Store Design Meaning, Objectives, Principles

15/11/2021 0 By indiafreenotes

Beyond just creating a good-looking store with aesthetically pleasing displays, retail store design is a well-thought-out strategy to set up a store in a certain way to optimize space and sales. The way a store is set up can help establish brand identity as well as serve a practical purpose, such as protecting against shoplifting.

Retail design is a creative and commercial discipline that combines several different areas of expertise together in the design and construction of retail space. Retail design is primarily a specialized practice of architecture and interior design, however it also incorporates elements of industrial design, graphic design, ergonomics, and advertising.

Retail design is a very specialized discipline due to the heavy demands placed on retail space. Because the primary purpose of retail space is to stock and sell product to consumers, the spaces must be designed in a way that promotes an enjoyable and hassle-free shopping experience for the consumer. For example, research shows that male and female shoppers who were accidentally touched from behind by other shoppers left a store earlier than people who had not been touched and evaluated brands more negatively. The space must be specially-tailored to the kind of product being sold in that space; for example, a bookstore requires many large shelving units to accommodate small products that can be arranged categorically while a clothing store requires more open space to fully display product.

Retail spaces, especially when they form part of a retail chain, must also be designed to draw people into the space to shop. The storefront must act as a billboard for the store, often employing large display windows that allow shoppers to see into the space and the product inside. In the case of a retail chain, the individual spaces must be unified in their design.


A retail designer must create a thematic experience for the consumer, by using spatial cues to entertain as well as entice the consumer to purchase goods and interact with the space. The success of their designs are not measured by design critics but rather the records of the store which compare amount of foot traffic against the overall productivity. Retail designers have an acute awareness that the store and their designs are the background to the merchandise and are only there to represent and create the best possible environment in which to reflect the merchandise to the target consumer group.

There are six basic store layouts and circulation plans that all provide a different experience:

  • Pathway plan: Is most suitable for large stores that are single level. In this plan there is a path that is unobstructed by shop fixtures, this smoothly guides the consumer through to the back of the store. This is well suited for apparel department stores, as the clothes will be easily accessible.
  • Straight plan: This plan divides transitional areas from one part of the store to the other by using walls to display merchandise. It also leads the consumer to the back of the store. This design can be used for a variety of stores ranging from pharmacies to apparel.
  • Diagonal plan: Uses perimeter design which cause angular traffic flow. The cashier is in a central location and easily accessible. This plan is most suited for self-service retail.
  • Varied plan: In this plan attention is drawn to special focus areas, as well as having storage areas that line the wall. This is best suited for footwear and jewellery retail stores.
  • Curved plan: Aims to create an intimate environment that is inviting. In this plan there is an emphasis on the structure of the space including the walls, corners and ceiling this is achieved by making the structure curved and is enhance by circular floor fixtures. Although this is a more expensive layout it is more suited to smaller spaces like salons and boutiques.
  • Geometric plan: Uses the racks and the retail floor fixtures to create a geometric floor plan and circulation movement. By lowering parts of the ceiling certain areas can create defined retail spaces. This is well suited for apparel stores.


Customer Experience

Ann walked into the new grocery store that had just opened around the block. Everything looked nice and clean. Her eyes immediately turned towards the sale items displayed prominently at the stores entrance. Here she was excited to find her favourite salt crackers and a box of blueberries.

She then ran to find her favourite drink and there it was in the aisle labelled ‘Juices and Drinks’. She walked around every aisle looking for things she would commonly buy pasta, cookies, mayonnaise and she found them all. The aisles were correctly labelled and easy to navigate.

She found a display with jellies that could taste and pick the one she liked. She went through her shopping list in a much shorter time compared to the time she would otherwise take grocery shopping, and she learned about many new products.

Increased sales per visit

Greg planned to increase sales by strategically placing attractive items at the door to lure the customer in. Other items inside entice them to walk through areas and make more purchases.

For example, a display of organic blueberries on sale can lead them towards the produce section where they’ll find other items not on their shopping list.

Or he could strategically place preferred products next to sale items so that someone browsing through the sales rack would be tempted to purchase another appealing product.

Cost control

Cost control is the process of identifying business costs and reducing expenses. Design should keep future costs down.

Greg’s layout should allow for reorganizing the aisles and displays (say for holiday themes) without too much effort that can increase labor costs. Some other ideas to consider are:

  • Automating tasks for payroll, invoicing and shipping.
  • Using energy efficient light bulbs and motion detector lights to save on energy.
  • Installing technology to reduce freezer glass condensation and other utility costs.
  • Using surveillance systems to discourage theft and shop lifting.


Invite Customer Participation

Good visual communication invites customers to participate actively in their shopping experience for example, by ensuring that staff members are available and clearly visible as such, and providing the opportunity for the customer to have different types of experiences within the store. With the massive shift that online shopping has brought, this part of the store design process is also about offering experiences that the customer can’t get online, whether it’s one-on-one help and advice from staff, or the opportunity to try products out before purchasing.

Offer a Sequential Experience

Successful stores deliberately plan the customer experience, both figuratively and literally. Literally, it’s about planning the store’s layout for the optimal customer experience; figuratively, it’s more about the chronological path a customer takes to get there awareness through advertising that encourages them to stop by (whether print, online or a store-front window), the visit to the store itself, exploring the store and browsing products, and finally, making a purchase.

Define your Space

First things first, defining your space is all about your brand and image, how it gets people into your store, and what they do once they’re there. This is the big picture what are you selling, and who are you selling to? There needs to be a consistency of style and function in your store that reflect all of these different factors, to tie the whole shopping experience together.

A good example of this is Starbucks, a brand that has built its empire by focusing not so much on coffee, but on the experience of drinking it, by providing customers with cosy, comfortable chairs and free wifi, to encourage them to linger for long periods of time, and potentially make multiple purchases in a single visit.

Provide Visual Communication

Visual information includes signage, branding, and other written and graphical information that communicates essential information to customers. It should be clearly legible, and provide only important information that will actually enhance the customer’s experience, and ideally, each element should conform with the store’s visual branding design.

This is a good place to take inspiration from the world of exhibition design, where the focus is on providing information quickly and succinctly, to people whose attention is typically divided between multiple different brands at once. Visual communication needs to be immediately recognizable, and provide information that can be interpreted and used quickly.

Organizing the Space

When a customer shops online, they have an entire store at their fingertips, with the ability to look at multiple different types of products at essentially the same time. This isn’t the case for the in-store shopping experience, so it’s important that the space is well-organized, and as intuitive and easy to use, as possible. A customer who enters a store should have a clear path to follow, with different categories of products clearly sign-posted, logical and clear product groupings, and a means of quickly finding help if they need it. A well-organized store is one that makes customers feel safe and comfortable, and is structured so that they can get what they need without wasting time.