Designing for Your Customers
Your customers are the resources that keep your retail store open—and profitable. Without them you will be surrounded by more widgets than you can ever use. By helping customers fulfill their needs you will be fulfilling yours.
Think of it this way: It's your customers’ store and you get to run it! Keep your customers—your “employer”—happy, and you will be gainfully employed for a long time.
Before getting into the details of store layout, take a look at your store's shell—the walls, floors, and other components that will hold your store. How large is it? What is its shape? What is its condition? Are there barriers or limitations that will restrict store layout? What do you have to work with?
There are no specific requirements for how much floor space you will need in your store. For practical purposes, most small retail stores range in size from 800 to 2,000 square feet. Medium-size retailers need 2,000 to 10,000 square feet total, including sales floor and back room. The ideal size is one that fits your income goals for annual sales per square foot. An analytical look at your competitors will help you in sizing your store. If you estimate that a competitor has $300,000 in annual sales in a 1,500-square-foot store, the annual income is $200 per square foot (300,000 ÷ 1,500). If your sales goal is $200,000 a year and you want to meet the goal of $200 per square foot, you'll need a store of at least 1,000 square feet (200,000 ÷ 200). There are many variables, of course, but this comparison is a guideline.
Your Customers’ Store
How would your customers lay out your new store? If you know lots of people who are your target customers, you can ask them. If you are your best customer, you can ask yourself. Visit competitors’ and non-competitors’ stores and take notes that answer these questions:
What do you like or not like about shopping there?
Are products convenient?
Are they easy to find?
Is the store comfortable and well lit?
Are the display fixtures too tall or too short for typical customers?
What would you change about the store to make it more customer-friendly?
Make more notes in your retail notebook and review the notes you made as you began research on starting a store. Then use your notebook to begin making sketches of how you can lay out your store for optimum sales. Unless you are starting a bargain or warehouse-type store, include some features that make your store comfortable, such as chairs or small tables where the customer can place products they wish to buy rather than carry them around.