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Creating a compelling store layout that will attract, engage and retain your customer

Posted By Kevin Kissell, Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Today we’re delighted to be visited by Kevin Kissell, who has some tips on creating a merchandising plan in your store to attract customers and increase sales.

Understanding store layout and visual merchandising is crucial in today’s competitive retail market – and something that independent retailers need to do well in order to have a successful store. The look and feel of your store is almost more important that what you are selling. The purpose of good store design and visual merchandising is to create an environment that attracts customers. The more you captivate their curiosity, the more time they will spend in the store. The more time they spend in the store, the more likely they are to make a purchase. To achieve good store design requires knowledge behind the science of shopping, a little creativity, and the willingness to be objective.

Often times your customer’s store experience happens before they even step foot inside your store. This two-part blog series will challenge you, the storeowner, to objectively observe your store from the front entrance all the way to the back wall. By posing questions, we will formulate solutions for many consistent issues within a brick and mortar store. We will discuss basic visual merchandising strategies that will help you develop a set of design codes that will keep your store exciting and visually appealing.

It is important to mention that within store layout and visual merchandising, there are controllable and non-controllable elements. For instance, we probably cannot control our store architecture or the placement of the front door.  We do, however, have control of window displays, fixtures, creative elements, product and placement of things within the store. We can also control the customer’s experience while they are inside your walls.

The parking lot… Literally.
As mentioned above, the store experience generally happens before you even step foot inside the door. Let’s have some honest dialogue. How easy is it to get to your store? Is there ample parking? How is your parking lot? Is it easy to enter and exit? Is it nicely paved? Does it have ADA compliant ramps and handicap parking spaces? How is your store situated in relation to parking? Many of these factors are probably non-controllable to you the storeowner. Research has proven that your in-store experience is affected by the ease or frustration of your commute and ability to park and/or find parking. That being said, if your parking lot is difficult to navigate or your store is not easily accessible then you have an opportunity to make your store more comfortable and more inviting.

The front of your store.
The first thing customers see are your windows. This is your chance to educate, attract, and woo that customer into your store. Paco Underhill, proclaimed Retail Anthropologist and founder of Envirosell Inc., uses the adage “Give Good Window.” Well? Have you? Take a moment and observe the front façade. Is your architecture inviting? Do you have adequate and easily readable signage? Do you have appropriate lighting? Do you have the opportunity to display floral planters beside your doors? Are your windows free from clutter? Are your windows communicating a good visual story? Think of small things that you can do to brighten up the exterior of your store.

What do we see in those windows? How are you communicating your store to the general public? Many times small retailers eagerly show everything the have to offer in one very overcrowded window display, or maybe some sort of lackluster grouping of products.
Your windows are the first part of your story. This is how you tell people about your brand and what you carry inside the store – so reinforce a theme. How can you use principles and elements of design (color, line, form, repetition, etc.), font, creative artwork, or product to tie your windows to the environment inside? This is the time for clarity in your message and to avoid confusing passersby. What you communicate in the window is precisely what should be available inside. If I am fun and creative on the outside, I need to be fun and creative on the inside. 

Window displays should be creative, organized, free of clutter, and nicely presented. Think about creating focal points and eye movement around the window display. Add lighting for more visual appeal.

Inside the front door.
The first thing people need when they enter your store is to acclimate to your environment. They will be taking their sunglasses off, or removing coats, and their senses are adjusting to lighting, scent, and sound. There is a lot of stuff going on! Give customers room to do this. The first five feet to ten feet is known as the Decompression Zone. This is where people are taking in everything about your store; how it smells, how it sounds and how it is packaged. In other words, people are noticing your décor – walls, floors, colors, lighting, fixtures, signage and creative elements. Your job is to create ‘the perfect storm’ – everything must work together to tell a cohesive story.

Many times retailers will crowd the front door with new product and signage and people welcoming you with special offers and coupons. Frustrating, right? What people really want is a chance to take everything in and take a breath. Therefore, dedicate at least five feet for a decompression zone.

Stay tuned - next week we’ll post part 2 of Kevin’s blog series, where he’ll take you deeper into the store and continue a plan for layout and merchandising. Remember - you don’t have to do every little thing outlined in this article - even just one or two small tweaks can make a big difference in your merchandising! What improvements will you make this week?

Kevin Kissell, MFA, is an Instructor in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. His research interests include store design, visual merchandising, and textile design. Prior to entering higher education he accrued over fifteen years of visual merchandising experience.

Tags:  retail 

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