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How to Design a Retail Store: The Ultimate Guide

As a retail store owner, you want your shop to be inviting and appealing to customers. But how do you design a retail store that will achieve this goal? This article teaches you how to design a retail store perfectly in order to maximize sales.

I remember when I first started my own retail business. I had no idea how to design a retail store! I didn’t want it to look like all the other retail shops on the high street, but at the same time, I wanted it to be professional and stylish. After doing some research, trial and error (and spending way too much money), I finally figured out what works best for a successful retail store design.

Here are some top tips that helped me.

How to Design a Retail Store

Retail store design is more than just creating a beautiful store with attractive displays. It is also a strategy to arrange a store in a way that maximizes space and maximizes sales. The retail store design can establish brand identity and serve safety precautions such as protecting against shoplifting. 

The following tips will help you make your store look great:

1. Use a perfect floor plan

Your floorplan layout is integral to the flow of your store. It will largely depend on factors such as the size of your business, the types of products you carry, and who your target customers are?

The layout of your store requires both creativity and testing. There are a few common tactics that you can apply when planning the arrangement of your store. Below are some tips to help you get started.

Straight Floor Plan

This layout plan will position your shelving or racking in an efficient way that will ensure smooth customer flow.

This floor plan is most economical and efficient for large retail spaces, supermarkets, or stores that use shelving to showcase merchandise. This layout creates an organized flow of traffic by positioning shelves or racks in straight lines.

Racetrack or loop plan

This store design encourages customers to follow a “path” around the store. You place displays and products in a way that forces them to walk in a circle.

Angular floor plan

This store’s layout is very unique, with its curves and angles. It gives off a sophisticated vibe that I’m sure customers will love.

Many high-end retail stores use a unique layout that focuses on a few popular items while reducing the overall amount of floor space. This is seen as a more upscale way to present merchandise and may lead to higher sales.

Geometric floor plan

If you want a store to have a modern, contemporary vibe, then go with geometric shapes for your floor plans. This will create a unique, one-of-a-kind appearance.

Free flow plan

A free-form design allows you to be as creative and as flexible as you want to be in your warehouse. This type of floor plan doesn’t limit you to certain retail layouts or shelf placements.

The free flow plan is a great way to encourage shoppers to browse and explore your store. There is no set path, so people can go in any direction they please. This can help create a more relaxed and enjoyable shopping experience for everyone.

2. Ensure that your product quantities are appropriate

The question of whether to have too much or too little inventory on hand is difficult to answer.

On the other hand, having more products on the store’s shelves has been shown to increase profits. When Dollar Store increased its shelving to 78”, its average sale per foot went from $165 to $201.

What happened when Walmart reduced its inventory? Sales steadily declined, so the company remodeled its stores to add stock back.

While sales were down, overall satisfaction was up. However, this doesn’t mean people were happy with their purchases.

According to William S. Simon, Walmart’s then-chief executive for the US division, customers actually enjoyed having less stock on the sales floor, even though it led to them buying less overall. This indicates that brand perception is important to customers, and too much product on the sales floor can negatively impact how a store is perceived.

If you have too many products on the store’s shelves, it can give off the impression that the store is not high-end or a boutique. This can result in a dip in the brand’s reputation.

According to “Why We Buy” author, Paco Underhill, when store shelves are full, shoppers tend to view those products as “cheap” or “inexpensive.” However, when shelves are empty, those same items are seen as being “pricey” or “high-end.”

The amount of inventory you carry in your retail store will have an effect on your retail space, the brand image you portray, and the customer experience you hope to provide. By being smart about your inventory, you can create a better shopping environment for customers.

If you’re a discount retail store, then filling your store with products may be a good way to maximize your profits.

If you’re a boutique, then it’s probably best to curate your collection and put only a few selected pieces on display.

3. Have enough space between products and fixtures

If you’re looking to pack your shelves with merchandise, that’s perfectly fine—just be sure to give customers their personal space. No one likes the butt-brush effect, after all.

To avoid the but-brush effect, make sure there is adequate space between the products you’re displaying and any nearby displays. The but-brush effect is a shopper’s tendency to stop and look when he or she is nudged or brushed. By providing enough space between your products and any surrounding items, you can prevent your customers from feeling like they’re being jostled around.

4. Use your layout to drive impulse buying

Your store layout can be a powerful tool to increase sales. By placing key items in strategic locations, you can grab the attention of customers and encourage impulse buying. Supermarkets are experts at this; they often use their checkout areas to showcase popular impulse buy products like gift cards, candy, and other items.

A grocery store can maximize its profit by placing items at the checkout that customers may purchase impulsively. Popular examples include candy, toys, and gift certificates.

5. Freshen Up Your Displays

How often should you change up your display? That will depend on who your customers are and what type of business you have.

Most experts recommend changing up your store’s displays at least once a week. This could involve something as simple as changing the outfits on your mannequins, or featuring a different upsell item. Either way, it’s important to keep things fresh so that customers always have something new to look at.

As new merchandise comes in, it’s essential that you change your displays to keep customers interested. This will attract both new and old customers and encourage them to come back.

You’ll also want to take into account the amount and nature of traffic you’re getting in your store or shopping center. For example, do you get a lot of the same shoppers walking by?

If you’re on a crowded street, you’ll need to change the display on your sign often to catch people’s attention.

The last thing you want is for customers to get so accustomed to your store that it doesn’t even register when they pass by. You need to change up your displays frequently in order to grab people’s attention on a consistent basis.

6. Appeal to Multiple Sensitive Sensations

While most of the design of a store is based around the visual elements, other senses such as smell, taste, and texture can also impact how a customer feels about a particular location.

Create a store that appeals to all senses. Using smells, sounds, and tactile sensations, you can create a memorable shopping experience that customers will want to return to.

Here are a few ways:


Choose your music carefully. The atmosphere you want to convey should determine the type of music that you play.

While music may boost sales of some products, it may not work for all. For instance, some businesses find that playing music helps sell to a younger demographic, but the same strategy may not have the same effect on older customers.


Scent Marketing is a marketing strategy that utilizes smell to attract customers. Although bakeries and coffee shops are a common example, it is not limited to just those industries.

Scent Marketing in Action

Some high-end retailers like to use the smell of a baby’s skin in their clothing departments. Hotels and cruise lines also use scents in their rooms, hoping to bring back pleasant memories for their guests.

According to Brand Communications Director for North American, the scent of their products is so strong because they use a combination of their most popular items.

When I walk into Lush, I can instantly smell our popular products like the Avobath, the Karma, and the Vanillary. These items are some of our best sellers, so it makes sense their scents are noticeable as soon as you walk in.

The smells you incorporate in your shop are an important component of creating a welcoming atmosphere for your clients. Do some research to find out which aromas will entice your target demographic and convince them to stick around and buy something.


One method retailers can use to make their stores more engaging and interactive is to allow customers to test out the products they are interested in. This hands-on experience allows customers to more directly connect with the product and can make the overall shopping process much more enjoyable.

The Apple Store was one of the first retail stores that allowed customers to see products on display instead of in cardboard boxes.

Other computer and electronic stores soon followed Best Buy’s lead, and consumers loved the new policy.


If you operate a food business, try having tasting booths in your store. This will encourage a more hands-on experience and make it easier for shoppers to feel comfortable.

To entice customers, brandless set up an interactive coffee/tea bar in their Los Angeles pop-up shop. This gave people a chance to try their goods in person, which made them feel more comfortable buying.

Even if you don’t sell food products, you can still make your store more appealing to shoppers by offering drinks and snacks for them to enjoy while they shop. This will help create a more pleasant shopping experience that customers will remember.

At BirchBox, we value luxury. That’s why, from time to time, we host events in our stores where we serve complimentary Champagne! Here’s a shot of one of our recent events in January:

7. Don’t forget to cross-merchandise

If you have the room, try to group your merchandise into distinct sections. This makes it easier for customers to quickly find what they’re looking for. But don’t forget to cross-market different products. Find products that go together and put them in a common area. This encourages shoppers to find new ways to use their favorites.

As customers, we should always look at our products from a point of view of how they would complement each other. For instance, if you are looking at a dress, there may be other clothing items at the clothing store that would go great with it. By viewing your wares from this angle, you can assemble awesome ensembles that make you look your best.

Gymboree does a great job of cross-merchandising its shirts and sweaters with matching purses. This makes it easy for shoppers to put together a complete look.

Sunblocks and sunscreens are both displayed prominently on the middle shelf, while baby swimsuits and swimming diapers are displayed on the one below it.

By putting sunscreen and baby swimming products next to each other, it’s easier for parents to shop at Target.

8. Include seasonal shades and trends

One method of creating designs that will resonate well with your customers is to include trending and seasonally appropriate items.

Modify your display setup based on the time of year. For example, if you’re decorating for a holiday, then be sure to include elements that tie in with your current theme.

The same goes for upcoming and current seasons.

As the seasons change, so should your store’s color palette and overall aesthetic. Spring is all about blooming colors and warmer tones, while autumn brings a more muted palette. No matter the season, it’s important to keep your displays fresh and up-to-date.

This spring, take your visual merchandising up a notch with some eye-catching color combinations. Below is an example that makes use of bright colors to great effect.

9. Track and gauge your efforts

Finally, always ask yourself if you’re making the right decisions when it comes to your floor plans, designs, and arrangements. This is crucial to ensuring that you’re using the most effective methods.

Pay close attention to how your customers act in your shop. Notice where they spend the most time, where they stop, and what they do while in your store.

What are your thoughts on our shop? How can we improve?

Let’s say you are planning on making major changes to your store’s layout and design. You would want to first measure the performance before implementing the change, and then compare that to its performance after the update.

POS reporting software is a great way to track your performance and save time on data gathering.

Consider using footfall analytic tools, such as counting devices, to understand customer behavior and habits.


Your store layout and merchandising have a direct impact on your store traffic, dwell times, and sales. It is important that you know how to design a retail store perfectly and spend the time and resources to ensure that your stores look great. Remember that your work is never done when it comes to retail store layouts, displays, or merchandising. Keep looking for new trends and ways to improve your game.