Taking the Mystery Out of a Well Designed Store
A guest post by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender
Do you run a well designed store? Be honest: When did you last make a major floor move? And we don’t mean moving product from over here to over there.
A well designed store delivers a sales floor that is a living, breathing entity — one that needs to change – frequently! It’s your job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest and greatest product, but your sales are in a rut it, could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas and inspiration. And they come to be entertained – even when they don’t buy anything; it’s the experience that brings them back.
The Target Syndrome
Think about the last time you shopped at a Target store. How much did you spend? Chances are, even if you went in to buy a bottle of glass cleaner you spent at least $50 on things you hadn’t planned on purchasing. It’s called the “Target Syndrome” because it doesn’t happen in other big box stores.
When you look hard at a Target store you see a neutral sales floor that allows the merchandise to pop. The sales floor serves as a backdrop for powerful signing and creative displays that encourage you to fill your cart with things you didn’t realize you needed until you got there. The well designed store layout moves you easily throughout the space.
Create and Control the Shopper Journey
All store layouts are affected by the shape and size of the sales floor, with the common goal to expose shoppers to product and to gain maximum traffic flow. It’s said that 50 percent of your sales floor is never seen by shoppers, so the job of your layout is to create and control how customers shop the sales floor. There are many types of layouts used by a well designed store, including the Grid, Loop/Racetrack, and the Free Flow layouts.
In a Grid Layout, fixtures run parallel to the walls, so customers typically grab a shopping cart and walk the aisles. Grid layouts are easy to shop because they offer a clean sight line through the store, allowing the end features maximum exposure. Grocery stores utilize Grid layouts, but you will also find them in many big box stores as well.
Loop/Racetrack Layouts offer a clearly defined main aisle that circles through the store like a race track. Here, shoppers typically flow to the right and move up and down the aisles in a serpentine manner. Loop layouts offer maximum product exposure because the perimeter walls are just as important as the end features. Target and Best Buy are two good examples of stores that utilize a Loop layout.
Specialty and boutique retailers frequently utilize a Free Flow Layout because it allows for the most creativity. In a Free Flow layout, there are no set aisles or straight lines; fixturing is placed at angles that encourage shoppers to easily move throughout the store. A well designed store offers many opportunities to romance the merchandise and create unique display vignettes.
Locating the Store’s Lake Front Property
Every store has an area called the Decompression Zone. The size of your Decompression Zone depends on the size of your sales floor, but it’s generally the first 5’ to 15’ inside the front door. Its purpose is to give shoppers a chance to transition from the parking lot (or sidewalk or mall) to shopping. Understand that shoppers will miss anything you place in the Decompression Zone – that’s why it needs to be an open and uncluttered space. Floor signs, baskets, class schedules, etc. belong just beyond your Decompression Zone where shoppers are more likely to see them.
Some areas of your sales floor are more important than others; we call these areas Lake Front Property because a large percentage of sales come from this space. Displays in this area should house new, hot and high margin product, not every day, basic items that are best housed toward the rear of the store. And since 90 percent of customers enter a store and look or turn to the right, the Lake Front Property needs to be merchandised with particular care. The V & Vista Exercise will help you find your store’s unique Lake Front Property:
1. Start at the end of your Decompression Zone and spread your arms out at shoulder height with your index fingers extended. What’s inside the “V” your arms make is called is the Vista – the area that builds a shopper’s first impression of the store.
The Vista is where you place Speed Bumps, displays designed to slow shoppers down and refocus them on the task at hand. Speed Bumps also set the tone for what shoppers can expect to find throughout the store, so choose cross-merchandised groupings of irresistible product. Nesting tables and single tables clustered together make a small, but mighty impact. Remember to change your Speed Bumps at least once a week, whether they need it or not. This single display plays an important role in creating your store’s ambiance.
2. The V will help you locate your most important Power Walls. Start be following your nose down your right arm to the tip of your right index finger – the wall you are looking at is your front right Power Wall. It’s a highly profitable space, so use it to feature not-to-be-missed merchandise and update it frequently.
Try not to house your cash wrap at the right front of your sales floor, in the center of your Lake Front Property. Ideally, your cash wrap should be located at a natural ending point in the shopping experience, on the left side of the store, close to the front, or at the center of the store, about 20’ back from the front door.
3. Now, follow your nose down your left arm to the tip of your left index finger. This left front Power Wall is also important display space so merchandise it with as much thought and care as your right front Power Wall.
If your store’s footprint makes it impossible for shoppers to enter your store and turn right, then everything is reversed: the front left becomes your Lake Front Property.
4. Begin at the front and walk your entire sales floor to look for other key display areas, noting which ones stand out and will require on-going visual merchandising attention.
5. Now, grab your camera and take photos of your sales floor. This is an important step because the camera will see what you cannot, showing you areas that need attention, holes in displays that need to be filled with merchandise, displays that need signing, and more.
Important Areas to Note
Once you have located the key areas of your sales floor it’s time to get started building displays that highlight merchandise and encourage browsers to buy.
Plan. Before you start dismantling a display think about what will replace it. Planning forces you to think about your product: What’s new and needs to be featured? Which product isn’t moving where it’s currently housed and needs a boost? Is there a seasonal theme or local event you wish to highlight?
Use a planning calendar to highlight key display areas, which product to feature, when to feature it, and where and how you will display it. Take a copy of your calendar with you to the trade shows you attend so you can note what you purchased, where you think it might be displayed, and what you can merchandise along with it.
Store Fixtures. You need several types of fixtures in your well designed store, including wall units, gondola type workhorses that house a lot of product, plus smaller fixtures, like stacking tables for Speed Bumps and Merchandise Outposts. In general, fixturing should be invisible, blending in with the decor so that the merchandise stands out, not the fixture.
When placing your fixtures remember that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a minimum of 3’.6” in-between fixtures.
Signing: Most stores we visit are undersigned. Now, no one likes a sales floor that’s possessed by sign pollution, but displays should be signed when it’s appropriate.
Studies show that 70 percent of purchases are made in-store, so strong signing helps in the decision process. Your signs should be professional, displayed in sign holders, and represent your brand. If handwritten signing is part of your shtick then go for it, otherwise opt for signs that are professionally printed on neutral colored card stock. Choose a typeface that’s easy to read, and don’t use anything smaller than a 30 point font. That way the majority of shoppers will be able to read the sign, even when they forget their reading glasses. Utilize both upper and lower case letters: all caps are hard for older eyes to read, and younger shoppers think you are shouting.
Lighting: There are several types of lighting used in stores: General (overhead), Task (cash wrap, cutting tables, service areas), Accent (to highlight merchandise and direct attention to certain areas of the sales floor), and Decorative (chandeliers to add character or table lamps to add ambiance to a display).
It’s important to note that we need three times the amount of light to see in our 60s as well we did in our 20s. If you have Baby Boomer customers, and your lighting is bad, there’s a good change they cannot see your merchandise clearly. If you have not relamped your store recently, contact a lighting expert who can recommend the proper lighting for your sales floor’s unique footprint.
Cash Wrap: You never want customers to stop thinking about merchandise, even when they are paying for purchases. The well designed store will take advantage of the fact that women are big impulse shoppers by displaying small, high profit items at the cash wrap. If you have a wall directly behind your counter, use it to tell a story or to showcase important product. If your store has checkout lanes, position displays with impulse items close by.
Store layout is an art but it’s also a science. Over the years, retailers have left a trail of lasting techniques for the well designed store that are still utilized by successful retailers today for one, simple reason: they work.
Study the bones of a well designed store and you will see how these universal store planning truths have been tweaked for each type of merchant. They’ll work in your store as well. If you’re not sure what to do first, give us a call, or email photos and we’ll brainstorm ideas with you to help get you start.