Types of Retail Store Layouts

Types of retail store layouts

Choosing the right store floor plan can have a profound effect on the way customers navigate the store, interact with your merchandise and whether they decide to purchase any products. Both drawing up a retail store design from scratch and revamping an existing store layout require a basic understanding of store layout in retail management.

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Below, you will learn what a retail store layout is, what makes store layout in retail so important and the seven most common types of retail layouts. Keep reading to find out the advantages and drawbacks to the most popular kinds of retail store designs so you can increase shopper engagement and drive sales.

layout design or store design

What Is a Retail Store Layout?

Also known as a layout design or store design, a retail store layout is a term used to describe how retailers set up their merchandise, product displays and fixtures in a store. Because the way customers interact with products affects their purchase behaviors, a retail store layout involves strategically using the space available to influence the customer experience.

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The two most important components of retail store layouts used to convert browsers to buyers are:

  • Store design: The store design encompasses the intentional use of space management and floor plans, including displays, furniture, fixtures, signage and lighting. The structure of store design is highly influential in the customer experience.
  • Customer flow: The way that a customer navigates a store’s aisles is the customer flow. Understanding customer flow and the common patterns of buyer behavior associated with the way customers interact with merchandise is an essential part of retail management strategy

store layout affects product sales

Why Does the Layout of a Store Affect Product Sales?

Although there’s no right or wrong retail store design, the layout that a retail store follows should be focused on its target market, optimizing its space and showcasing its products. For example, studies have shown that people naturally tend to look to their left first, then right. This consumer behavior information can be used to design a retail floor plan in a way that subtly guides people to the right to ensure that every product gets seen.

An effective retail store layout takes shopper engagement into account and leads shoppers around the store, rather than leaving shoppers to figure out how to navigate the aisles on their own. A store’s layout can either guide the customer’s path past the most popular, highest-selling items or to a section of the store that doesn’t generate many sales, depending on which strategy will drive more profits.

Regardless of which kind of store layout best suits the store’s sales goals, designing the layout based on customer flow and customer behavior patterns can impact both the store’s success and sales of your products. Those in charge of choosing a retail floor plan layout should always consider customer traffic patterns and how they want customers to interact with products. The following section will discuss different types of store layouts, along with their pros and cons.

Top 7 Types of Store Layouts

Check out the top seven types of store layouts below along with the best displays your company can use in these designs to sell products in-store.

forced-path layout


1. Forced-Path

The forced-path layout puts customers on a pre-determined route through a retail store, guiding customers past whichever products need the most attention. Walking shoppers in a set path around the store exposes them to all of the products offered, enticing them to pick up an item they didn’t plan on purchasing. Ultimately, this layout maximizes every aisle and highlights each piece of merchandise.

On the other hand, customers who want to run quickly in and out of the store may not like a forced-path retail layout. Instead of allowing customers to target what they want, grab it quickly and dash out the doors, a forced-path layout gives them no choice but to follow the pre-determined path until they reach the product they want, then continue to the checkout before finally exiting the store.

In summary, here are a few pros of a forced-path layout:

  • Direct control over customer flow
  • Can guide customers toward popular items or under-performing products
  • Streamline foot traffic
  • Maximize every aisle
  • Promote profits by encouraging unplanned purchases

The following are the cons of a forced-path layout:

  • Can feel restrictive to customers
  • May be frustrating for customers who know exactly what they want

Some of the best product displays for forced-path stores include endcaps and temporary displays. Endcap retail displays at the end of aisles help your products stand out to customers, particularly if they have to walk past them. Temporary displays for promotions or competitions can also catch shoppers’ attention, driving them to buy your products. Allowing consumers to interact with your products can influence their purchase.

Straight store layout

2. Straight

Also referred to as the spine layout, the straight retail store layout is effective, easy to plan and generates space for customers to fully peruse the store. Essentially, one main aisle — the spine — runs down the store and connects the various sections on the rest of the floor. This store design uses space wisely by optimizing the store walls, corner spaces and shelving fixtures to show off products everywhere customers look.

A straight retail store layout is a popular floor plan because it is convenient and intuitive for shoppers to follow. With the right signage, product displays and well-placed merchandise, customers are kept interested and moving down the store’s main aisle. Because a basic straight layout helps to lure customers all the way to the back of the store, this layout guarantees that all of the store’s products get seen.

Many small markets, department stores and food stores benefit from this retail layout because it offers customers the chance to see everything in the store or go directly to an aisle if they want to cut their shopping trip short. A straight floor plan can be especially beneficial for newer, local businesses that may not have the financial means to purchase an expansive store building or create an elaborate store layout yet.

In particular, here are the pros to a straight store layout:

  • Shoppers are more likely to go all the way to the back of the store
  • There’s plenty of space for displaying merchandise
  • Customers have the space they need to look around at their leisure
  • Custom retail displays and shelving fixtures allow every possible selling point on the floor within a straight layout to be maximized
  • As a versatile floor plan, the straight layout doesn’t require the store fixture to be selected according to the floor plan

On the contrary, these are the cons of a straight store layout:

  • Customers might move down the main aisle quickly, missing the merchandise placed at the front or sides of the store
  • It might not be as conducive to exploring aisles and discovering new products as some other retail layout options

Endcap displays are ideal for this layout as well. They help customers see your products straight away as they walk in. You can also use display bins and corrugated displays effectively in a spine layout. Both displays are versatile, adding variety to the displays in a store and drawing consumers to your products.

These displays are also subtle hints to customers about other products in an aisle and can help with cross-selling opportunities.

angular store layout

3. Angular

An angular retail store layout is easier to picture when described as a curved store layout. Despite having “angular” in its name, an angular retail store design uses curved and winding product displays and store fixtures that direct the customer flow to several different displays. The freestanding product displays used in this retail layout cultivate a perception of higher-quality merchandise, making this layout ideal for luxury stores.

Luxury stores and boutiques may also benefit from the way an angular store layout encourages customers to “buy now.” Without seeing rows and rows of stock, customers receive the subliminal message that in-demand items are in short supply, pushing them toward making a purchase they may not have planned on.

However, the angular floor plan has to sacrifice space efficiency to achieve this high-end, exclusive look. Any excess stock must be kept away from the sales floor in a back room or another storage area since you can’t display many products at one time in an angular layout. Smaller boutiques might not have enough space to use an angular layout and house their merchandise stock.

In short, the angular retail layout provides these pros:

  • Crafts a unique retail store design
  • Elevates the customers’ in-store experience
  • Promotes the exclusive feel of luxury items

On the other hand, an angular layout comes with these cons:

  • Less room to display products
  • Rounded display style takes away wall shelf space

Products in freestanding displays do well in these store layouts. Freestanding floor displays create a perception that products are high value. Custom retail floor displays tastefully showcase your products and can be used to provide additional information on your brand or product.

geometric store layout

4. Geometric

The geometric retail store design is perfect for fusing functionality with creativity. As its name implies, the geometric store layout incorporates a variety of merchandise displays of all shapes and sizes, including squares, rectangles, ovals and more. Stores that already have a unique interior due to wall angles, support columns or ceiling design can embrace and enhance this pre-existing aesthetic by using a geometric layout.

A geometric layout can help brands build their identity and awareness. Specifically, combining an array of geometric product displays and fixtures of various shapes and sizes can make a bold statement about a brand’s identity. Selecting certain artwork, music and even scents to use with a geometric layout can complete the store’s atmosphere and heighten the overall customer experience.

Here are all the pros of following a geometric floor plan:

  • Produces a unique store design without costing as much as many other retail layouts
  • Helps to make a statement about the merchandise
  • Adds to the brand identity
  • Can be used to direct the customer flow toward a certain product

Here are the cons to consider about a geometric floor plan:

  • Can be too eccentric for the older demographics of customers
  • Not always the best option for maximizing a store’s space for displaying merchandise

Using shapes and angles in geometric stores allows your brand to use various custom merchandise displays. Custom floor displays that fit the store’s geometric shelving are a smart choice. You can use cardboard sidekick displays and power wing displays to have your products in key areas. Consider a variety of displays in different shapes and sizes for stores with geometric layouts. This way, your products will fit in with the overall creativity of the store while still being eye-catching.

5. Grid

The grid layout is the traditional retail store floor plan that everyone is most familiar with. Almost every grocery store, pharmacy and convenience store uses a grid layout. In most cases, a grid layout design has several long aisles. The store will also usually place impulse-buy items at the front of the store and other items near the back. In this way, a grid layout walks customers by impulse-buy items on their way to and from the products they really need.

A grid layout can be helpful for directing customer flow because customers are already highly accustomed to following the grid layout. The natural barriers that the grid layout creates with its rows of aisles both facilitates customer flow and helps to group similar products together. Grouping similar products and separating different products helps customers find the items they’re looking for quickly and avoid confusion.

The grid store layout also works to maximize product display while minimizing white space. In a grid retail store design, the end of an aisle is one of the best places to display your products. You can also use wing shelves and other features to make your merchandise stand out within a grid layout. These features encourage customers to pick up more products as they weave their way up and down the aisles.

While large retail stores benefit from a grid layout, smaller stores should be careful about whether they have enough space to follow a grid layout. When a store lacks the space to accommodate a grid layout, customers can end up feeling cramped in the narrow aisles or overwhelmed by the amount of merchandise packed tightly into one space.

Specifically, here are the pros that come with a grid store layout:

  • It’s great for displaying large numbers of various types of products
  • More customers can find your products because the grid design prompts them to browse multiple aisles
  • It’s a familiar layout for shoppers, making it easy to navigate
  • The predictable traffic flow pattern makes it easy to place promotional items where customers will pass them
  • It allows for a wide variety of store infrastructure, such as shelving, fixtures and more

On the flip side, here are a few cons that come with a grid store layout:

  • It doesn’t cultivate a unique customer experience because the layout is common
  • It may be a frustrating layout for customers who want to make a shortcut to the products they know they need
  • Can be confusing for customers if the product groupings do not make sense
  • Lots of merchandise lined up with few visual breaks can be overwhelming for some customers
  • Customers could bump into each other if the aisles are not wide enough

As the most common store layouts, there are several displays you can use to promote your products. Nearly every type of product display can work in these stores, from the versatile endcap display to pallet displays. You can use endcap displays to launch products effectively. Consumers are bound to pass by the end of the aisle, so use several endcap displays to your benefit. Inline displays can highlight your products on the shelf. If a store is large enough, pallet displays ensure your product is unmissable while shoppers browse.

6. Loop

The loop retail store layout, also known as the racetrack layout, creates a deliberately closed-loop path that guides customers around the store and all the way around to the checkout. In between the store’s entrance and the checkout, the loop walks customers past every piece of merchandise the store has to offer.

Most loop store designs feature a main aisle or corridor that directs customers through the store in a circular path. The looped path provides well-defined parameters that take customers on a well-marked journey through the store. In this way, the loop layout easily controls the flow of traffic and guarantees that each customer gets exposed to the most products possible.

Although a loop store layout can be aggravating for customers who only need a few specific items, a well-executed loop layout can tell your brand’s story in a way that disarms even the most hurried of customers. As long as the main loop aisle doesn’t feel overly crowded, the loop layout is a great store design for building a memorable customer experience and can help sell more of your products.

Check out these top pros of a loop layout:

  • Predictable traffic pattern allows promotional items to be placed where they will definitely get seen
  • There’s maximum product exposure for all customers
  • Stores can be experimental with the journey the loop takes customers on similar to the way a museum exhibit walks visitors through a story
  • Encourages customers to spend more time browsing items and interacting with product displays

These are the cons of a loop layout:

    • Customers do not get to decide which products they go to and from because they are set on a clearly defined loop
    • It may be a frustrating layout for customers who know what they’re looking for and want to keep their shopping trip short
    • It does not promote high traffic turnover for stores that want people to get in and out more quickly

Promotions can be successful in loop layouts. Shoppers have to follow a certain path, so having a temporary display where they can try out your products works well. People are guaranteed to walk past and you can grab their attention. Promotions and freestanding displays work well in loop layouts. Custom freestanding displays are also ideal as they can be placed in the consumer’s line of site. Meanwhile, power wing and sidekick displays can break the monotony of shelves and tempt shoppers to your products.

7. Free-Flow

Also known as the free-form layout, the free-flow layout follows its own floor plan philosophy. A free-flow store design doesn’t attempt to control the flow of customer traffic at all. Instead, the lax layout encourages customers to wander around free of following any pre-determined traffic patterns.

The success of a free-flow retail store design relies on taking human behavior into account. A well-designed free-flow store layout can promote more browsing and impulse purchases by strategically using signage, window displays, merchandise placement and customer traffic paths.

The lack of a defined pattern that comes with choosing a free-flow layout can actually make this type of retail store layout the most complex model. It can be easy to make poor design choices within the free-flow framework, such as setting the shelves too close together, putting the checkout area in the wrong section of the store or neglecting to create enough visual breaks.

Despite these potential floor plan design mistakes, a free-flow layout can be well-suited for a creatively focused store or an upscale brand that wants to prioritize the customer experience. The free-flow layout provides enough floor plan design freedom for a store to create a retail experience unlike any other. This unique layout has the potential to attract and retain customers by offering an experience no other store can.

The pros of picking a free-flow retail layout include:

  • Is a great floor plan for small spaces because it is versatile and flexible
  • Leaves more room between products for customers to roam more freely
  • Creates extra space to lower the likelihood of customers bumping into one another
  • Is an excellent for helping higher-end shops with less merchandise to craft a brand identity
  • When compared to other styles of store layouts, free-flow is the most likely to produce an experiential retail space
  • Works well when incorporated into smaller sections of spine and loop layouts

The following are the cons of choosing a free-flow retail layout:

  • Often comes with less space for displaying products
  • Can be easy to forget the best practices for retail store layout and create a floor plan that actually turns people away from the store
  • Some free-flow retail layouts can be confusing for customers to follow

In free-flow stores, displays need to be well-planned and placed. Consumers are free to walk around how they wish, so think of your displays as speed bumps. You want to slow them down and have them look at your products. Use custom displays of all kinds to catch shoppers’ eyes. Floor displays are simple and effective ways to catch people’s attention. Use retail counter displays to spur shoppers to make impulse purchases while they are paying. Counter displays have the added benefit of ensuring your consumer see your products while browsing.

customize your retail store layout with Creative Displays Now

Customize Your Retail Store Layout With Creative Displays Now

Now that you know the different types of retail layouts available to choose from, it’s time to start thinking about your merchandising strategy, including floor plan details like shelving and custom displays to help drive sales for your business.

With Creative Displays Now, you can bring retail store layouts to life with custom floor displays, custom endcap displays and more. No matter which retail store floor plan you choose, Creative Displays Now can provide the custom retail product displays you need to make it pop.

The high-quality, attention-grabbing merchandise displays crafted by Creative Displays Now effectively promote products and attract customers. As a one-stop custom display company, Creative Displays Now is the perfect partner for transforming a retail space with premium product displays and specialty packaging.

At Creative Displays Now, we have over 60 years of experience designing, printing and manufacturing corrugated displays. Whether you’re a small start-up or a large retailer, we can tailor our services to meet your marketing needs. Creative Displays Now can design the custom displays you need to produce an appealing and profitable retail floor plan regardless of store size and which retail store layout is best for you.

Find out how to bring your marketing visions to life and improve customer experience by contacting Creative Displays Now for an estimate today!


*Post was last updated on December 12, 2022 at 9:00AM EST*

Posted in Display and Packaging Design, In-Store Display Tactics

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