Our Top 8 Design Tips for Retail Spaces

Researching ways to design the perfect retail space for your Portland business? Not sure where to start? When building out a retail location, make sure to reflect your brand’s values while emphasizing your goal: selling merchandise!

But how do you actually design a space that works? In this post, we’ll outline some tips on how to create a beautiful and functional space for your retail business.

Make a great first impression

The area customers first see when they enter your store is known as the decompression zone. It’s a crucial aspect of their in-store experience and your sales process.

As customers enter your store, they’ll be taking note of what’s around them. They’ll consider how expensive your store feels, the products you sell, and your brand’s aesthetic.

Some things to consider when designing your store’s decompression zone:

  • While it may seem counterintuitive, don’t put crucial signage here. As customers leave the outside world and enter your store they’ll still be adjusting. They may not notice any important messages.
  • For the same reason, this is not the place to display key merchandise. While you are always going to want to highlight your product, there are better places to do so (more on this later).
  • Flooring and lighting should contrast with the outside world. Make use of some smaller merchandise and baskets or carts (if your store has them). Accent pieces and other brand indicators can be placed here as well.
  • 90% of customers instinctively move to the right when entering a store. Make sure your decompression zone leads customers to the right in a natural way.


Make sure your store flows well

Establishing a clear path, for both the flow of traffic and customer attention, is crucial for purposeful retail store design. When customers know where to go, they’ll feel more comfortable and less confused.

Since most customers move to the right when they enter a store, consider starting your path there. For larger spaces, a common layout is one encouraging a circular path throughout the store. Customers can see everything and you’ll have ample opportunity to display products.

Create breaks with visual speed bumps

Once you’ve designed a layout that establishes a flow, consider ways to leverage the space. Highlight merchandise or messaging you want customers to digest. Studies show customers skip over 20% of merchandise due to “long uninterrupted aisles.”

A break within the more monotonous sections of your store is like a visual “speed bump.” This draws the shopper’s attention to merchandise you want to highlight. This is usually easy in grocery environments with the use of end caps. Other retailers may include displays that:

  • Are built around a central concept, such as a brand or utility
  • Display deep information about a product or brand
  • Include an interactive element such as an iPad to engage a shopper

Throughout all of these displays, make sure there is a focal point – generally the product or merchandise you want to highlight. The the human eye likes something to focus on and this strengthens the effectiveness of the display.


Make sure checkout is in a natural space

Once a customer has made a purchasing decision, you want to create the least amount of friction possible. Make sure your checkout is in a spot that naturally makes sense to reduce this friction.

For stores taking a circular approach to layout, the front left may make sense. For smaller stores with limited staff, the checkout counter should be placed where employees can see the entire store.

Your checkout counter design should:

  • Leverage the wall behind the counter for visually pleasing displays
  • Encourage impulse purchases with products near the counter
  • Make sure the counter is big enough for the customer to place both their purchased product and any personal items they have
  • Ensure there is a suitable place for customers waiting in a queue


Build a retail space that’s built to sell

At BnK Construction, we build retail environments customers love. The BnK team has over 75 years of combined experience building well thought-out spaces that lead to a positive experience for the customer – and more sales!

Learn more about our retail construction experience and what we can do for your business today!


Create a comforting environment

The best way to make your customers comfortable, and therefore more likely to buy your wonderful products? Give them space.

Retail anthropologist Paco Underhill developed the theory of the butt-brush effect. His research indicates customers are less likely to go down an aisle or navigate to an area of the store where they’ll brush up against another customer. He found that even if a customer was deeply interested in a product, they’d avoid the area.

Make sure displays aren’t placed too closely together and there’s always plenty of space in your store.


Integrate mirrors

Even if you have a small space, creating the illusion of more space can comfort customers. Properly placed mirrors can be extremely effective in doing this. When placed just right, such as facing the outdoors at an upward angle, you can create an illusion of space where previously just a blank wall stood.

You can even install storage space behind the mirrors to reduce clutter!


Dial in lighting

Lighting is an oft-forgotten aspect of retail design. Great lighting can completely change the feel of your retail space. Even the fixtures themselves can be the perfect accent piece to bring your whole room together.

Proper lighting straddles the line between accentuating focal points of the space, including where merchandise will be, while still being soft enough to ensure a comfortable experience for the customer.

Your lighting lighting should:

  • Make use of large or strategically placed windows for natural light
  • Use spotlights and track lights to accentuate different parts of your space
  • Feature unique fixtures or edison lighting to add a unique accent
  • Include a lighting dimmer to balance the light based on the time of the day


Keep things simple

Sometimes business owners go overboard when creating a unique space for their retail businesses. Overdoing it, either through flashy decorations or with too many displays, could cause confusion or create stress for the customer.

Focus on doing the small things right. That means making sure the construction and design of your space is impeccable.


Ready for the perfect space for your business?

BnK Construction helps business owners create spaces that accentuate brands and are as beautiful as they are functional.

If you have any questions about how we can help you build the space of your dreams, or about what design elements you’d like to institute into your retail space, contact us online or call (503) 557-0866.

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