Top Ten Retail Store Design Tips

Last Updated on 7 July 2023 by Editorial Team

What is retail store design?

Retail store design should be thought of as a hugely important part of your marketing efforts and plays a massive part in your company’s branding.

It will usually incorporate things such as window and in-store displays, fixture and fittings, furniture, lighting, flooring, choice of music, and general store layout.

These aspects of design, including sounds and various objects combine to create a brand or specific appeal. Design serves the purpose of marketing.

Part of that purpose is to draw customers in to make purchases in your store. Retail store design intends to direct them to a sales floor. 

Therefore, a well-designed retail space can make all the difference when it comes to your business. In this article, we’ll discuss some tips and advice on the do’s and don’ts of good retail store design.  So whether you’re opening your first shop or another branch of your store, we hope you’ll find out tips useful.

First of all though, let’s take a look at some of the basics of designing a retail store.

Top 10 Basics of Good Retail Store Design

When it comes to designing your retail space, there are a few key things to keep in mind that will optimise customer engagement and increase sales.  So here are our top 10 design tips for retail store design:-

1. Layout of Store

The layout of your retail space is extremely important. The layout of a store can affect customer flow and behavior.  Therefore, when it comes to the design of your retail store, you want to create a layout that is both easy for customers to navigate the store and that allows them to explore your products.

Your layout should highlight merchandise and invite shoppers to browse. This means you should strategically place retail displays and fixtures such that they’re visible and engaging to shoppers.  So do make sure that you place your most popular items in a visible and easily accessible location.  You should consider placing products in the checkout area to encourage impulse buys and maximise sales.

A good retail layout should maximise the sales of a particular product category and ensure that a sufficient inventory level is displayed. This in turn improves the efficiency of the store. Make sure you are using the right layout for each store space.

For example, a layout that is designed for a large store with high foot traffic will not be appropriate for a small store with lower traffic levels.

Aisle Structure

Good aisle structure is essential in order for your customers to be able to navigate the store properly and showcase your products.

It’s important that aisles are not too narrow and cramped and offer plenty of space to manoeuvre.  Also, avoid creating dead-ends and always allow customers to be able to easily navigate back to the main aisle. 

Instead, when you design your retail store, make sure to create proper organisation, so that shoppers loop back around the department as needed. Incorporate for-category display racks at the end of aisles

2. Colours, Textures & Patterns

The colors you use in your retail store design can also have a significant impact on your business. You want to use colors that are inviting and that will draw customers in.  Don’t be afraid to be bold with you colour choices.  

By using bold colours, textures and patterns, you can stand out from the crowd. Only use these type of colours if they fit with your product line and if you have the right type of flooring and lighting in place.

Don’t go too crazy though, you want to be able to see your products but you don’t want them to distract the customer.

But do make sure your store stands out from the crowd by being exciting and interactive.

Stay on Top of Seasonal Trends

It’s easy to fall into a rut when you’re constantly designing and redecorating your space year-round.

But the best way to get shoppers to want to come back to your store is to be on top of what’s going on in the world.

This doesn’t mean you need to have every seasonal trend in your store. However, by incorporating a few seasonal trends, the store will always have a fresh and modern look.

3. Visual Merchandising

One important aspect of retail store design and visual merchandising is window displays. The power of retail window displays should never be underestimated as it’s usually the first thing that customers will see.

A good retail window display will often catch a shopper’s attention and can be the difference between a shopper entering or walking on by a store. After all, store windows are considered to be the eyes of a shop. They convey a story which is meant to be told and relate to the physical space inside the store.

The trick, however, is to explore creative and unexpected interpretations whilst always focusing on the product, which should attract attention and be the main part of the display.

A well designed window display should attract shoppers and communicate a message, while telling a story at the same time.

Merchandising Space

Merchandising space is the foundation for retail store design. It’s the area where the customer will focus their time and attention. It’s also the area where the customer will browse, make purchases, and interact with your products and services.

When planning your store, it’s vital that you think about your merchandise needs, inventory levels and requirements. This will help to determine the type of displays and fixtures required, together with their placement.

Allocating the appropriate amount of shelf and display space is an important aspect of the overall visibility and desirability of a product, so it mustn’t be overlooked. 

4. Create A Pathway & Slow Customer Journey

If you’re looking to increase customer dwell time, a great way to do this is to create a route for the customer to travel around your store. This can be done using a loop or racetrack layout (we’ll go into more detail on this later) to guide the customer to the things they’ll want to see.

So whilst it’s tempting to cram every inch of the store with products that might appeal to the customer, this can be counter productive.

In fact, studies show that shoppers are more likely to make a purchase when they have to hunt for it, so encourage them to browse by implementing the correct layout that takes them on a journey. 

A good example of a well known retail store that does this really well is Ikea stores, where the customer is guided through every department by markings on the floor as part of the store design and layout. By doing this, they are tempting and encouraging customers to buy more.

If you have a large range of products, it is best to showcase the most popular items at the front of the store. It’s also a good idea to reserve the back of the store for a more discerning selection of products. Don’t forget your ‘value’ range – products that offer great value for money.

5. Displays and Fixtures

Display and fixture placements are a critical component of your retail store design and layout. The right displays and fixtures can increase the profits of your store. These components are designed to activate the space and should be easily moveable to accommodate changing merchandising needs, and help draw shoppers’ attention and create a positive shopping experience.

A common mistake is to design a retail layout without an understanding of how displays and fixtures work inside the store. This may result in a poorly designed layout that has no impact on sales and efficiency.

Therefore, the displays and fixtures you choose should help guide and support the aisles and the layout of the store. For example, a series of shelves across the aisles should be used to display seasonal and limited-availability products while also helping customers find the items they need and are classed as permanent fixtures.

Having a series of high-top, low-profile shelves can show off seasonal products on the aisles, while also directing customers to the checkout.

Hanging fixtures and signage: These fixtures are used to accent the aisles, and they can be used to highlight seasonal or limited-availability products, so are easily interchangeable depending on the season.

By contrast, retail displays are not permanent fixtures. They are intended to be easily moved and adjusted to take on new merchandising needs and display seasonal products.  These displays will usually incorporate visual branding elements.  So think gondola displays, POP displays, platform units, or nesting tables, in order to draw attention and focus to products.

Master the use of lighting

Lighting is a powerful tool in the design of your retail store that can not only help to sell your products, but can also help to create a comfortable and relaxing environment. Lighting will create different moods for your customers and can help to put them into a certain frame of mind to complete their purchase.

It’s important to use lighting that’s appropriate for your store and can be used to create specific areas of the store, such as the fitting room.

boutique free flow shop layout
Good example of a free-flow boutique style layout/floor plan

6. Make The Most Of The Space You Have

This is easily achieved by focusing on the correct layout and placement of your products. For example, if you have a large open area that is bright and airy, you can place your products to create a bright and happy atmosphere.

One advantage of having a larger space, you can afford to showcase larger displays and products to catch shoppers attention.

Don’t be put off though if you have a small area that is dark and dreary as you can easily brighten it up with use of colour, with bright white and bold colours being a good choice to make the space feel bigger and more welcoming.

You can then cleverly place smaller products that will make it feel more spacious and create a happy and relaxed shopping atmosphere.

7. Appeal to multiple senses

Besides visual design, retail store owners can create a more immersive customer experience that can appeal to the shopper’s senses, from sight, to sound, to smell and even taste.

By creating a truly immersive in-store experience, in which the right elements will attract prospective customers, as well as retaining current ones, retail store owners can gain a competitive edge and advantage over their competitors.

8. Visual branding

Visual branding is the use of visual elements to convey your store’s brand colors and messaging.  It can also be used to convey brand attitude and personality. Visual branding and design is one of the most effective ways to set your retail store apart from its competitors.

To get a feel for how visual branding can work, review the visuals of your competitors’ stores.

9. Cross-Merchandising

Many retailers use cross-merchandising techniques to highlight products that are available in more than one category as part of their retail store design.

This is a great way to create more attractive and informative displays, while also encouraging customers to browse and shop in more areas of your store.

Examples of this include:-

  • Cross-merchandising a product in more than one category.
  • Cross-merchandising between two different departments to highlight products that can be purchased together.
  • Cross-merchandising in a variety of ways to spread the word of the products available in the store.

Highlighting of products

Highlighting products that are already in the store helps encourage shoppers to shop in your store. This is especially true in the case of seasonal products that come and go.

You can quickly capitalise on their popularity by strategically placing merchandising elements in places that are visible and accessible to customers.

10. Well Designed Checkout Areas

Checkout areas are the last step in the journey of a customer through a retail store and are a crucial design element. You must ensure that your checkout area is big enough to accommodate the size of your customer base, as well as having the correct number of checkout lanes.

Additionally, your checkout area should be safe, secure, and convenient for your customers.

For example, not having enough checkout lanes can result in longer wait times. This can be a serious problem when customers are checking out on a busy holiday weekend.

As a result, you must ensure that the checkout area is convenient and functional for your customers.

Furthermore, you must keep your customers safe and secure by ensuring that all checkout lanes are accessible and that they are staffed with trained checkout attendants.

Decide on a Retail Store Layout & Design

Now you know what the basics of good retail store design are, it’s time to start planning the layout.

Planning a retail store layout can seem overwhelming, because it is. But it doesn’t have to be.

With professional merchandising expertise and a meticulous eye for detail, you can create a retail store layout that is both visually appealing and functional.

There are many questions you need to ask before you begin to plan your retail store layout.

Before you get started, you want to be sure that you’ve answered these questions:-

  • What is your goal for the retail store layout?
  • What products are you selling?
  • What is the location? 
  • What is the volume of business you expect to have?
  • What is the square footage of the space you have available? 
  • What is your budget for the project? 
  • How will your store be used? 

The retail store layout design should be designed to effectively meet the store’s needs. The layout provides the framework for the store’s other components.

Therefore, the layout plan should take into consideration the size, shape, and location of the store, the type of merchandise and stock, the store’s primary customers, the store’s desired merchandise mix, the store’s merchandise exit, and the store’s business goals. The layout strategy should also include the type of store, the store’s sales and financial goals.

supermarket dairy aisle design
Typical supermarket aisle straight layout/floor plan

Choose the right floor plan

A floor plan is a blueprint of the store’s layout and, therefore, it plays a critical role in managing store flow and traffic. It gives you a visual representation and helps you understand the layout’s function. The plan can be used to communicate the layout strategy to customers, sales staff, and suppliers.

It’s important to know what each area of the store will be and how it will be arranged. Use floor plans to map out how each section will be arranged. 

A well-planned floor plan is a vital component of your retail store design and will make your store more accessible and easier for your customers to navigate. It will also help you manage your merchandise and reduce the risk of customers taking products without paying.

Design your store arrangement based on your focus area

A store’s layout should be based on its focus area. The focus area is the area where the majority of your customers will go.

For instance, if your store’s focus area is the apparel, then you should plan the store’s layout and merchandise accordingly around that.

Straight floor plan

It’s a simple layout that looks straight forward and efficient. It’s also the most common type of floor plan in retail store design, since it’s the easiest for customers to navigate.

This store layout involves creating straight shelving configurations that result in a continuous flow of traffic. This layout works best on large retail spaces, supermarkets, or stores that have shelving for the purpose of showcasing their merchandise.

Racetrack or loop plan

A more sophisticated version of a straight floor plan, the racetrack layout encourages shoppers to go around in a loop by clever positioning of merchandise in order to create a path that your customers will follow.

Angular floor plan

In this store layout, curves and angles are used to give off a more sophisticated vibe. High-end retailers will usually use this type of floor plan in their retail store design as they think about how to set the best display area for a sparsely stocked store. They tend to spread out around the store, looking at fewer lines and focusing on very popular products.

Geometric floor plan

The geometric floor plan allows you create your own unique space with racks, fixtures & fittings and clever ideas to showcase trendy products. However, it wouldn’t be ideal for makers of larger capacity products.

Free flow plan

This floorplan is the ultimate in modern retail as you can really get creative with it and there are no barriers, so you can do what you want. It floods a store with natural light and provides for a free flow of traffic with no set path, so shoppers can go where they wish.


This layout is similar to the loop/racetrack layout, but it creates a grid of aisles that run the length of the store. It is great for filling space, organising merchandise and displaying products. It’s design works well for retail store formats that include many departments or that have lots of merchandise, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and convenience stores.

Think of retail giants like Tesco and Asda for example, where they’ll also very cleverly place items to tempt you near the checkout like sweets and chocolates.  


This combination of aisles and layout helps to guide customers to the checkout area faster and to show many items at once. It’s a good option for stores with a limited amount of space and narrow aisles.

However, similar to the grid layout, it means customers won’t have access to any “shortcuts”.

Design & build The Range store
Freemont helped design and fit-out The Range retail store in Stockport

Need Help With The Design Of Your Retail Store?

If you require assistance with designing and building your brand new store, or need help with the re-design or refurbishment of an existing space, then we can come to the rescue with our retail store design, build and fit-out service.

We provide the complete package for your convenience including retail store interior design, project management, build and fit out, together with the provision and installation of furniture, lighting, air conditioning systems and equipment.

Get in touch and we’ll be very happy to talk you through the services we provide and offer our advice and expertise on design and build. 

Call us for a chat on 0161 503 9075, or use our contact form to email us.  If you’d like to see what some of our customers have to say about our services, then you can read our reviews on Google.

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