Improve Your Store Traffic with Fixtures That Help Flow

As a retail small business owner you’re aware that your store layout will be determined by a few factors. First and foremost will be your store’s footprint, influencing the size, number and type of freestanding fixtures you can use. A close second is the type of product you sell, because not everything fits neatly onto a shelf, hangs squarely from a rack or fits perfectly into a storage bin. And if you’re smart, your sales model will be a consideration; if customer interaction and one-on-one sales pitches drive your profit strategy, you better leave some room on the floor for customer service.

But beyond those business considerations, it’s important to realize that setting up the right fixture layout can make a big difference in your customer experience. Using space efficiently, allowing room for comfortable browsing and maintaining visual appeal can all improve the customer journey. What’s more, controlling store traffic will help you guide customers through your store, maximize exposure to your most valued merchandise, encourage purchasing and increase store efficiency.

We’ve outlined a few of the more popular fixture layouts being used by retailers today, as well as some common mistakes you want to avoid making. Take a look at each to gain a better understanding of how you can improve store traffic with fixtures that help flow.

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The Grid Layout

The grid layout is a simple linear design that’s both efficient and easy to maintain. It relies on long, freestanding fixtures to create aisles and pathways within the store that help direct and manage traffic flow.

Because a grid plan is such an organized layout, it’s well suited for retail stores that cater to a self-service customer experience. It’s an intuitive and easy to navigate floor plan. Plus, it uses fixtures that can stock an high quantities of items, so employees don’t have to constantly replenish supplies. If your retail store carries consumables or bulk product orders, you’ll benefit most from this layout.

We also see the grid layout used in stores with product offerings that can be separated into "departments." A shoe-store that separates products by size or style, a gourmet food-market that separates dairy from produce, or a luggage store that distinguishes brand lines might all use this floor plan.

The most common freestanding fixtures for the grid layout are shelf-based (like gondolas) or slat grid. Wall-mounted fixtures can also be used in the grid system though, complementing adjacent freestanding fixtures to create concentrated area for customers to browse.

Overall a grid layout drives traffic, encourages self-service shopping, and naturally separates product-specific areas of your store. It’s functional, efficient, and lets you as an owner focus on manning the register and overseeing your store rather than catering to customers or stocking products.

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The Free-Flow Plan

A free-flow, or geometric, floor plan capitalizes on the selling power of tabletop displays and display cases. This floor plan gives way to slow, smooth traffic flow whereby customers make their way around the store at their own leisure. The fixtures most often used in free-flow plans allow for natural customer browsing and customer-product interaction.

Free-flow layouts are frequently seen in high-end or specialty shops where customers are encouraged to spend time interacting with the merchandise. For retail small businesses that don’t rely on a self-service customer model, a free-flow floor plan is a great set-up.

The most common fixtures used in this type of layout are low standing, and allow employees to visibly monitor what products customers are looking at. From a security standpoint, this is an obvious benefit – keeping a close eye on your products reduces the risk of shoplifting. But increased visibility is beneficial for your sales model too; employees can see what products customers are gravitating toward, and approach them with related sales items to complement their potential purchase.

These floor plans encourage slow-moving foot traffic, increased browsing, and employee-customer engagement. Their functionality is best suited for specialty stores that rely on customer service and personal interaction to drive sales.

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Blueprint Bloopers &
Design Don’t’s

There aren’t uniform store layouts for every type of retail small business, and what works well in one setting might not work at all in another. But there are some common mistakes that get made when retail small businesses don’t think about how their fixtures will influence their store flow. In order to avoid a traffic jam in your retail store, check out these tips.

1. Don’t overcrowd your sales space. Too many fixtures in any area make it difficult for customers to maneuver, and if your aisles are crowded the negative effect is threefold. First off, you remove the ability for 2-way traffic to flow through an area, which reduces product-interaction. Secondly, you won’t give your customers enough room to appreciate your visual merchandising efforts. And finally, you’ll deter customers from proceeding to a purchase; too little space and too many products sends competing messages. Consider the cost of your products and density of your fixtures in that area – these should have an inverse relationship to help you make sales, rather than break them.

2. Avoid undue variation. Incorporating too many fixture types within one section of your retail store can distract your customer from your ideal browsing pattern. Not only will varying fixtures drive conflicting traffic patterns, the products stocked on them can easily have competing interests. Don’t shy away from using fixtures to complement each other, but be aware that more the more variations you incorporate, the less effective your layout may become.

3. Be smart about size. When customers cross your store’s threshold, they should get a visual snapshot of the general layout. You don’t want them to walk into the store and be faced with towering aisle fixtures, or impassable displays. Keep tall, bulky fixtures at the back of your store. Shorter fixtures should stay in the front – let customers see the store and plan out their journey.

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