Modern Retail

Which Retail Floor Layout Is Best for You?

Retail floor layout

Shop layout is crucial to overall sales performance. Customers might not realise it, but the layout of your shop floor influences them in subtle ways.

A successful store keeps a visitor interested and converts them from a window shopper to a customer. By understanding how different layouts affect people, you can optimise your shop layout. This can help maximise customer experience and sales.

There are two key things to consider when planning shop floor layouts:

  • Interior design
  • Customer flow

Interior Design

Store layouts need to be mindful of what’s going in the store. This includes furniture, displays, fixtures, lighting, and signage. How these assets are arranged will impact the layout options available to you.

Customer Flow

Ease of movement is one of the most important factors to a shopper’s in-store experience. Customer flow is also important to store layout psychology. Understanding the patterns that emerge between customers, products and store layout is critical to understanding which floor plan works for you.

Types of Retail Floor Layouts

There are many ways to layout your shop floor. Grid, Loop and Free-Flow layouts are three common options that cover the broad strokes of shop design.

Grid

Every petrol station, pharmacy, and supermarket uses this layout, or a variant of it. Stock is displayed on long aisles where customers make their way up and down, browsing as they go. Grid layouts are designed to maximize display and minimise white space.

Pros

  • Best for stores with lots of varied products
  • Encourages customers to browse multiple aisles
  • Traffic flow is predictable. This allows you to optimise promotion locations
  • Familiar to shoppers
  • Tried and tested layout

Cons

  • Customers can’t shortcut their way to what they need
  • Customers may be frustrated and confused by product groupings
  • Few visual breaks and lots of merchandise can make customers feel overwhelmed
  • Limited space between aisles

Loop

The loop, or racetrack layout creates a deliberate closed loop. It leads customers from the front of the store, past everything on sale, and then to the check-out. Customers are exposed to the most merchandise this way, but the path they take is controlled.

Pros

  • Maximum product exposure
  • Predictable traffic pattern
  • Can be adapted to create an immersive experience

Cons

  • Customers have no freedom to wander
  • Wastes time for those who know what they want
  • Not suited for shops with high traffic turnover

Free-Flow

A free flow layout rejects typical design patterns and styles commonly used to influence customer behaviour. In a free flow layout, the intent is not to lead the customer using predictable design patterns, displays, or signage. There are no specific design rules followed for this retail store design, and customers have more liberty to interact with merchandise and navigate on their own. For this reason, the free flow layout is sophisticated in its simplicity.

Pros

  • Great for small spaces
  • Also works within areas of loop and spine layouts (more on that below)
  • Creates more space between products
  • Less likelihood customers will bump into one another
  • Better suited to higher-end shops with less merchandise
  • Most likely to create an experiential retail space

Cons

  • Often less space to display products
  • Easy to forget there are best practices that still should be followed; breaking the unwritten rules can turn people off and away from your store
  • Can be confusing for customers

Other factors to consider

Lighting

Lighting is an important factor in any store. The layout of your shop will have an effect on the levels of light available. Grid layouts with tall aisles reduce the amount of natural light available. Spotlights and accent lighting direct customers’ attention to specific products.

If your customer experience is focused on a clean and open feel, you want lots of open space and natural light. If your brand has a cosier, warmer feeling, accent lighting and mood lighting work better.

Decompression zones

A decompression zone is the first space you encounter in a shop. This space is critical because it allows your customer to adjust to the shop. If you want to encourage customers to move with speed, your decompression zone should be small. If your customer experience is a more relaxed affair, give customers a calm space.

Track and measure your efforts

Take the time to observe how people behave in your shop. Pay attention to where they go, where they linger, and what they do while they’re inside. Also ask questions on what they think of your shop and what you can do to improve.

Before you make any layout changes, benchmark sales, traffic, and dwell on time metrics. This will allow you to measure the effect a particular shop layout has on your sales.

Also, consider making use of foot traffic analytics solutions such as people counters, beacons and Wi-Fi signals. These tools can give you deeper analytics and insights on shopper habits and behaviour, so you can make data-driven decisions.

Customers want their shopping process to be easy and satisfying. By understanding how customers behave and how to show off your products best, you can optimise your shop layout.

The article was produced in collaboration with Hi-Level Mezzanine, one of Europe’s leading mezzanine floor suppliers.

Holly Worthington

Holly Worthington

Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail's Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today's ever-changing market.