How to Plan Your Retail Space (the Easy Way!)

A Guide to Brick and Mortar Retail Planning

Many people dream of opening a retail venue after seeing a need in the market or feeling they can do better than the current options available. Maybe you have a very specific passion product and think selling it will be a fulfilling endeavor.

First you’ll need to research the market and merchandise, find wholesalers, and of course locate the commercial property to host your shop. Location can make or break a retail business, so be certain to:

  • Dig deep to learn the foot traffic patterns around your potential spot.
  • Research how far similar competition is located
  • Determine if parking will be convenient for your clientele
  • Calculate how much space you’ll need to house your merchandise, overstock, and check out space

If you’re searching for a retail space in Columbus check out our current available spaces in the area. Once you find the perfect location you’ll be ready for possibly the most challenging step-- planning your shop’s layout and design.

Outfitting a retail space is an art, one that involves creating the aesthetic and atmosphere you’re hoping for while factoring in consumer psychology. The goal is to make your space more inviting to potential customers and make them a fan of your brand.

First Impressions

Designing Your Storefront

Your storefront is your first impression on your clientele, so be sure it embodies what shoppers can expect inside. When looking for a space, find one that’s architecture suits your intended aesthetic and has a welcoming window for displays to draw shoppers in. The window can also provide desirable natural sunlight to brighten up the interior.

Your storefront should be branded with your name, so check with local ordinances, or your landlord on what you are able to do regarding signage. You’ll want to regularly update the products featured in your window space to display the latest merchandise or reflect the current season or holidays. Don’t forget to clearly display your hours so your customers know when they can stop in.

Clothing boutique storefront with Open Sign
Your store front is your first chance to draw in passing foot traffic so make a good first impression.

Floor Plan Blueprints

Designing Your Floorplan to Encourage Consumer Flow

In developing your floor plan blueprints you’ll need to analyze the shop’s square footage along with merchandise size, and the shop’s existing structures or built-ins, factoring in the number of employees to determine the best placement for displays, the checkout counter, informational areas, signage, and possible seating. Many shops lay things out in a basic loop pattern to guide shoppers in a circle around the shop to the check out, but there are many other designs you can employ.

In designing your floor plan you’ll want to consider the seven basic principles of store design:

  1. Always think of your space as an opportunity for creative solutions
  2. Make sure your merchandise is eye-catching
  3. Mark out a path for shoppers to follow without being too obvious
  4. Encourage shoppers to take their time to get around the shop
  5. Play on consumers natural tendency to go right upon entering a shop
  6. Make the space feel open and airy by making sure the areas are decluttered, adding lighting fixtures or seating, or even plants to create a feeling of expansion.
  7. Make bold choices that reflect your brand and set you apart from competitors

First you’ll need to plan around some fundamental structural issues like support beams, wires, and piping. Once the basics are covered you can start placing merchandise displays. Determine if a minimalist approach or abundant aesthetic works best for your products and space. Consider the products use to decide what items to place near one another, similar items should all be together, but complementary items should be by one another as well.

The most important principle to consider in this planning is the customers natural flow through your space and how your displays can influence their thinking and emotions.

Colorful wallets and purses on shelves
Think of logical placement for items keeping similar and complementary items together.

Customer Flow Principles

Enhance Your Customers Experience Regardless of What You Sell

Your customers will need to be able to move around your shop comfortably to easily find what they are looking for, access product information either through signage or an employee, find the register, and not get bored if they have to wait in line to check out. While you’ll need to consider your target demographic is accommodating these needs, there are some flow principles to enhance the shopping experience no matter what you sell

  • Provide a “decompression zone” In your storefront entry your decompression zone is the first 5 to 15 feet after they cross the threshold into your space. This important second impression (after your storefront) will influence new customers impression of you quickly. Make the area welcoming with visually appealing displays, signage, and lighting to make your shoppers happy.
  • Right Flow. Ninety percent of customers will immediately go right upon entering a shop, at least in North America. This is why the right hand wall is called the “power wall” because it’s the first flat surface your shoppers will encounter. This will make a high-impact for your products so be sure the merchandise and displays are appealing her.
  • Guide the shopper’s journey through your store. While you don’t want to make this guidance apparent, you can use furniture and texture and color changes to guide the customer’s eye through the space. Creative appealing arrangements of products can draw shoppers from one space to the next.
  • Slowing the shopper’s pace. You’ll want shopper to take your time as they flow through the path you’ve designed through your shop. This allows them to browse more which encourages them to purchase more. You can even create physical breaks, often referred to as speed bumps to give the customers eye and mind something to do while they search for the products they are looking for. One popular speed bump option is displaying impulse buys near complementary products, for example display handbags nears the shoes. Even in a small space you can divide products into sections that compliment one another.
  • Providing Space. Shoppers never want to feel cramped or crowded. Be sure your walkway and aisles have enough space to comfortably walk through without touching the products or displays.
  • Checking Out. Your check out counter needs to be clear and visible no matter where shoppers are in the store in case they decide they are ready to check out before completing the flow pattern you’ve developed. While you’ll driving the flow in a counterclockwise pattern from the entrance you don’t need the register to be directly to the left of the entrance. Instead a central check out or in the middle rear of the store is a popular option. Be sure to include simple affordable purchases leading up to the register. Browsing these impulse items can entertain guests while they wait in line and encourage an upsell.

Designing your retail space is not necessarily an easy task. The placement of every product and display, lighting, decor, and furnishing will make an impression on shoppers and guide their shopping experience. If shoppers enjoy the atmosphere of your shop and it’s design they are more likely to return over and over again!

Lani Redinger

Lani Redinger is a professional writer, editor, and bibliophile from Pittsburgh, PA