Merchandising Know-How: Space Planning

Because there never seems to be enough space, it takes careful planning to ensure you carry enough merchandise to "make your numbers." You should start by taking a fixture inventory.

Because there never seems to be enough space, it takes careful planning to ensure you carry enough merchandise to "make your numbers." You should start by taking a fixture inventory. Count your fixtures (all kinds) and how much merchandise they hold. For example:

>> Allow one to two garments per inch on rods or straight arms.

>> A table 4 feet by 30 inches can hold eight stacks of five sweaters, or six shirts -- a total of 40 to 48 items. (Stacks are about 12 inches by 12 inches.)

>> A shelf 12 inches deep by 4 feet can hold approximately 20 to 24 folded items.

Once you have a handle on your fixtures and their capacities, buy for them and work closely with your vendors to choose the right product in the right depth to maximize your sales. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, it is. You can't sell inventory sitting in the back room. It has to be out front where customers can see it and interact with it. You need enough on the sales floor to stimulate interest, but not so much that it makes shopping difficult.

When planning your fixture space, you need to know what sales volume you're realizing from your fixtures. For instance, a 4-way fixture will occupy approximately 4 square feet of space. Once you've calculated its capacity, you can figure the sales per square foot. Why is it important to know this? Because, if a fixture in a certain space is under-producing, you should either move it, lose it or use it for another product.

Consider sketching a diagram of how you want merchandise placed on racks, walls, gondolas, tables, etc., and give the diagram to your staff members so they can execute the plan. It's important to involve them in this process because they'll really start to understand how much inventory the store can hold, and how that inventory can be carried efficiently.

Keep in mind that certain techniques help to make the store look more organized and planned. For example, you can repeat colors throughout the store to pull your merchandise together visually. Also, keep fixtures, walls and floors consistent throughout the store by using continuous textures, finishes and colors. This gives the store a consistent look and prevents confusion.

And watch those adjacencies -- products you place next to one another. They can either compete or complement. Buy colors that coordinate vendor to vendor.

Space planning is all about having a plan up front before you start seeing lines each season. It's planning for space, for fixtures, for color themes and adjacencies. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it pays off in fewer headaches, fewer product on sale and greater profits.

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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