What Makes an Optimal Retail Store Layout?

Have you ever walked out of a retail store and spent twice as much as you planned? If so, don’t blame yourself. The truth is, all of the displays, counters and aisles have been systematically organized to influence spending. There is a science to how retail stores arrange and prioritize their floor space and the most successful businesses know how to keep a customer spending far beyond their shopping list.


Store layout is merely one of the many secrets to retail shopping. And with the Holiday season upon us, retail stores across the country have begun introducing their seasonal layouts to make their products irresistible to your holiday spirit.

The methodology is intriguing and goes deep into the human psyche for maximum impact. Here are five techniques retail stores use to optimize their layout:

Create the Ideal Layout

There are many ways to lead customers through the aisles and it all depends on the type of store. For example, most grocery stores adopt a grid layout to wind customers up and down the aisles. Setting up attention-grabbing displays at the end of an aisle will make the customer walk past all of the other items on the way.

Electronics stores tend to use a loop layout with a circular path around merchandise in the middle. Free flowing layouts encourage shoppers to freely walk throughout the store and are used by many specialty stores. The shape and size of the sales floor and items for sale will ultimately determine the layout.

Build a Sensational Entrance

A perfect store layout means nothing if customers aren’t attracted to walk inside. In addition to eye-catching signage, storefronts typically display colorful or interesting products to create a desire to explore.

When customers first enter a store it is important to not obstruct their entrance with checkout counters or service areas. It is also wise to avoid placing merchandise in the first 15 feet of the entrance, also known as the “decompression zone.” A better approach is to put up in-store displays known as “speed bumps,” that slow the customer down and grab their attention.

Prevent the “Butt Brush” Effect

Nobody likes to have their personal space invaded, especially when shopping. This theory was confirmed when famed customer behavior expert Paco Underhill performed a study observing a shopper’s resistance to pursue merchandise in close proximity to someone else—even if they are highly interested.

An easy remedy for this situation is to provide wide aisles and adequate space between displays and tables. Losing a sale because a customer felt too confined is unacceptable because it’s avoidable. Having extra space allows more than one shopper to browse the same area.

Personalized Shopping Experience is King, Shopper Marketing

Create a Visual Break

Customers get bored walking down a long aisle; which means they are not paying attention to a lot of the merchandise on the racks. As a matter of fact, Ikonic Tonic chief experience officer Brian Dyches believes up to “20 percent of the store’s merchandise is skipped over” which is a large enough statistic to act upon.

One way to reignite the shopping spirit is with signs and displays halfway down a long aisle. If the customer stops to examine the display, their interest has been reawakened by a cleverly positioned visual break.

Minimize Counter Size

When a store has tall, bulky counters it can make the customer uncomfortable during checkout. There is a psychological effect in play here, so it is wise to have counters at a lower level with plenty of space for their items. Shoppers waiting for checkout are susceptible to impulse buying and need to be happy, not flustered.

If it’s a slow time, advise employees to wander the sales floor. This will make the store appear busier and also make them available to answer questions. Once a customer is ready to checkout, the employee can ring them up on the spot or escort them back to the register.

About the Author:
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, a credit card processing solutions firm, and also serves on its Board of Directors. She has more than 15 years experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management and marketing.