Store Layout Meaning, Types; Grid, Racetrack, Free Form

15/11/2021 0 By indiafreenotes

A retail store layout (whether physical or digital) is the strategic use of space to influence the customer experience. How customers interact with your merchandise affects their purchase behavior. This retail principle is one of the many from Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy.

The interior retail store layout has two important components:

  • Store Design: The use of strategic floor plans and space management, including furniture, displays, fixtures, lighting, and signage. Website designers and user experience (UX) researchers use space management techniques and web design principles to optimize e-commerce websites. We’ll further discuss a variety of popular retail floor plans later in this article.
  • Customer Flow: This is the pattern of behavior and way that a customer navigates through a store. Understanding customer flow and the common patterns that emerge when customers interact with merchandise based on the store layout is critical to retail management strategy. Physical retailers are able to track this using analytics software and data from in-store video and the wifi signal from smartphones. For example, solution providers like RetailNext provide shopper analytics software for retailers to understand flow and optimize the customer experience based on in-store video recordings. The technology also exists to track the digital customer flow and online shopping behavior. Using “cookies” and other software, online retailers can track customer behavior, including how customers interact with their website.

While the exterior retail store layout includes exterior store design and customer flow, it also includes the following factors:

  • Size of the building and length of the walkways accessible from the entrance and exit.
  • Geographic location of the retail store. (Real estate)
  • Use of furniture and exterior space for people to gather and interact.
  • Style of architecture of the retail building.
  • Color of paint and choice of exterior building materials.
  • Design of the physical entrance and exterior window displays.


Decide on a Retail Store Floor Plan

Large or small, most retail stores use one of six basic types of retail store layouts: grid, loop, free-flow, diagonal, forced-path, and angular. The type of layout you use depends on your space, the shopping experience you are trying to create, and the products you sell.

For example, grocery stores usually use grid layouts because they are predictable and efficient to navigate. On the other hand, boutiques typically use more creative layouts that allow businesses to highlight different products.

Put Your Retail Store Layout Down on Paper

Once you have considered all the floor layout options at your disposal, it is time to start taking steps toward arranging one in your space. To begin implementing a store layout, it is best first to put your layout down on paper. This will give you a bird’s-eye view of your store once everything is in place, help you understand your space, and guide your installation process.

Consider Traffic Flow and Customer Behaviors

One of the biggest things that your store layout will impact is customer flow. Your store layout should work with the natural ways that shoppers flow through your space to avoid creating discomfort and evoke a positive customer experience. A layout that works with your customers’ natural shopping habits will help you create a layout that is both comfortable and natural, as well as one that drives your sales.

Position Your Store Checkout Area

A cash wrap, also known as a cash well or checkout counter, is the area that houses your POS system or cash register and where customers pay for their merchandise. In general, the front left of a retail store is a good location for the checkout counter. Shoppers naturally drift to the right when they enter a store, loop around, and then leave on the left side. A checkout counter at the front left of your store puts the last step of the shopping experience on your customers’ natural exit path. Plus, this placement doesn’t distract people from shopping or take up prime product display space.

Position Products for Maximum Exposure

Once you have sketched out your floor plan, it is time to begin product mapping. When placing your products, you should be sure you are doing so in a way that promotes customer engagement, creates a positive experience, and drives your sales.

  • Choose fixtures that are versatile and can display a range of products: Your business’s merchandise is constantly changing, and you want to be sure you don’t have to constantly buy new fixtures to display them.
  • Carve out a section for displaying sale merchandise: You want to be sure you have a designated area for sale merchandise. I recommend placing your sale section toward the back of the store and keeping it relatively small to draw people through your space and avoid taking attention from full-priced displays.
  • Create a space for seasonal and limited availability products: You want to highlight new, limited, or seasonal items so be sure you have a good space for these products that will draw the eye and promote engagement.


Grid Layout

The grid layout is the most common store layout you’re going to find in retail. Used in supermarkets, drug stores, and many big box retail stores, it’s used when stores carry a lot of products (particularly different kinds of products), or when a retail location needs to maximize space.


  • It’s easy to categorize products.
  • Shoppers are used to the grid layout style and shop it easily.


  • It’s boring, and it’s difficult to use this layout to create a “shopping experience” for the customer.
  • Customers often can’t take shortcuts to what they need.
  • Line of sight is limited, forcing a customer to look up and down aisles.
  • Visual “breaks” are needed to keep shoppers engaged.


  • Well-placed promotions. Eye level and a little to the left, in fact. If you’re walking through a grid format store counterclockwise, you’re going to notice that which is a little ahead of you. On a turn, that means the promotion will be at eye level and a little off to your left, where you’re looking as you walk. Things don’t get noticed in corners.
  • Power walls. Because you can leverage your wall space so well in a grid format store, you can take advantage of this to build power walls. Power walls allow you to display merchandise to draw shoppers into an area they might otherwise skip over in normal traffic patterns. Retailers use repetition by putting a lot of a particular product on the wall, perhaps in different colors or sizes.
  • End caps and visual displays. Aisle fixtures have to end, and usually the ends of those aisles are prime real estate to put up a product display. We’ll learn more about these in the next section, but suffice it to say, you have more opportunities to leverage the ends of those aisles with displays and signage in this format than any other.


If you’re selling a product that people want to browse, touch and look at, then the racetrack, or loop, layout is one to consider. Customers follow a prescribed path through the merchandise and experience it the way the retailer wants it to be seen.


  • Retailers can provide a great “shopping experience” using this layout.
  • Promotions are easier to execute, because the layout really controls what the shopper sees.
  • Encourages browsing.


  • Customers who want to run in and pick up something quickly are often discouraged when faced with this layout.
  • Not a good layout for a high-turnover store, like a pharmacy or a convenience store.

In this kind of layout, the retailer doesn’t really need to influence traffic flow, because traffic can really only move one way. This is what makes the layout so perfect for executing promotions. The retailer knows where the shopper is going to look next, and promotions are arranged accordingly eye level and a little to the right.

Free Form

This layout can be anything the retailer wants it to be, in any shape or place. Customer behavior is the only consistent aspect of this kind of layout: we know they will enter and turn right; we know that they won’t want to go up or down a floor and that they won’t shop in to narrow an aisle.


  • Ideal for a store offering smaller amounts of merchandise.
  • Easy to create a shopping experience in this layout.


  • Less space to display product.
  • Easier to confuse the customer.

Traffic flow can easily be disrupted if there isn’t some logic to how items are displayed in the store, and if that logic doesn’t exist, it’ll create shopper confusion. Confused shoppers exit the store nearly immediately and usually without purchasing anything.