Designing your First Retail Store


Designing a store from scratch can feel daunting if you are new to it, but following these tips will make it go as smoothly as possible and help you structure your retail environment.

Designing a retail store can seem like a huge issue when you first get started. There are so many different things to consider, and it can be hard to justify your decisions. Why did you decide to put that shelving unit there? Is it going to be more appealing to customers, or did you just think it looked good in that position?

Part of the problem is that retail design is as much an art as it is a science. There are no real hard-and-fast rules, and sometimes you have to go with your gut. That being said, there are a few principles that will really help you out when it comes to designing your first retail store, and it’s worth bearing them in mind throughout the process.

Know your audience

Before you even think about your store’s design, you need to narrow down your store’s audience. This will help you determine almost everything else about it, as you will ideally be designing every aspect around what will be most appealing to your customer base.

Think about the demographics of your audience – are they young, old, male, female, etc. – as well as their ‘pain points’; in other words, what problems are they hoping to solve by shopping at your store? What expectations are they going to have? How loyal are your customers? Will they be put off by a high-end design, or reassured they’re buying quality products? Map as much of this out as you can to better inform your design decisions. If you have an online store already, make use of Google Analytics, a free tool that will tell you what kinds of people are already visiting your website.

Make your layout work for you

There is an infinite number of ways to lay out a store, but generally they all fall under certain categories. Think about how the shelving is laid out in a supermarket compared to a department store, a corner shop or a boutique? Each of these examples uses layout to create a different feeling in their customers.

For example, shelving laid out in aisles is very practical and no-nonsense, hence why supermarkets use it to make customers feel like they can buy whatever they need simply and easily. On the other hand, free-form layouts let consumers experience the joy of discovery, which can be great if you have a range of unique products.

Keep your entrance calm

Entering a store can be a big shock to the subconscious. Moving from a city street or shopping centre corridor to a retail environment is a big change, and it can cause people to feel uneasy if it’s too sudden. This is why most shops have a ‘decompression zone’ to help make this transition as easy as possible.

This space will be free from marketing and clutter, and will allow customers to ease their way in without being bombarded by offers. It is also the place where most customers will make snap judgements about your store, so make sure their view is a good one. This is why most supermarkets put their attractive fresh produce at the front, for example.

Every display has its place

You’re going to want display shelving in your store, and choosing where to put it is crucial. In general, most shops have point-of-sale displays around the tills to spur on impulse buys, and if you choose this option you’re going to want to choose shelving that grabs customer attention quickly and easily.

On the other hand, if there is a certain product you want to push strongly you might want to consider a dedicated display in the middle of the store. This will be ideally placed where customers are most likely to make the decision to purchase, so have a think about what their journey through the retail environment will be.

Written by: Benjamin Wang 

Benjamin Wang is the owner of KSF Global, the UK’s most effective retail design agency. KSF Global has worked with a wealth of retailers, brands and agencies in the UK, China and the USA since 2006 rolling out retail interiors, displays, fixtures and fittings.