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Create Traffic Patterns Inside your Retail Store for Improved Sales

Posted By Kevin Kissell, Friday, September 9, 2016

Kevin Kissell is back for part 2 of his series on merchandising for retailers. Did you know that you could create traffic patterns inside your store to help improve your sales? Read on for more!

Traffic patterns.
Did you know that ninety percent of people enter a store and turn to the right? It makes sense, right? We drive on the right side of the road, we walk on the right side of the sidewalk, and the majority of our population is right-handed. Merchandise your store accordingly!

The area to the right of your decompression zone is known as one area of Prime Real Estate within your store. (Did you miss the prior post explaining the decompression zone? Find it here.) Savvy store merchandisers will generally place new product here or some sort of tie-in to what customers saw in the windows. These fixtures, tables and/or displays are also known as speed bumps and work to slow people down in precise areas of your store. They grab your attention and tell a story. Anytime you want to slow customers down in order to get them to pay attention to select merchandise or to a particular part of your store, create a speed bump.

Another area of prime real estate is the right front wall. Many larger retailers refer to this as the Power Wall. This wall has the power to set the entire theme of your store, so put your best foot forward! Use the power wall to display new, seasonal, or promotional items. You can tell important stories, or display popular products. Most stores have more than one power wall. Generally it is the first right wall and the back wall of the store, depending on your architecture. Stand in different parts of your store and locate the walls that really stand out from the front of the store – these are your power walls. Never place sale items in the front of your store.

Another note about traffic patterns.
What is your store layout? Most store layouts will be affected by non-controllable architecture – things like the shape and size of the overall sales floor, and columns. The goal is to create the most impactful store layout in order to expose customers to product and to achieve a good traffic flow. At this point it is important to understand your target customer. In general, women are all about exploration and discovery within a store. Men on the other hand like to see clear pathways and defined sight lines throughout a store. There are a couple general types of store layouts: the Loop and Free Flow.

The loop basically creates a clearly defined pathway around your store. A customer would typically enter the store, walk to the right and follow a meandering path to the back of the store and up the left side of the store toward the exit. The loop offers consistent flow through a store with maximum merchandising opportunities throughout the store. It is simple and easily understood.

Most small and specialty retailers use the Free Flow layout because it’s more creative and allows customers the opportunity to explore and discover unique vignettes throughout your store. Here, fixtures can be angled or unique merchandise adjacencies could be placed together to create more visual interest.

Get creative! Grab your blueprints or create a map of the selling floor and start to sketch out different layouts. Change them from season to season to keep overall interest high.

Create a parking lot.
Yes. Create a parking lot inside your store. Women tend to do the majority of the shopping. Men and anxious children tend to follow these women around whilst they are doing the shopping. Make them feel more comfortable! Create a cozy seating area with a rug, lighting, chairs, a coffee table and plenty of reading material. If your disinterested shopping partner is entertained, you can spend more time shopping. And don't forget to merchandise the adjacent space around your parking lot accordingly! This is a great place for gift ideas and impulse purchases.

Where is your Cash Wrap?
Since most customers enter and walk to the right we should place our cash register on the right, right? Wrong! Most small retailers make the mistake of placing their cash wrap in the right-front area of their store. Remember, this is your prime real estate! Your cash wrap should be located at a natural stopping point in the store layout – the left side of the store near the front.

Research shows that the checking out experience is a point of frustration for most customers. This is a critical time and place where product, place and people all come together. Make the checkout experience a positive and memorable one. Give customers enough space to complete their transaction comfortably – room for bags, and purchases. Use your cash wrap to sell impulse items. Create interesting displays of merchandise that may have been overlooked, or that are easily gifted. Insure that policy and procedure signage is not abrasive or overly imposing. This is your chance to build a lasting relationship with your customer.  Invest in good quality shopping bags that will make a memorable impression.

Lighting is key to any built environment. Most retail stores have at least three types of lighting: General overhead lighting, Track or focused lighting, and themed or decorative lighting.

  • General lighting is most often large fluorescent lighting that bathes the sales floor with light, and is most often cool in color. Keep the color of your general lighting consistent – either all cool bulbs or all warm bulbs.
  • Track lighting allows for focused beams of light to be placed on creative displays, merchandise or tables. There are many great and inexpensive LED options which create a pleasing color and produce much less heat than traditional halogen spot lights.
  • Themed lighting is great for creating special vignettes throughout a store. These can be smaller lamps that enhance a table display, or small chandeliers hanging above a table.
  • Retail lighting is an art and takes time to master. Always spot displays and creative elements first, then wall merchandise, then floor merchandise. Crossing spots or ‘feathering’ light is much better than harsh direct spots of light. Once lighting is set in your own location, stand in the front of your store and notice if any lights are blinding you from the front door. If so, re-direct them away from the front door.

Your goal is to create excitement and to share an experience with your customer. Do your best to stimulate the five senses, from an inviting aroma to the look and feel of a nice paper bag. Plan your traffic flow based on your own target customer. Get inspired! Go shop the competition, hire an art student to create interesting display objects or ask a trusted friend to walk your store. You want to show your store assortment and everything you have to offer, so create a space that welcomes exploration and discovery.

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.

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