Retail Store Layout | 7 mins read

Retail Store Layout- Pros vs. Cons of 6 Main Plans

retail store layout pros vs cons of 6 main plans
Chloe Henderson

By Chloe Henderson

Having a retail store layout that adequately showcases a business's merchandise and identity directly impacts the customer experience.

Retail management is responsible for promoting items to their target customers to generate revenue and profits. A strategic floor plan allows retailers to customize their displays and promotions to attract shoppers and encourage impulse purchases to increase sales.

There is a variety of store layouts to choose from in the retail business, and each design caters to the needs of different shoppers and industries.

What is a Retail Store Layout?

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A retail store layout can refer to the physical or digital format of an e-commerce site or facility, strategically designed to enhance the customer experience. A layout design directly affects how shoppers interact with products, impacting sales, and revenue. There are two main elements to a retail store design-

  • Store Design - Physical stores require a methodic balance of space for furniture, lights, signs, displays, and hardware. Similarly, a store's website needs to format and organize products, departments, and deals comprehensively.
  • Customer Traffic - A well-organized layout ensures that shoppers can easily navigate through a store. To achieve this, store owners need to understand customer behavior, traffic patterns, and preferences. Brick-and-mortar stores can track consumer trends with software analytics and surveillance videos. On the other hand, digital sites can automatically trace customer clicks and cookies to monitor popular products.
Companies also have to consider external retail layout, as the storefront is what initially attracts consumers. The external design includes several elements-

  • Geographic location and real estate
  • Size of the facility, including entrance and exit walkways
  • Outside furniture and floor space for shoppers to congregate
  • Architectural style and aesthetic
  • Building materials and color of facility
  • Entrance and window design
A pleasing external and internal layout attracts and welcomes new customers and provides a unique experience. Therefore, companies should analyze their identity and products to determine what design best represents their image.

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6 Types of Retail Store Layouts

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There are floor plans available for both small businesses and chain retailers that strategically organize merchandise to optimize the available space. With effective interior design, companies can direct their customers towards high-profiting items to drive the bottom line. The most common retail store layouts include-

Grid Floor Plans

The grid floor plan, also known as the straight layout, focuses on taking advantage of floor and wall space. Light fixtures and displays run parallel to the walls so retailers can open up the floor and even use the corners of the store. This visual merchandising layout makes it very easy for customers to find products and walk through aisles.

Grid floor plans are commonly used in convenience and grocery stores, where customers need to find items quickly. Therefore, this layout is excellent for small businesses and companies that cater to buyers on-the-go.

Pros

  • Easy Navigation - The comprehensive layout allows shoppers to find products easily.
  • Handles High Traffic Flow - The open aisleways can accommodate large volumes of customers at one time.
  • Influences Customers to Browse - With the standardized aisles and shelving, items are exposed, encouraging customers to look around.
  • Provides Space for Advertisements - Maximizing the wall space allows management to promote deals and hang displays visible to the customers.
Cons
  • Standard Design - The predictability of this plan leaves little room for creativity and can be perceived as unimaginative.
  • Can Lead to Frustrated Customers - Since the grid layout allows easy navigation, if an item cannot be found in its designated area, shoppers can become upset.

Loop Floor Plans

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Also known as the racetrack layout, the loop floor plan takes the customer on a guided shopping experience rather than exposing all merchandise immediately. By using a pathway throughout the store, this layout slowly shows shoppers different products. The loop floor plan is most commonly seen in Bed, Bath & Beyond stores.

In a loop layout, the building typically features high perimeter walls used for displays and shelving. A large facility allows retailers to combine this layout with others. For example, a store can use the loop plan to design the outer walls and use another design for the middle of the floor. However, this layout works for any business size.

Pros

  • Maximizes Wall Space - This layout focuses on advertising products on the outer four walls from the bottom up.
  • Has High Product Exposure - With items along the walls and center of the store relatively open, customers can immediately notice products.
  • Provides a Unique Customer Experience - The pathway allows retailers to guide shoppers to high-profit items and see products in a specific sequence.
Cons
  • Can Lead to Outdated Displays - It can be challenging to continuously update wall displays, posing the risk of stagnant and unengaging promotions.
  • Appeals Only to Browsers - The tour-like layout does not make it ideal for consumers looking to make a quick purchase.

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Free-Flow Floor Plans

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The free-flow layout enables the retailer to express their brand through imaginative designs and floor plans. With open sightlines, the customer's attention is immediately drawn to specialty displays. Used by niche businesses, this layout can be changed whenever to attract shoppers and pique their interest. Free-flow plans are ideal for high-end stores and boutiques or retail stores that handle low inventory volumes.

Pros

  • Optimizes Space in Irregular Buildings - The flexibility of this floor plan allows retailers to tailor designs to facilities with odd dimensions.
  • Encourages Browsing - With room for creativity and unique designs, shoppers are encouraged to look around.
  • Easily Changeable - Since this layout has no formal rules, management is free to alter displays and furniture whenever.
Cons
  • Quickly Becomes Cluttered - If displays are not well thought out, space can quickly become cluttered and unappealing.
  • Challenging to Navigate - Without an outlined structure, customers may have trouble finding specific items.

Diagonal Floor Plans

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Commonly used in electronic and cosmetic stores, the diagonal floor plan features an open center floor with several displays. This allows shoppers to test out products before making a purchase.

The open layout ensures that customers can easily travel through aisles, providing staff with a clear view of shoppers. Similar to the free-flow plan, the diagonal design focuses on creating open sightlines to attract buyers to certain products. This makes the floor plan ideal for leisure shopping and sampling.

Pros

  • High Employee Visibility - Diagonal sightlines allow employees to monitor shoppers from different parts of the store to enhance customer service.
  • Easy to Navigate - Similar to the grid plan, this layout allows customers to quickly become familiar with aisles and products for quick shopping.
  • Exciting Layout - The various angles and open center floor makes the diagonal layout a little more exciting than the grid plan.
Cons
  • Little Flexibility - This layout does not allow significant rearranging of displays or merchandise, limiting creativity.
  • Quickly Becomes Cramped - Depending on the building size, if there is little room between aisles and displays, the store can feel cramped and cluttered.

Forced-Path Floor Plans

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Also known as guided plans, forced-path layouts use an open entryway followed by one pathway that leads shoppers through the store. Similar to tours and museums, this requires the customer to travel past displays before exiting.

This plan is seen in furniture stores, such as IKEA, to showcase room designs. Forced-path floor plans require large spaces to create a unique customer experience through elaborate displays.

Pros

  • Enables Impulse Sales - Seeing products laid out and paired makes it easy for shoppers to buy sets.
  • Room for Interactive Displays - When customers are required to pass through displays, they are encouraged to participate in demonstrations and samples.
  • High Control Over Shopper Experience - This layout eliminates any guessing when it comes to the customer experience, allowing management to pinpoint what items to showcase.
Cons
  • Inconvenient - With only one pathway, shoppers on the go may become upset by having to navigate through all displays to find one product.
  • Challenging to Design - Forced-layouts are customized and, therefore, hard to design and build.
  • Not Ideal for High Traffic - Customers can quickly feel cramped when there is high foot traffic and only one aisleway.

Angular Floor Plans

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The angular floor plan uses small displays in the center of the store, highlighting featured items. This layout draws the shopper's attention to the highlighted products, giving managers control over what goods to expose.

However, only a limited amount of items can be featured in the center, leaving the other products lining the walls. This floor plan is typically used by jewelry, designer, and handbag stores with high-end merchandise.

Pros

  • High-Quality Perception - With limited products and strategic displays, customers often connect this layout to high-quality merchandise.
  • Draws Attention to Displays - With an open center for displays, managers can manipulate what the customers gravitate towards.
Cons
  • Limited Space - Since displays occupy the center floor, retailers have less space for other products.
  • Requires Several Sales Associates - Showcasing fewer items requires extra staff to assist customers on the sales floor in finding their size and pull similar items.


Determining which retail store layout best represents a brand's image, products and clientele ensures companies can enhance the shopper's experience. It also allows management to optimize displays and promotions to drive sales.

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