Store design is the architectural character or decorative style of a retail store that conveys to the customer “what the store is all about.” Retail stores vary so much in kind, size, and geographical location that it is difficult to generalize about design. The architecture of the store’s exterior creates an initial impression. For example, if a retailer chooses to remodel an older Victorian home, the customer will get a different impression from that of a store in the mall.
Because of continued pressure on costs, newer designs reflect a closer attention to all details including store size. The drive to reduce inventory levels has forced a move to smaller stores, because a large store with less merchandise looks as though it is going out of business. The stores showing an increase in store size are those attempting to diversify and broaden merchandise lines. Higher rents, higher building costs, and the move localized stores because of the customer’s desire for convenience hurt larger, stand alone and regional mall stores.
General Requirements in Retail Store Design
The first step of retail store design is the development of a comprehensive plan for the overall requirements of the store. On the basis of market potential (the sales estimate and dollars received per square foot of selling area), plans can be made to meet the need for storage and selling space. The plan must specify the ways to achieve the best traffic circulation possible throughout the store and the types and sizes of fixtures necessary to display the merchandise in an appealing manner. A careful study of these factors helps make stores attractive, conducive to shopping, and as operationally efficient as possible. Comprehensive planning requires developing a customer-bases holistic focus for the design and layout of the store and for the desired store image. Only after this customer focus is defined should a comprehensive plan be developed for both the exterior and interior of the store that matches the desired store image.
1. Customer Focus
The focus of a retail store design should always be the customer. If the store design and layout are appealing the customer will from an image that is also appealing. It is easy to get into the technical aspects of store design and forget that the retailer’s reason for existence is the customer. The design should be focused on forming and maintaining an image, while at the same time making the layout as accessible as possible for shoppers. Research should determine the needs, habits, and buying potential of the shoppers in the area and the need for store service and overall general customer comfort. Management must then determine the overall image that would best differentiate the store and attract the target market.
2. Store Image
A comprehensive plan would include a process for community obtaining customer feedback regarding improvements and for continuously updating the design to reflect changing customer needs wants. A store design serves two, often opposing, functions. First, and foremost, the design serves the functional purposes of protecting, enclosing, and displaying merchandise, while at the same time serving as a central location where customers can find the merchandise that they seek during convenient times. The second purpose relates to the symbolic needs of the customer. This includes the social aspects of shopping or owning a particular good from a particular store. The symbolic aspects of the store are anything that contributes to the overall store image. This may include environmental aspects, such as store atmosphere, or physical aspects, such as brand name products. When customers enter a store, they want the displays and departments to tell them what the store is all about. The image the store is attempting to project should be immediately obvious to potential customers. If the store wants price as the predominant image, departments emphasizing this aspect should be placed near the entrance. Managers should give the best space to the departments that say to the customer, “This is what I am”.
3. Holistic Approach
A retail store design should match the store’s character. This means that consideration should be given to the type of store image the merchant hopes to project. It includes exterior design and interior arrangements for selling and non selling activities. In addition, the design should match with that of other stores around it; it should also enhance the salability of the merchandise within the store and be in good taste. The store design should have a single theme or image throughout. Attempts to create several images often greater competition. This is because the retailer is no longer competing against stores within a single image category, but instead with stores in several categories.
4. Technology and Planning
Store designs are becoming more complex as new formats evolve. For this and efficiency reasons, it is becoming more common to rely on technology to assist in developing a store layout design. Computer Aided Design (CAD) helps to plan stores that more space-efficient. Planning can be done quickly and changes are easy to make. In the store itself, new combinations of interactive and multimedia technologies will change the way retailers design for direct customer contact and information assistance. For example, a self-service concept store may be developed where kiosks replace sales associates, providing product information and updates on availability of merchandise. Retailers will likewise be exploring creative linkages between participation in electronic home shopping channels and in-store selling. Through the use of interactive technologies, consumers will be able to view merchandise choices at home, make product selections, and conclude the purchase transaction. They will be able to choose whether to wait and receive their purchases through transportation carriers or to proceed directly to the retailer’s store or depot where the merchandise will be ready for pickup.
Credit: Retail Management-AU