Merchandising Know-How: Moving customers through the store

Whether you are designing a new store, remodeling an existing one or just rearranging your fixtures, one of your first considerations will be how you want people to move through the store.

Whether you are designing a new store, remodeling an existing one or just rearranging your fixtures, one of your first considerations will be how you want people to move through the store. It’s an important consideration because you want them to come in contact with all of your merchandise and be persuaded to buy.

While there are few “hard truths” in merchandising, you’ve probably noticed that most people (80 percent to 90 percent) turn right upon entering your store. Because of this, you have prime real estate 10 to 15 feet inside and to the right of the entrance. It is often called the Decompression or Transition Zone. It’s where customers pause and make the decision to continue through the store or leave. Use it for displays that will inspire your customers and draw them farther into the store. Consider them “first impression” displays and change them frequently. Make sure they don’t block further movement into the store and can be circumnavigated easily.

Once inside the store, customers can be directed to move via aisles you create using fixture placement and, in some cases, changes in flooring (i.e. a different colored rug or tile). The trick is to make aisles narrow enough that customers have to slow down, which gives them enough time to notice the products displayed, but not too narrow or a traffic jam may result. The width of aisles will depend somewhat on the size of your store, but a rule of thumb is to create aisles that two to three people can walk down together without touching one another. Don’t create one center aisle because it could discourage customers from coming in contact with the product in front of walls and on the walls.

The aisles you create will lead customers on a “journey” through the store. To keep them interested along the way, vary the product density from front to back. Place fewer fixtures in the front of the store to give customers breathing room. Increase them in the middle and rear of the store. Every 50 to 100 feet create a display “oasis” on the wall or on the floor to encourage people to re-engage and process what they are seeing.

Light can influence traffic patterns. People tend to move to areas with brighter light, so light levels play a significant role in drawing customers to product displays and to the walls. Increase light levels on displays, walls and the rear of the store to encourage customers to move to those areas. By varying light levels, you also create mood and interest.

Analyze how your customers move through your store. Draw your store’s floor plan and, with it in hand, track customers every so often as they browse. Pay attention to which areas they linger in the most. If you can, note their purchases too. This information will help you judge the effectiveness of your current layout and help you make the changes necessary to maximize your sales.

* To learn more about the importance of understanding traffic patterns and how to calculate what your traffic patterns mean to your store's bottom line, go to our article, SNEWS® Retail Merchandising Training 101: Traffic and Conversion by clicking here ( The Traffic and Conversion article is part of a detailed 10-part series SNEWS® created to help stores with the know-how and tools necessary to improve sales.

Sharon Leicham is the creator of The MerchandisingHUB, the author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and "How to Sell to Women" and is a regular columnist for SNEWS® writing on merchandising and marketing topics. You can access all of her columns by going to, where you will find tons of information targeted at the needs of the independent specialty retailer. You can email us with questions and comments at

For more retail training support and know-how, be sure to check out the SNEWS® Business 101 tools and stories, including our 10-part Retail Merchandising Training series produced by SNEWS®, including a useful online calculator for performing the most common retail merchandising calculations -- free to All Access Subscribers.


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