If you own a retail store or are considering opening a new retail location, there are a variety of challenges to be considered. The location, physical building space, inventory assortment, fixtures, store operations and financial accounting aspects represent a few of these challenges which require some very important decisions. The decisions pertaining to each of these challenges are extremely important to the success and profitability of the business. However, for this segment, the focus will be on physical retail space, proper store fixturing and how to develop a successful retail atmosphere to support the inventory assortment.
Build Your Space
The first element to understand is the actual retail space and the physical building attributes, which is critical in defining how to best lay out the store in order to enhance the product visibility, as well as the overall shopping experience. There are many questions to ponder in this process. Standing outside at the front of the location, are there windows that could be used for visual display to attract the external world? What is the ease of access into the location? Are there single or double doors and do the doors have automated opening to aid someone with a physical impairment or disability? All of these attributes need to be considered from the outside.
The next step is understanding the inside of the store. It is best to start in the middle of the store location in order to get a good visual of the complete surrounding environment. Think top to bottom, front to back and left to right. Looking out the front of the building, is there a frontage road, sidewalk or parking lot? How close is the frontage road? Does the traffic have good visibility to the windows? All of these are questions to determine how to best utilize the window space. For buildings where the passing customers are in vehicles, the displays need to be larger and easy to see and identify, as well as eye-catching. Passersby will have only a few moments to comprehend the subject matter on display. Items such as lift chairs or larger mobility products displayed on platform risers become good, easy-to-discern subjects. In situations where the windows have more foot traffic, more involved detailed window displays can be developed with a combination of risers and pedestals like showing mannequins with compression items, using brightly colored canes or featuring shoe displays with the latest trends and styles. In either situation, it is critical to use fixturing such as risers, pedestals or other displayers to showcase the products. It is also necessary to use brightly colored signage and banners to convey messages about the product or any in-store promotions. All signage should be displayed with sign holders or banner hangers to convey a clean, professional message. This may be your first impression to a new customer. Further, it is necessary to change out the displays and signage on a frequent basis to create ongoing interest and appeal for existing customers. From the window displays, turn around and visualize the back wall. Is there any spot that would make a good focal area that is visible from the front? A focal area can be created inexpensively using slat wall and movable wing walls to highlight product categories or make category statements. The slat wall and wing walls come in various colors and finishes to enhance or emphasize the product that is being displayed.
Having movable wing walls allows for the fixtures to be moved left or right on the slat wall to either expand or contract the size of the focal areas based on the product that is being highlighted. Also, it is always good to keep the lower margin commodity goods in a visible focal area toward the back of the store in order to get the customer to walk past higher margin impulse items to increase sales. Lighting and signing these focal areas is always important in order to grab the consumer’s attention from the front of the store. Standing at the front of the store, there are the remaining side walls, looking left and right. These outer walls can be merchandised by category of product, too. A simple way to display these categories would be to install slat wall down both walls at 16 inches off of the floor to 7 feet, 6 inches high. Again, using wing walls along both left and right walls will allow for the creation of more category displays that can have different left to right dimensions. For example, there could be 12 feet of pain management products, 6 feet of compression items or 8 feet of incontinence supplies. Additionally, as a product line grows or contracts in size, the movable wing walls will easily allow for this adjustment. Hopefully, the store contains a small back room. The majority of the retail goods should be on the sales floor. As the old retail saying goes, “Hide it, keep it; show it, sell it.” Always keep the sales floor well-stocked and full. This can be achieved by front facing all boxed goods so that they are at the front edge of the shelf. Even if you only have one unit deep, if it is pulled to the front edge, the shelf appears full. Same with hanging products, use inventory control clips to keep the product to the front of the hook so the display looks full and inviting without having a lot of inventory. Standing in the center of the floor, determine where the cash wrap and private consulting areas should be located. For the front service area, consider a wrap counter with a slat wall front with under-lighting. This creates a great area for point-of-purchase (POP) items with high impulse and high profit margins. Use showcases with lights for more expensive items where your sales staff can provide more personalized product knowledge to the customers, such as lasers. For the center of the store in the floor area, utilize gondolas to display merchandise. Whether using metal or slat wall styles, both versions provide the ability to use end caps for product promotions within the store. Always try to rotate the end cap merchandise at least every 30 to 60 days. This will keep the store looking fresh, so customers will think that there is a constant flow of new products in the store. When merchandising gondolas and endcaps, keep the larger items to the bottom of the fixture and the smaller, related items to the top. As with the walls, merchandise product categories together. Keep in mind that there are usually several different manufacturers for the same basic product, so always display them together with the highest margin items in the most visible positions to the customer. In addition to the gondolas, try to allow some open floor space in the back of the store for larger items such as lift chairs, ramps, scooters and other large mobility products. Look up at the ceiling. Is there proper lighting? There should be no dark areas in the store. Dark, poorly lit spots will feel uninviting to a customer so ensure the general lighting is bright and even. The front windows are often best lit with some recessed can lights to highlight the product. Consider track lighting along the perimeter walls to highlight the different product categories. The back focal area needs to have its own specialty lighting.
Signage is an important aspect of the sales floor. Create a clean, readable template for all of your different categories. You can hang category signage from the ceiling or have them wall-mounted, as well as mount them above the gondolas. Think of the signs as a guide so customers can easily maneuver to their category of interest. Conceptually, as the customer travels to the destination category, they traverse past end caps with promotional products and impulse items that they cannot live without. Also, when a customer easily finds what they are looking for, the pleasant shopping experience tends to make them more apt to make additional purchases. In addition to the category signs, make special information signs about more expensive items such as wheelchairs, chair lifts, scooters and ramps so customers understand all of the features and benefits.
Pricing is a final component. When operating a point-of-sale (POS) system with a UPC scanner, it is important that all products are priced with a shelf label or with a UPC scanner hook. In a non-UPC environment, ensure that all products contain a price sticker or adequate price signage. Some customers do not like to ask, “How much does this cost?” So, be sure to price everything in some fashion.