retail design

When looking at interior design in retail, its more than just paint, mannequins and merchandise. Understanding how your customer uses the space, what your customers’ needs are and then planning the design around these is the difference between a retailer that’s making money and one that doesn’t.  

In order to optimize your selling potential, you want to understand and plan how you customer will move through the space. Ask yourself: 

  • What are your destination area’s for your shopper or brand? 
  • Is your clientele primary male or female?  
  • What age is your target market?  
  • What kind of coverage will you have most of the time? A single person working or zone coverage? 
  • Do your customers come in from the left or right of the mall? 

A good design will guide your customer through the store, naturally, so they see all you have to offer. Your customer should be able to navigate the store without the assistance of a sales associate. There is nothing more frustrating for customer than having a question and not having someone around to ask. But the reality is, sometimes the store is too busy or under-staff. Planning a store that logically works, where customers can navigate on their own if need be, is the optimal design.  

Easy right?…No?…Let’s simplify it. 

Destination Point – Cash Desk

The location of key destination points within your store can impact the customer experience as well as your sales. What do I mean by destination points? Destination point are areas within the store that customers will seek out. For every retailer, this is your cash desk. But for some, this could also be fitting rooms, testing stations or possibly even a sale or clearance section. 

Your cash desk should be visible from everywhere in the store. Not only is this good for customer service but also for loss prevention.  

There are 2 locations in the store that a cash desk can be located – against a wall (typically the back wall) or floating in the center of the store (most common). 

Against a wall: The cash desk itself could be hidden by floor fixtures, making it harder to see from across the room. So you need to highlight the location with something tall and vertical like, um, the wall. Use the wall to bring attention and highlight the location of the cash desk. It should be a different color than the rest of the store, maybe even a graphic print.  

Ideally, the cash desk is located between sections, for example the break between men’s and ladies. You don’t want your customer to stop shopping because they hit the checkout without see the rest of your merchandise. 

Floating in the center: a cash desk in the center of the store are the most common in design. They are in the middle of all the action, the hub of the store. They are great for single person coverage since the associate can cash-out one customer and still be able to see everyone else. 

Just like the above, a floating cash desk can be hidden from customer sight by floor fixtures. In this case, to identify the location of a center cash desk, you’ll need to highlight the space with something that hangs above it from the ceiling. This could be as simple as pendent lights or as complex as a suspended fixture. 

Destination Point – Fitting Room

Fitting rooms and test stations are KEY area’s in your store; they shouldn’t be forgotten. This is where your customer goes to make their final decision – to buy or not to buy. Putting these in the wrong location in your store could impact your sales more than not having them at all. 

Fitting rooms or test stations should be located at the end of a section. This could be the break between ladies and men’s; the end of clothing and the beginning of shoes and accessories; the break between wine and home accessories. 

This will force your customer to shop everything before they get to the decision destination. Once your customer goes into the fitting room or testing station, it is very unlikely that they will continue to shop when they exit. They have already determined what they will purchase and are head for the checkout at this point. 

Visual Interests

Using different visual elements throughout the store is another way to subconsciously guide your customer through your store. When you have mixed media displayed throughout, it creates a something new is over there trigger in the shopper’s subconscious mind. This subconscious curiosity will make them walk towards it to see what’s going on – making them walk further into the store. 

The important difference here is that it is a MIXED media display. If you have the same type of display all the way down the wall, it can look cluttered. Most importantly, it loses the impact as it starts to look the same.  

Mix Media
Mannequins/torsos 
Marketing 
Lifestyle Posters 
Merchandise Displays 
Color

In each zone, choose a different type of media. Your first zone could have a couple of mannequin torsos on a shelf (for example). The next zone maybe is a lifestyle poster. Then you have a display…and so on. 

And don’t forget about your destination points. These need to stand out in the crowd and a powerful way to do that is with color. Choose a strong color to paint your fitting rooms and the wall behind cash and watch customers gravity.  

Fixture Layout

Do you remember those handheld maze games when you were a kid? The ones where you had to tilt it around to move the silver ball through the maze until you got to the hole. Think of your customer as the silver ball and your floor fixtures as the maze. You want to lay your floor fixtures in a manner that moves your customers through the store, ending at the cash desk. 

Avoid creating dead-ends with your floor fixtures. This interrupts the natural flow your customer is taking and causes confusion (also panic) which could make your customer walk away. If you create an uncomfortable environment for your customer (like feeling trapped by fixtures) you will lose them. Make sure you have enough space between fixtures for 2 people to pass without touching and that there is an easy path from entrance to exit. 


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A successful retailer is successful because of many elements, working together. It’s about design, interest, a story, visual merchandising, marketing and of course – customer service. But the foundation, the building block, of a brick and mortar store is the interior design. If you think about your customer and set your store up to accommodate them, that a good first step and one that many retailer trip over.  

If you need some ideas or guidance on how to get off on the right foot, send us an email at design@letskissdesign.com 

Also, don’t forget to share your ideas below! We love hearing from you!