Rule 1 - Layout = Positioning
A layout is an important positioning tool. You can use the layout to convey to your customers whether your store is a discounter or a chic design boutique. The manner in which you guide your customers in the commercial market is decisive as regards the position you wish to adopt in the overall market.
Customers associate an obligatory guided tour through the store with a discount formula. Therefore this gives you the opportunity to determine how your customers will perceive your store. The very opposite of this formula is an open layout presentation that gives the customer a great deal of freedom of movement. He or she can go anywhere Customers usually associate this layout presentation type with a rather more upmarket shop.
You should also take a clear position in comparison to your competitors and position yourself in the market in a distinctive way. Your layout will not only contribute to clear positioning, but can also serve to emphasise distinction.
Rule 2 - The first impression
The following should be kept in mind as it follows naturally from the idea of the layout as a positioning tool: ‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression’. It is important to give careful consideration to the store's entrance, because it will influence the customer's image of the store.
A large entrance evokes in the customer the notion of an upmarket shopping experience. You will achieve the opposite if you create a small and narrow store entrance, which the customer will associate with a discounter.
When designing a layout, it is of crucial importance to take into account, at an early stage, the way in which customers will be led through the store. A ‘slightly compulsory tour’ is recommended. You should give the customer the feeling that the route he has taken in the store was his own decision. On the other hand, from a commercial point of view, it is absolutely necessary to lead the customer along all the important departments of the store. Not just for the sake of turnover, but also for the sake of customer satisfaction. There is no greater source of annoyance for a customer than not being able to find the product he or she needs.
In principle, a layout should consist of several elements. A well-attuned and changing rhythm ensures not only that the customer feels at ease, but also that he or she takes this pleasant feeling home.
Lines of sight
Lines of sight always run along the aisle; the longer the aisle, the better the customers can see what is at the end of it.
Eye-catchers located at the end of the aisle are a highly effective communication tool; examples are: graphic elements, special product presentations or special offers.
To lead the customer through the store, it obviously makes sense to integrate the walk routes; the walk route will then not only lead the customer through the store, but also serves as a reference point.
As early as in ancient times, certain rooms were dedicated to various events; it makes sense to allow for dedicated rooms for different commercial purposes when designing the layout, such as for instance displaying certain special offers.
Creating space in a layout design contributes to the maximum presentation of, for instance, special product groups. Space creates order for the customer and thus leads to a pleasant shopping experience. It is important not to arrange a room in such a way that it becomes small or too narrow, because this will have the opposite effect.
Rule 5 - Keeping the balance between customer and technology
Designing a customer-oriented layout on the one hand and integrating all the technical requirements on the other hand is often a veritable balancing act. Failure to achieve this balance almost always shows in a layout design. Technology-oriented layouts usually take less account of the customer. It is important that all the departments of the business – both sales and technical support – steer the same course. And though no eventual compromise will be reached, what will be achieved is the best solution for all parties involved.
Any layout design requires that you plan in two dimensions, but a store is experienced in three dimensions. So pay sufficient attention to the height of the shelves, the arrangement of the rooms and the location of the products. Is it difficult for you to imagine a three-dimensional situation? Then try it with small three-dimensional sketches. At any rate, it is important that you are aware of the three-dimensional effects that the two-dimensional decisions can have.
Rule 7 – Arrangement of product ranges in accordance with the customer's wishes
Any arrangement of a product range should meet the logical and explicit need of the customer. Customers are creatures of habit. They do not appreciate having to walk through the store unnecessarily in order to find a particular product. Each industry has its own characteristics and there is not really one single recipe that applies to all industries when it comes to the most suitable
arrangement. To find the best solution, you could make use of the knowledge and experience acquired by other branch stores. Or draw inspiration from the solutions adopted by your competitors!
Rule 8 - Layout is never an isolated factor
It is important to note that layout is always linked to other (construction) elements of a store. For instance, lighting is an important part of a store formula. The lighting will need to be attuned to the layout at the same time as when other details are being planned. Furthermore, there are other factors that affect layout. You should always take into account matters such as location-specific conditions (parking facilities), the other window displays already in place or the height of the rooms available.
Rule 9 – From macro to micro
Initially you should approach a new idea for a store layout with the utmost caution. All too often too much attention is paid to details and this has a negative effect on the essential overall idea. To start with, you should draw up an inventory of the general arrangement of the space and each department's need for space. After that, you can fill in the details such as pillars or emergency exits.
Locations are rarely uniform. The customer base is usually as diverse as the constructional details. A store based on a franchise formula gives you the option of dhering to a strict standard or adjusting the individual store to the specific characteristics of the location. These adjustments should be given a higher priority than the formula. Of course, it is very important to adhere to and implement a formula in the best possible way.
But this is often done at the expense of turnover. Which is why it is advisable to adjust the standardised formulas to the location and not the other way around.
Good layout design is not a science. You cannot make prior predictions regarding the amount of time customers will spend in the store nor the rhythm of customer flow. Fortunately, concept design is still based on common sense and a feeling and passion for retail.
All the points of attention described in this chapter are intended as support. To avoid possible mistakes and to achieve your goal, beginners especially should use the ten golden rules as a guideline.
The Store Manual (2005)
Jos de Vries The Retail Company has been working his way through the marvels of the Retail world since twenty years. Since the Retail branch on its way to professionalism is developing and also scholarly interest was growing, there still wasn’t a manual.
Jos de Vries The Retail Company has made a definite change in bringing out “The Store Manual” a must for every store.