How to Start a Retail Business

The Layout of Your Store

Imagine you are a customer walking through your store's front door for the first time. What impression do you have of the store? What benefits are being offered to you? Do you have a sense of excitement and confidence? The physical setting and visual cues of your business set the stage for the consumer's experience with you. So what will it be?

Take your positioning statement from your business plan and present it in the 3-D world of location, architecture and interior design. Use scale, colors, textures, materials, amenities and layout to convey your store's philosophy. Should you use a chandelier, neon or spotlights? Elegant columns, contemporary angles or casual corners? Hot colors or subdued hues? Marble floors or industrial carpet? Set the stage for your customers.

Your store plan has two key elements: store design and store layout. Store design is concerned with atmosphere, image, interior design and exterior design factors. Store layout involves the internal arrangements of each department, selling and sales support allocation, and the evaluation of space productivity.

To set up your store, consider consulting with architects, interior designers and lighting engineers. Working with skillful designers gives you an invaluable resource: Not only will they know the best location for air conditioners and elevators, but they can help build flexibility into lighting, sound and wiring systems that will keep you from incurring costs when floor layouts are altered. Designers keep abreast of the hottest color schemes, materials, sources and trends to a degree that would be impossible for someone outside the trades to do. You can save yourself a lot of aggravation and a fair amount of money with thoughtful preparation.

If you choose to do the work yourself, get out there and do your research. Visit retail businesses. Make sure you visit stores similar to the one you plan to open as well as ones that are different. You never know where you might find a good idea. Take notes on elements that work and don't work--then figure out why.

7 Principles Of Space Allocation

Once you've decided on a layout for your business, turn your attention to space allocation. Seven fundamental principles should guide you:

1. Show all merchandise to all customers. The more merchandise customers see, the more they will buy. You want to design your store to entice customers to visit all departments or at least to see what the store has and return another time. You can accomplish this objective through strategic location of signs, special values, escalators, stairs, dressing rooms and certain merchandise. (Many supermarkets place convenience items such as bread and milk at the rear of the store to drive traffic storewide.)

2. Give choice locations, where inside customer traffic is heavy, to the most profitable items. High-markup and impulse items should be very visible.

3. Discourage shoplifting. Keep small, expensive items under lock and key, use convex mirrors where blind spots cannot be eliminated, and install video monitors. By keeping everything wide open, salespeople can observe everyone in the store.

4. Experiment to stay exciting. To accommodate changes in layout and merchandise displays, you need to have fixtures that are movable and adjustable, so keep this in mind when you're buying cabinets, shelving, lighting and other furnishings.

5. Locate related lines next to each other. Ties should be located close to dress shirts, printers next to computers, vases next to flowers, and so forth.

6. Locate related departments next to each other. Fashion departments complement each other. Cosmetics, accessories and jewelry often go well together. Cookbooks and gourmet utensils stimulate interest in one another. Departments and merchandise categories should be coordinated as much as possible for customer convenience and cross-selling.

7. Give the most important lines the best locations in your store. Play the winners. Anything that is moving fast should be exploited in every way.

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