Visual Merchandising is not only about making everything pretty. It is also about the nuts and bolts of how a store functions and optimising that for the best possible customer experience. A fundamental part of the VM process is to create a good store layout.
Using a combination of wall and freestanding display fixtures is ideal, but remember to check whether wheelchair users and customers with buggies can easily pass along aisles or around corners of fixtures. It will induce fury if they can’t! Space is at a premium, particularly for indie-shops, but failure to enable access for these customers can be damaging to business. Despite my best efforts to support my local high street, even I have on occasion given up when shopping with a buggy becomes too frustrating. An awkward layout is a surefire way to send customers straight to the supermarket or internet. As Mums are generally frequent, regular shoppers, they are among some of the biggest spenders, so make their shopping experience as easy as possible to encourage them to return again and again. Even when the layout is optimal, boxes of stock waiting to be displayed can cause a real problem, both in terms of physical space they occupy and also the visual mess. To make the process smoother and less disruptive to customers using the store, when you receive a big delivery consider bringing in an extra pair of hands for a half or full day, to get those boxes out of the way and out of sight as quickly as possible. Communicate with your neighbouring shops- perhaps there is a freelance that could be booked to help out for a few hours in each store on the same day, to keep it cost effective?
Placement of the till or service desk is an interesting conundrum. All stores are different, and people traffic will flow in different ways according to every unique layout, so there is no one perfect place. But here are a few pointers….
Bear in mind that when positioned against the front window, although it might seem space saving, all those ugly tech cables, bags and any other under-counter clutter are on display - right in the main free advertising platform! If this is really the only position the service counter can be, think about how you might make a virtue of its awkward placement. Can the staff wear uniforms with eye-catching logos or messages on their backs? Would making a kind of theatre of the service suit the brand, by making the staff part of the show? Can the counter be made to look truly attractive, and perhaps part of the window display? Think outside the box.... Otherwise, try a different arrangement, and keep it for a good few weeks to evaluate how successful it is. Change is good! As long as customers are not inconvenienced by the store being in flux, changes will make it seem like something is happening, and create a buzz, a talking point... which is always the end goal.
Before you start rearranging things, plan it out on paper. It doesn't have to be a brilliant drawing by any means, but if you want to be sure about fitting in everything with a different configuration, investing in a scale ruler and a set square won't cost much and is a very easy way to get an accurate picture.
What layout changes could you make to improve your store this week? Share your before and after snaps on twitter and tag @zoehewettdesign or @zoehewettinteriors on Instagram.
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