Retail Store Environment

Environment is something that stands for an atmosphere which is external to the retail organisation. Retail store is a subsystem of a supra-system namely, environment because retail units cannot exist in vacuum. In selecting and developing a retail store environment, the retailer must consider its physical and psychological impacts on customer attraction, employee moral and store’s operations. Store’s operations and consumer shopping are both enhanced by a well planned and creatively designed setting. It is a mad, mad-world where ad, ad plays very important role. To appeal to the fashion conscious, hedonistic and up-scaled shopper, the store must create a theatrical environment enhanced by  colorful  displays and high-tech lighting and audio presentations. A retail store’s physical environment is a complex of the tangible elements of form reflected in the way land, building, equipment and fixtures are assembled for the convenience and comfort of both customers and the retailer. Equally significant is the retail store’s psychological environment  – the perceived atmosphere the retailer creates; psychological environment is the mental image of the store produced in consumers minds. A store’s effectiveness, absoluteness and uniqueness be in the retailer’s ability to plan well, create consciously and control carefully both the store’s physical and psychological setting. The psychological impression, a store makes on consumers depend on the stores image and the buying atmosphere. In effect, the retailers have to produce best theatrical atmosphere of all the aspects of theatrical approach. One aspect is very very special and that is escapism. Many shoppers, retail store can magnate them as they provide quick escape. Therefore, the store image and buying atmosphere are of top importance.

Create Store’s Image

One of the major concerns of a successful retailer is creating the store image. It represents to the consumer a composite picture of the retailer where he can use image the most powerful tool in attracting and satisfying the class of customers. However, creating an image is not a child’s play. An image is the mental picture that forms in the mental frame of human mind as a result of good many divergent stimuli. These stimuli include the retailer’s physical facilities, the store’s location, product-lines, service offering, pricing policies and promotional activities. A store’s image is its personality. It represents the consumer’s feelings and outlook about the store. Therefore, it is very important that retailer knows and plans what they want the consumer to see and feel. A retailer has a wide variety of store images of which he can choose to his advantage to guarantee a successful business operations. The possible alternatives are-prestigious or economical; contemporary or traditional; swinging or subdued; family or singles; formal or informal; friendly or reserved and restful or active.

In building the image of a store, the exterior and interior dimensions are of paramount importance. Externally, the position of the store on tile site, its architectural design, its store front and the placement of signs, entrances and display windows all contribute to the store’s image. Internally, a store’s image can be created, impart, if not whole, by the layout of the departments and traffic isles, the use of store displays and the selection of store fixtures and equipment. It is foolish and futile to imagine that standard combinations of external and internal store factors can produce a given image. It is so because a unique image is highly creative activity.

While designing the image creating factors or features of the store’s physical facilities, the retailer is to have the kind of customer’s class, he is going to serve for neither the retailer nor the store can be all the things to all the people. It is equally true, neither a single image be created that will appeal to all the consumers. To be very succinct and precise, the store’s facilities should be tailored to the psychological and physical needs of a selected or target consumer group. The physical facilities of a retail store can be an important vehicle for non-verbal communication. The importance  of communicating the right impression assumes that store’s personality helps  in “positioning” one retail unit against another thereby facilitating the store’s  selection process for consumers.

Create Buying Atmosphere

A retailer is expected to establish the consumer a frame of mind that promotes a buying spirit to create an atmosphere conducive to buying. Even the economy class consumer wants something more than a shopping atmosphere with only the bare minimum essentials.  Today’s  shoppers are drawn to safe, attractive and comfortable shopping environments irrespective of their major shopping motives. Therefore, the store’s atmosphere should be an agreeable environment both for the consumer and the retailer. Experts have given some congenial yet stimulating atmospheres that have features like – quiet and push for the prestige shopper, safe but engaging for the elderly shopper, friendly and loved for the young shopper, clean and cheerful for the family shopper, formal and pleasant for the professional shopper. It pays to influence the consumer’s mood by creating on atmosphere that will positively influence their buying  behavior.   It must be noted that an appealing buying atmosphere uses cues that appeal to the consumer’s five senses. Sensory cues can be strongly  buttressed  if they are structured around shopping themes that unify and  organize  the store’s atmosphere. It will not be out of place  to touch these sensory appeals in brief.

1. Sight Appeal

The sense of sight provides people with more information than any  other sense mode and, therefore, must be classified as the most important means by which retailers can appeal to consumers. Sight appeal is the process of imparting stimuli, resulting in perceived visual relationship. Size, shape and  color  are the primary visual stimuli on which retailer can encash. Visual relationships are interpretations made by the “minds eye” from visual stimuli consisting of harmony, contrast and clash “harmony” is the visual agreement. “Contrast” is the “visual diversity” and clash is the “visual conflict.” All these can occur in the areas of display-layout or the physical arrangement. In a given situation, either harmony or contrast or clash may be the best way to create an appealing shopping atmosphere. Experts are of the opinion that harmonious visual relationships are generally associated with a quieter, plusher and more formal shopping setting; whereas contrasting and clashing visual relationships can promote an exciting, cheerful or informal atmosphere.

2. Sound Appeal

Sound is such an appeal that can enhance or hinder the store’s buying atmosphere. People like sounds which are pleasant and soothing while  disturbing  and irritating none likes. In latter case sound becomes a noise. It should be appealing music than detracting noise. In this regard, there are two things namely, sound or noise avoidance and sound creation. Obstructive sounds or noise disturb and interrupt the buying process. Unwanted sounds are to be either eliminated or controlled. Noise pollution is to be avoided. Noise avoidance is a problem tailor made for physical facilities planning. In fact, careful use of architectural design, construction materials, equipment and the interior decorations can eliminate or reduce considerably disturbing and obstructing sounds or noise.

Coming to creation of sound, retailer can use sound appeal in a variety of ways to create buying atmosphere. Sound is a mood setter, an attention getter and informer. Music is capable of relaxing the customer, promoting a buying spirit, set the stage for a particular shopping theme or remind the customer a special season or holiday. Music must match the selling scene. The type and volume of must be suitable to the consumers than retailers.

3. Scent Appeal

Scent appeal or smell appeal is also important, for smell is a product feature. Creation of scent appeal is almost similar to that of sound appeal. The question is how to avoid unpleasant odors and to create pleasant smells. Stale, musty, and foul odors offend everyone and are sure to create negative impressions. These unwanted odors are the outcome of inadequate ventilation, insufficient humidity control and poorly placed and maintained sanitation facilities. Contrary to this, pleasant scents or smells are the key ingredients generating an atmosphere inducing, propelling the consumers to buy. For instance, a well-placed fan in a bakery section or candy store or food section attracts the passersby as these pleasant and aromic smells spell bound the consumers which encourages impulse buying. Retailers of foods, flowers, perfumes and other scented products know the value of bringing the fragrance or sweet smell to the noses of consumers. It is rightly said “a store should smell like it is supposed to smell.” For instance, drug store should smell clean and antiseptic. An antique store should smell a dusty, musty smell to enhance the buying atmosphere.

4. Touch Appeal

While buying, the consumers, they want to test the product by touch. Personal inspection – handling and squeezing – is a prerequisite of buying. There are products or produce where touch feel is a must, bet it a fish, meat, vegetable, fruit, consumers want to touch them before buying. In fact machine vending and pre-packing do not provide touch feel because of which some of the customers hate vending machines and super markets. Generally there should be facility of providing the consumer sense of touch. The chances of sale increase. Substantially when the consumer is allowed to touch the product. If not the entire lot, this touch appeal can be provided through good planning facilities. Displays and fixtures should be designed: (1) to provide consumers with samples to handle, (2) to provide product protection from normal store dust and dirt. In spite of revolutionary changes in methods of market, sale by inspection has not been totally  extinct  and therefore, consumers should be provided with touch appeal.

5. Taste Appeal

In some cases, sale of products is impossible unless the retailers provide an opportunity of tasting a bit of it. This is the case with specially foods such as meats, cheeses, bakery and dairy products. While designing the  in-store displays, retailers have to provide the potential customers with a sample of the product under clean and sanitary conditions. Basically, the reason to taste is a test of freshness or the extent of caring.

Credit: Retail Management-AU

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