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4 Sep

The Lowdown on Layout

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Your sales floor is your biggest marketing piece. Of course, shoppers visit your store to buy, but they also come in for ideas and inspiration. And to be entertained. The job of your displays is to encourage them to buy while they are there. Let's take a look at the key components necessary to help.


Controlling the Shopper Journey
Your store layout is affected by the shape and size of your sales floor. That footprint dictates what will work in your store. Studies show that shoppers often won't see 50 percent of your sales floor so it's your job to create and control how they shop.

There are many types of layouts for store design but the most common one used by boutiques and specialty retailers is Free Flow layout. This gives lots of options, and it's flexible. In a Free Flow layout, there are no permanent aisles; fixtures are placed to encourage shoppers to easily move throughout the store.


The Decompression Zone
Every store has a space called the Decompression Zone, the area located just inside your front door- generally the first 5 to 15 feet depending on the square footage. It gives shoppers a chance to transition from whatever is going on outside of your store to shopping. The Decompression Zone is no man's land; shoppers will miss anything you place there. Place floor signs, carts/baskets, product displays, etc. just beyond your Decompression Zone where shoppers are more likely to see them.

Lake Front Property
There are parts of your sales floor that are more important than others; we call them Lake Front Property because a big percentage of your sales come from items displayed here. Use your Lake Front Property to feature new, hot and high-margin product, not every day, basic items- there items are best housed toward the rear of the store. Think milk and eggs in a grocery store. And since 90 percent of customers enter a store and look or turn to the right, the Lake Front Property should be merchandised with particular care. Our V & Vista Exercise will help you find your store's unique Lake Front Property:

1. Start at the end of the Decompression Zone and spread your arms out at shoulder height with your index fingers extended. What's inside the "V" your arms make is called the Vista - this is the first area shoppers see.
The Vista is where you place Speed Bumps, displays that slow shoppers down and set the tone. Create a focal point with small, nesting tables, cross-merchandised groupings of irresistible product that tells a story- why just sell a sweater when you can see a necklace, too? Speed Bump displays should be changed at least once a week.

2. The V will help you locate your most important Power Walls. Start by following your nose down your right arm to the tip of your right index finger- the wall you are looking at is your front right Power Wall. It's a highly profitable space, so use it to feature not-to-be-missed merchandise and update it frequently.
Try not to house your cash wrap at the right front. Ideally, you cash wrap should be located at a natural ending point in the shopping experience, on the left side of the store, or at the center of the store, at least 20 feet back from the front door. You don't want shoppers thinking about checking out as soon as they walk in. 

3. Now, follow your nose down your left arm to the tip of your left index finger. This left front Power Wall is also important display space; merchandise it with as much thought and care as your right front Power Wall. If your store's footprint makes it impossible for shoppers to enter your store and turn right, then everything is reversed: the front left becomes your Lake Front Property.

4. Begin at the front and walk your entire sales floor to look for other key display areas, noting which areas stand out and will require on-going visual merchandising attention.

5. Now, grab your smartphone and take photos of your sales floor. This is important because the camera will see what you cannot, highlighting areas that need attention, holes in displays, displays that need signing, etc.

Beyond your Lake Front Property
Now let's talk about the other important things to consider:
- Fixturing- fixturing adds to the ambiance of your sales floor but it should never be the focal point- good fixtures let the merchandise stand out. You need basic fixturing such as wall units and shelving to maximize dollars per square foot, and specialty fixturing for feature displays such as speed bumps. You will need a minimum of 3 feet in between fixtures; if customers can't shop comfortably they aren't likely to stay.
- Sight Lines- A good rule is to place shorter fixtures near the front of the store and taller fixtures toward the rear. This allows shoppers standing near the front to see through your sales floor, drawing them to the various areas of the store. 


Increase your Shelf Esteem
There are two ways to merchandise product on shelves: horizontally and vertically.
- Horizontal Merchandising- Product displayed horizontally makes it harder for customers to easily see your product selection. Let's say you have a 4-foot section of slatwall with four shelves, and you have four different products to display in this space. If you choose a horizontal presentation, placing just one type of product per shelf, then you limit the items shoppers see as they scan a shelf. If they only glance at the second shelf, they only see that particular product. 
- Vertical Merchandising- Displaying product in a vertical row that spans several shelves is a better choice. Vertical lines expose customers to a greater variety of your product assortment at any eye level. Vertical merchandising subconsciously forces shoppers to look up and down as well as forward, causing them to see more.
- Closely related is Visual Curve Merchandising, the use of slanted shelves or waterfall brackets, to increase the amount of product the customers see in just one glance. Without realizing it, the visual curve forces the shopper to look up and down at the product as well as forward.


Watch the Signs
Almost 70 percent of purchase decisions are made in-store; your signing program helps shoppers make those decisions. Signs should be professional, displayed in sign holders, and represent your brand. If handwritten signing is part of your shtick then go for it, otherwise opt for signs that are printed on neutral colored card stock.

Eye Level- aka buy level- is approximately four to five feet, four inches from the floor. These important signs are used to highlight a product's features, offer ideas about what can be created using the components on the display, suggest items to be worn or used together, and of course, price points- whatever you want shoppers to know about that particular product. Signs should be an easy-to-read font in at least 30 point type. Shoppers should be able to easily read your signs without their reading glasses. And avoid using all capital letters because caps are hard for older eyes to read, and younger shoppers think you are shouting.

Follow the Light
There are several types of lighting used in stores: General (overhead), Task (cash wrap, service areas), Accent (to highlight merchandise and direct attention to certain areas of the sales floor), and Decorative (chandeliers to add character or table lamps to add ambiance to a display).
It's important to note that we need three times the amount of light to see as well in our 60s as we did in our 20s. If you have Baby Boomer customers, and your lighting is bad, there's a good chance they can't see your merchandise clearly. If you haven't relamped your store recently, contact a lighting expert who can recommend the proper lighting for your sales floor.


Wrap Things Up
You never want customers to stop thinking about merchandise, even when they are paying for purchases. Take advantage of the fact that women are big impulse shoppers by displaying small, high profit items at the cash wrap. If you have a wall directly behind your counter, make it a focal point, use it to tell a story or to showcase important product. If your store has checkout lanes, position displays with impulse items close by.


Adopt our 360 Degree Pass-By
If you've ever heard a sales associate say, "It was right here yesterday!" you need to adopt the 360 Degree Pass-by exercise- a quick walk through every inch of the sales floor. In the five minutes it takes to do this exercise you will easily notice which areas need attention, product that needs to be restocked or straightened, signs that need to be replaced, etc.
Store layout is an art but it's also a science. Over the years, retailers have left a trail of lasting techniques that are still used by successful retailers today for one, simple reason: they work. They'll work in your store as well. If you're not sure what to do first, give us a call, or email photos, and we'll brainstorm ideas to help you get started!

Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are consumer anthropologists, keynote speakers, authors and ocnsultants who have helped thousands of businesses in the retail, restaurant, hospitality, travel, funeral profession, beauty and service industries since 1990. KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC's Your Business and have been named two of Retailing's Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders, KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retailer Influencers, Top 100 Retailer Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Their award-winning Retail Adventures Blog is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs.
Images courtesy of Ashley Hope, Michelle Wood and Theresa B. Manry


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Contributing Writer
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