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The Art of Designing for Retail

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A window display catches your eye, and before you know it, you're hooked. Inside, you begin perusing the store. You move from one station to the next, picking up trinkets, holding up sweaters, flipping through books. Oddly, your eye is drawn to a rather loud purple sweater. ''I'd never have seen that,'' you think, ''let alone wear it.'' But the way it's displayed on the manikin somehow makes you think twice. Twenty minutes later, you’ve walked through the entire store. Slung over your arm is the purple sweater, and after you finish the transaction, you walk out of the store already eager to return.

It's not that the retail industry brainwashes its patrons with flashy designs...but then again, maybe it does. According to Design Forum, a retail design agency, “retail design is the art of appealing to people’s emotions, and emotion drives profit.”

I have myself been a sucker for this kind of design. I’m drawn to pretty. Pretty window displays. Pretty product displays. Pretty layout designs. A store could be selling toothpaste and I would be drawn in, as long as the store was uniquely designed. I’ve even bought things in stores because of the atmosphere. Plates for instance. I never buy plates. However, inside this store, which was designed like an antique oasis, I felt chic and sophisticated, and when I saw a pretty plate, I bought it.

Then again, who hasn’t succumbed to the brainwashing of retail design? Perhaps not consciously but subconsciously, all patrons are affected by a store’s design. Stores with warmly lit lamps and pastel-colored walls make customers feel calm — and more susceptible to buying the products, such as candles, books, or journals. Stores with vibrant colors and eclectic window displays — manikins wearing trendy outfits and set against colorful backdrops — make customers feel energized. Even the most conservative of shoppers may walk out of such stores with an edgy outfit.

A lot can be said, therefore, about retail design. Read the following for tips on how best to create a well-designed store that will keep customers coming back for more.

Window Displays

Just as a potential employee wears a suit to make a good impression, so, too, can a store design a killer window display to draw in customers.

First impressions can only happen once. So make sure your window displays are exciting, fresh, and inviting. One way to get well-designed window displays is by contacting your vendors and local artists. Vendors may have posters and extra merchandise you can use to liven up your store. Local artists can help design a display in unique ways, incorporating art (paintings, drawings, etc.) in addition to your merchandise. And be sure to keep things fresh by changing your design. A suggested time frame is once a month.


Store layouts are important because they help sell your product. If a layout design causes customers to be too crammed, people might leave the store. If items are displayed too far off the beaten path, people might not buy them. There are several different types of layouts you can consider when designing your store.

A diagonal floor plan allows for good traffic flow, while a straight floor plan makes the best use of the store’s space. An angular floor plan adds interesting curves and shapes inside a store, which higher-end stores might like, and a geometric floor plan, which provides an interesting display with little cost, works well for clothing stores.


One way to entice customers is to design a theme around your product. According to an article on RetailTraffic, "Theming is discovering and developing a story line that promotes branding and enhances what the retailer is all about."

One restaurant that has successfully themed their brand is the Rainforest Café. Designed like a faux rainforest, the restaurant has everything from lightning and thunder storms — the lights will dim and a low rumble of thunder will roll over the eaters — to large gorillas and elephants stationed in front of forest backdrops. The entire ceiling of the restaurant is covered with branches and leaves, in which parrots and other birds nest. The waiters lead customers to their “destinations” (their tables) and discuss the evening as if they were on a safari. But the Café doesn’t stop there. The restaurant also has its own store, where everything from shirts, hats, and jackets to stuffed animals, rain sticks, and rubber snakes are sold. It’s a unique experience that keeps customers coming back for more.
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Popular tags:

 sweaters  customers  traffic flow  retailers  profits  candles  exhibits  clothing  merchandise  methods

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