In the last chapter, we covered why your retail location matters. Now that you’ve chosen your store’s location let’s dive into practical tips for designing and furnishing your store’s interior.

A retail layout is how you strategically use retail space to shape your customer’s experience. It involves critical elements like where you place displays and fixtures, organize zones and departments, and position merchandise.

Importance of a retail layout

Customer traffic and accessibility

A good retail layout helps customers move around with ease. Clear paths and organized sections make shopping more enjoyable, preventing frustration and boosting satisfaction.

Putting popular or high-profit items in strategic spots guides customers to different sections, prompting them to explore and find more things they might like.

Maximizing the available space

A well-planned retail layout helps retailers use their space wisely by positioning products strategically. Neat shelves and displays prevent mess and make the store more welcoming, maximizing floor space for a more comprehensive product selection and a comfortable customer experience.

Moreover, an organized layout improves store operations. Employees can move around efficiently, restock shelves easily, and assist customers more effectively.

Contributes to the customer’s buying decision

According to POPAI (Point of Purchase Advertising International), where you put things in your store can impact sales — 76% of in-store decisions are influenced by displays and placement.

Creating a nice-looking store with well-thought-out product displays boosts your customers’ mood and increases their chances of buying something. Place products strategically and make eye-catching displays to shape how customers see your items, nudging them toward purchasing.

Designing your retail layout

Flowchart showcasing the process for designing a retail layout.

1. Establish your needs

Define what you’re selling and how you want customers to feel when they shop with you. Figure out how many items you’re stocking and how to show it off best. Also, consider where to keep your extra stock, set up cash registers, and create workspaces for your team.

2. Assess the customer journey

The store design can help customers solve their pain points. When a customer enters a store, their decision process goes through need, choice, and commitment.

  • Need: Customers need to gather relevant information about potential solutions.
  • Choice: Customers evaluate alternatives based on different factors like features, price, and brand reputation
  • Commitment: The actual purchase and post-purchase evaluation.

Organize your store layout with the customer in mind to boost sales and keep customers returning. Strategically position products, design eye-catching displays, and enhance the overall shopping experience to smoothly guide customers from browsing to buying, increasing the chances of making a sale and building loyal customers.

3. Choose a layout type

Retail stores have different layout types, each with advantages and disadvantages. So consider wisely according to the store you set up and the products you sell.

Grid layout

Grid layout arranges aisles and merchandise in a grid pattern. Products are shown in a predictable pattern that’s easy to navigate. 

Sample of a grid layout

Typically found in grocery and convenience stores, the grid layout features long aisles with staple items at the back and impulse-purchase items near the checkout.


  • Easy to find products
  • Maximizes shelf space
  • Facilitates straightforward inventory management


  • May lack visual appeal compared to other dynamic layouts
  • Limited creativity

Racetrack/loop layout

This retail layout has a central aisle that makes a loop, like a racetrack, leading customers in a steady flow past the merchandise.

Sample of a racetrack/loop layout

This store design creates a closed loop that leads shoppers past all the merchandise in the store. The layout is standard in larger retail spaces, such as department stores and clothing outlets.


  • Encourages exploration
  • Maximizes exposure of products and signage


  • Can be frustrating if customers already know what they want
  • May lead to congestion in high-traffic areas

Free-flow layout

This layout lacks a specific structure, allowing for more flexibility and creativity in placing aisles and displays. 

Sample of a free-flow retail layout

It encourages shoppers to wander around the store and explore the products at their own pace without a prescribed pattern. This layout suits small spaces and is best suited for high-end stores with less merchandise but an emphasis on experiential retail.  


  • A unique and visually exciting shopping environment
  • Adaptable to changing merchandise and themes


  • Potential confusion among customers
  • Challenges in managing inventory flow
  • Not ideal for large inventories

Straight layout

Also known as the spine layout, this design arranges fixtures and merchandise in straight lines to establish clear sightlines and organized pathways.

Sample of a straight retail store layout

It engages shoppers with signage, product displays, and strategic merchandise placement. When executed correctly, this straightforward method can establish an inviting space that encourages shoppers to spend more time browsing.


  • Simple and easy to navigate
  • Efficient use of retail space 
  • Emphasizes products along the aisles


  • May lack visual interest 
  • Limited flexibility

Diagonal layout

The diagonal layout arranges aisles and displays at angles other than 90 degrees, creating a dynamic and visually exciting store design.

Sample of a diagonal retail layout.

Ideal for stores with limited retail space, this layout promotes movement, ensuring customers can easily view all products. It is commonly used in apparel stores, boutiques, and larger retail spaces.


  • Adds visual interest
  • Breaks the monotony 
  • Promotes a leisurely shopping experience


  • Can be challenging for efficient space utilization 
  • May require creative fixture placement

4. Divide the layout into zones

In a retail store, focus on four key zones: the entry, cash wrap (checkout area), the sales floor, and the back room. Here are the design guidelines for each area.

Entry area

This space aims to create a welcoming first impression and draw customers inside. It encompasses the window display and a transition area — an open and appealing space near the door where new customers can quickly pause and survey the surroundings.

Design guidelines:

  • Use attractive displays to highlight featured products.
  • Ensure clear signage and branding for easy identification.
  • Improve visibility and create a welcoming atmosphere with adequate lighting.
  • Keep the entry uncluttered to maintain smooth customer flow, considering the use of welcome mats on the flooring.

Cash wrap

The cash wrap or checkout area is designed for quick and easy transactions to create a positive, lasting impression. The best location for it is near the main entrance and alongside the area where you transition to the sales floor.

Design guidelines:

  • Optimize queuing space to prevent crowding; use clear lines with comfortable waiting areas.
  • Have well-designed and accessible checkout counters.
  • Utilize point-of-sale (POS) software for quicker transactions.
  • Place impulse-buy items near the checkout for additional sales.
  • Ensure good lighting and maintain cleanliness and organization in the checkout area.
  • Staff should be well-trained and friendly to enhance customer service.

Sales floor

The sales floor is where you show off your products in a way that makes sense and is easy for customers to get to. Ensure your products are easy to see and encourage people to look around.

Not only should the sales floor help customers decide what to buy, but it should also suggest other things they might want. Customers might remember something else they need and buy more stuff.

Design guidelines:

  • Arrange products logically to guide customer flow.
  • Use attractive displays to highlight featured items flexibly.
  • Choose colors and decor based on the store’s target customers.
  • Ensure enough retail space for customers to move easily between aisles.
  • Mark sections for different product categories or brands.
  • Provide touchpoints for customers to interact with products and learn more.

The back room

The back room is a practical area for managing inventory and staff tasks. It’s also a place where employees can take breaks and relax.

If you have many products that can’t fit on the sales floor, store them in the back room. Set up a shipping area with a table and supplies if you need to send items to customers or return them to suppliers. 

Design guidelines:

  • Use clear labels for efficient storage organization.
  • Ensure easy access to restocking supplies without disrupting sales.
  • Implement security measures to protect valuable inventory.
  • Keep the space clean and organized for better efficiency.
  • Ensure adequate lighting and ventilation.

5. Furnishing your store

Like in your home, retail stores have different types of furniture and fixtures. What fixtures your store needs depends on what you’re selling.

Primary fixtures

Primary fixtures are a store’s main, permanent structures that shape its layout and overall design. They’re like the backbone, supporting the store’s look and providing the main structure for displaying stuff. 

You can usually get them from fixture makers, retail design companies, or construction suppliers. Here’s a list of examples typically used in retail stores:

  • Bookcases
  • Racks
  • Cabinets
  • Shelving units
  • Gondolas
  • Showcases

Secondary fixtures

Secondary fixtures add flexibility and visual interest to your store layout. They’re versatile and easy to move around, making changing displays for different products or promotions simple. 

You can find these fixtures from suppliers like fixture manufacturers, display equipment vendors, and online retailers focusing on retail. Examples of secondary fixtures include:

  • Sign holders
  • End caps
  • Dump bins
  • Mobile display carts
  • Sign holders and frames
  • Spinner racks

6. Finalize and refine plan

Check your store’s layout plan and make changes if necessary. Make sure the layout follows safety rules and accessibility standards.

Test the flow of the layout design by simulating customer journeys. If there are still issues, adjust the layout based on what you observe.


Your store layout is crucial for how customers see your brand. It impacts foot traffic, customer experience, and what they choose to purchase.

When designing your store layout, always consider your customers — aim for a quick and convenient shopping experience. Use software with Point of Sale (POS) capabilities to ensure smooth operations.

In the next chapter, we’ll help you pick and fill up your retail business with the proper inventory, set its retail price, and plan for restocking.


Ramsey, D., & Ramsey, J. (2010). The Everything Guide to starting and running a retail store: All you need to get started and succeed in your own retail adventure. Adams Media.

Impact Insight Team

Impact Insights Team is a group of professionals comprising individuals with expertise and experience in various aspects of business. Together, we are committed to providing in-depth insights and valuable understanding on a variety of business-related topics & industry trends to help companies achieve their goals.

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