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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 design the most effective retail business? We’re here to help. Read on for our top tips on creating a store from scratch.

The retail store design world has gone through some vast changes over the last decade, with online shopping becoming ubiquitous and customers becoming used to unprecedented levels of convenience. However, just because many people can now shop from the comfort of their living room, it doesn’t mean the brick-and-mortar retail store is dead; far from it. 

Despite online competition and the rise of 'showrooming', there are still retailers succeeding on the High Street.

If you’re wondering how they do this, the answer is innovative retail design. For retailers that are looking to increase sales in retail, it’s a vital part of driving sales and attracting customer interest. 

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

  • Customers will flow more readily throughout the store 
  • They are more likely to engage with your products
  • Your customers will save time & have an improved shopping experience
  • Increase the chance of repeat customer visits and brand advocates

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 do to create and lay out your business. So what are you waiting for? Read on to find out more.

Retail Design for Customer FlowDesigning for customer flow

The first thing you need to bear in mind when you’re designing a store is customer flow. This is simply how shoppers will move through your store. You might have noticed this yourself, but people tend to move differently through a supermarket - navigating each aisle, usually in a clockwise direction - than they do in a department store or small boutique. This is almost always deliberate. 

To find what the customer flow is in your store, you can use analytics software, this will give you a good idea of how your customers currently interact with your business.

When designing a retail store from scratch, you want to be able to dictate how your customers move around so they are most likely to make a purchase, without ruining the shopping experience. 

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 assail them with shelves and displays on their left as soon as they get through the door, of course. Another important factor is the transition area, a space at your entrance that gives customers a chance to adjust to the store and 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 sensesUse all five senses 

Whether your store is located on a 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 come through your door, and have passed the transition area, they’re likely to want to move clockwise around your store (again, assuming you’re in a country that drives on the left). With this knowledge, you can start to influence your consumers as they make their way around the building.

Keeping customers engagedKeeping 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. Get started by having a read of our blog outlining the most common types of customers in retail.

As customers move around your store, you need to make sure they are engaged with what you are selling and enjoying the shopping experience. There are several tactics you can use in order to improve retail experience; embrace your customers identity, create an experience with products and get staff on board. 

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. To assist with this, many retailers make use of ‘speed bumps’. These aren’t literal bumps in the floor, of course, but they serve the same purpose: to get people to slow down. 

What are speed bumps and power walls?  

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; the areas of your store that are most naturally visible to customers. One of these will be immediately to the left of the doors, due to customers naturally turning left as mentioned above, but there may well be others. These areas should be used to display some of your most profitable items; think of it as your premium retail space.  

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, it will make them uncomfortable and they will be much more likely to leave without making a purchase. This is one of the reasons why your retail store layout is so important; however, there’s much more to it than just providing customers with space.


Everything you need to plan your next retail project

Choosing a retail store layout Choosing a retail store layout 

Are you starting a retail store from scratch? Learn how to plan a successful retail marketing project in this blog. Have a think about the different retail store layouts you’ve seen, and the businesses that have them in common. You’ve probably noticed that supermarkets are set out one way, while smaller shops are organised differently. In truth, there are many different layouts, but most stores use one of a few basic patterns.  

Choosing the right option for your store depends on what you’re selling and the customers you’re planning to appeal to, so make sure you choose carefully. We’ve provided you with some common and uncommon options, as well as their pros and cons, so you can make the right decision for your retail space.


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 variation in certain sections such as fresh produce. It tends to be fairly easy to predict customer paths throughout this kind of store, enabling you to place your speed bumps and power walls more strategically.

Because this layout is quite intuitive, it means customers can usually find what they’re looking for quite easily. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as it improves the experience but cuts down on browsing time. It can also feel quite sterile to shoppers, which could be a problem depending on your area of business

The loop racetrack

The loop/racetrack

Large retail spaces are often laid out in a loop like this, with a very predictable customer path. Sometimes this is done by literally only having one path through the store, but more often it’s achieved with looser shelving units that can be moved through, but with a clear path marked using colour, light or something similar.

If you’re expecting a lot of browsing this is a good option, as customers tend to move slowly through this layout. Many retailers use this method as a way to combat ‘showroomingand keep the customer engaged in the moment.

However, you need to make sure you’re keeping everything visually appealing and not focusing too much on a strict path, otherwise the opposite can happen and people will start feeling like they need to rush through the store. Think of it like you’re rewarding the customer for getting around the shop with exciting displays and products.

The free flow

The free flow

Increasingly, stores are rejecting strict layouts in favour of something more free-form. In this option you will still need to think carefully about how your customers will travel through the store - it’s not a matter of putting shelves down randomly - but you will use different types of display unit and a more open space to create a shop that feels more casual and free.

This is the perfect layout if you want customers to feel relaxed and encourage maximum browsing. However, they will be frustrated if they come in looking for a specific item, as things can be hard to find in this layout. It works best for more high-end stores, where customers are unlikely to know exactly what they want going in.


The set path

The set path

Probably made most famous by furniture retailer Ikea, the set path layout has a very clear route around the store 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.

This is perfect for telling a story. Sticking with Ikea as an example, the business uses this layout to take customers through each room of a house, enabling it 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, which is why it’s not that common.

The angled

The angled

This 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 mentioned above, but the shelves are positioned at an angle. This enables maximum visibility, with customers being able to see 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 checkouts. However, if you’re utilising a larger retail space you need to be careful, as this layout can make it harder for customers to find specific items and can lead to frustration if not implemented with care.

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 add a lot to 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, so only opt for this if you’re sure you’re going to be able to afford it. It is very much worth your time looking our case study of how another retailer made changes to their layout and yielded great results.

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. Well, maybe it will; it depends entirely on your customer base and what they respond well to. 

What is your retail design strategy? Your overall marketing strategy should feed into this. You need to make sure your store’s interior and retail units are engaging and appealing as well as functional. That means utilising colour and displays to attract customers, while also tailoring areas like the POS section to provide them with a positive experience, as well as plenty of opportunities to make a purchase. If you are unsure of what your retail design aesthetic needs to be, download our free retail design template to help you.

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’s great used as a highlight to draw attention to a product or in a 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 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. Also bear in mind that you don’t want there to be too much of a sudden change when your customers walk in; remember that transition area! 

Your POS area

Your POS area 

This is where your customers will be making their purchases, so your point of sale display area needs to be designed to facilitate selling in every possible way. Find out more about POS Marketing Strategies for Optimum Sales or our Top 7 Retail POS Design Tips.

This is a fantastic place for impulse buys, as well as commonly forgotten items, so make sure you have room to display products built around your tills. If your employees are on-the-ball, you’ll be able to add to a lot of purchases this way. For example, if you sell a lot of electronics, make sure you have batteries near the tills, and have staff members remind consumers about them. 

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 - but relatively inexpensive - product that might appeal to your audience.  

Finally, make sure customers have enough space. They might be put off a sale if they’re stood too close to other people, and give them room to put down any other bags they might have while they pay. Make sure they feel comfortable while they buy; remember, this will be their final interaction with your store before they leave, so may well determine whether or not they come back.  


Fixtures and fittings 

Everything in your store should be designed to facilitate your customers’ experience and encourage purchasing especially the fixtures and fittings . For example, you might have been planning on using fairly basic, industry standard shelves. But is that actually the best way to display all your products? Would some of them be better off on a display table, or simply on a larger set of shelves that give them the space to be properly highlighted?  

Barely anything in your store can’t be used to improve it. For example, your lighting can be utilised to highlight and downplay certain areas, to ease the transition into your store or to guide your customers down the path you want them to take. Make sure you think about how every aspect of the building can be used to achieve your goals. 


Window displays 

Finally, you need to entice customers in from the street. This is where your window displays come in. The general idea with these is to tell a story about the customer. For example, take a retail clothing store. The best ones will have mannequins suggesting the emotions buying the clothes will evoke, whether that’s relaxing in a summer dress or looking cool in a leather jacket.  

Think about what 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; you can use colour and texture to add to your windows and really make your products pop. 

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 will be constantly be making 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 key.

  • Design your retail store around customer flow; think about how customers will be moving around your store, and what they will be looking at during their visit. 
  • Use speed bumps and power walls to catch people’s attention, placing displays where they are most likely to catch a customer’s eye at the right point in their shopping journey. 
  • Choose a retail store layout that facilitates the way you want customers to interact with your goods, shaping your shelving based on the products and how you expect people to behave. 
  • Create an interior that engages consumers using colour, window displays, fixtures and fittings to craft something appealing that is more likely to lead to a purchase.

Need help? Just ask! 

Designing a store 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 off 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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