a summer dress or looking cool in a leather jacket, retailers design mannequins to paint a picture in the customers' mind.

Think about how your customers would feel if they were extremely satisfied with your products and try to incorporate that into your displays. This could be anything from fun to relief, and it doesn't have to be played out with mannequins. Some of the best retailers use colour and texture to add to their windows and make their products stand out from the crowd.

Store Layout Secrets - How this retailer improved the shopping experience while doubling profits

Summary - The Ultimate Guide to Retail Store Design

Creating a successful retail space all comes down to engagement. When moving around your retail store, customers constantly make micro-decisions that they may not even be aware of.

Providing a space that not only helps them navigate but guides their experience of the store is critical.

  • Your retail store design should be designed around customer flow. Think about how customers will move around your store, and what they will look at during their visit.
  • Use speed bumps and power walls to catch people's attention. Place displays where they will catch the customers' eye at the right point in their shopping journey.
  • Choose a retail store design layout that facilitates the way you want customers to interact with your goods. Shape your shelving based on the products you sell and how you expect people to interact with them. 
  • Create an interior that engages consumers using colour. Window displays, fixtures and fittings help to craft something appealing that encourages purchases.

Need help? Just ask! 

Retail store design will require a lot of planning, but it really does not need to be a headache. This guide has hopefully given you the background you need to start on the right track.

And don't forget, we're a global retail design agency with plenty of experience, so if you feel out of your depth, why not give us a call?


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