4 Retail Store Design Tips That Drive Sales

Shoppers in grocery aisle

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Retail store design has a major impact on the shopping experience.

Do you like shopping at the grocery store? I do.

Why? I don’t have to overthink or even think too much at all.

Milk on the left wall. Meat in the back. Cheese on the right. Cashiers in the front. Can’t find something? A simple look at the directional signs, and I got it. (Unless it's something like honey – Is that in cooking? Jam? Peanut butter? But I digress.)

Is your retail store design helping - or hurting - your sales?

I start a business makeover for a client with the physical aspects of the store because frequently, they are the:

  1. Most glaring
  2. Easily fixed
  3. Take the most physical work

I approach the project as a new customer because they have fresh eyes. They don’t pick up what the owner feels is “obvious.” If the store has gotten sloppy with how they organize the merchandise, it will show how customers walk through your store (and quickly out if done poorly).

My overriding philosophy in retail design is to think like a customer and “Don’t make me think!”

Four retail store design tips that help boost sales

When a first-time shopper enters your store, your store layout should feel intuitive. By strategically using signage, product displays, and organization, you can guide shoppers to browse the aisles, easily find what they’re looking for, and make unplanned purchases along the way.

1. Follow the natural traffic patterns

For a typical store in North America, customers naturally walk in and to the right. That means your best and brightest “wants” should be there, not at the back of the store or off to the left. If you don’t do this and put your counter on the right, at the very least, it will cause a commotion. Put your sale stuff up at the front and on the right, and your profitable merchandise sales will fall.

2. Keep it easy on the eyes 

Just because you can use 256 colors of markers or ink doesn’t mean you should. Signage should be simple and a quick read – not clever or tricky. Consider the difference between an ad in Martha Stewart’s Living versus a freeway billboard. Your store signage should be modeled on the billboard. Design shouldn’t be complicated.

3. Make a cohesive display

You can't just stick a pile of merch on an end cap and expect it to sell. You have to make the customer feel smart about seeing what items go with other items to enhance their purchase. The key is showing your whole store in the display, not just one product.

4. Take steps to maximize upsells

What are you putting at the register? The unique, weird cheap stuff that customers have to ponder, “Who would buy this?” If so, you may be missing the easy money. Instead, put products ANYONE could use. It shouldn’t require much signage, either. Think: “Don’t forget the glue,” not “Glue sticks $1.99.”

Be clear about what you want your customer to do, and you'll be able to create a compelling store design that sells merch and puts money in your jeans.