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Tips for winning in the retail space

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Robbie Johnson, retail manager at Drive Control Corporation (DCC), examines the science of retail shopping.
According to studies by leading consumer manufacturing companies, the majority of people look and then turn to the left when they enter a store.  This is a very good example of how, despite an increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy society, people remain habitual creatures.
It also presents a conundrum of sorts to retailers and the way they design their shops – how do you stay ahead of your competitors without alienating customers and their ingrained habits?
Getting the tried and tested basics right will create a solid foundation and leave room for innovation; solidifying and enticing your shoppers.

First impressions
The adage “first impressions last” remains true when it comes to shopping.  Also known as the decompression zone, your shop’s threshold area is the space where your customers transition from the outside into what you have to offer.
It is the area where quick and critical decisions are made like how well put-together or haphazard your shop is and what the overall design aesthetic is trying to communicate.  Customers will in all likelihood miss products and other signage as they take in the overall shop experience.

To the left it is
As we’ve already established, shoppers will then start walking to the left.  The first wall or space they enter will have to be very impactful.  It will provide the perfect platform to display your most important products, whether it’s big ticket items or sales products that you have to move quickly.
The bottom line is to make use of people’s left handed autopilot setting to create an experience with a bang.

Pave the yellow brick road
The trick is to keep your shoppers going, exposing them to the entire shop and its products.   A well thought-out path is an effective way to strategically control the traffic in your store while avoiding potential congestion.
Stores often have a circular path to the left to get customers to walk through to the back of the store and come to the front again.  These paths are often a different colour or texture with the promise of great products along the route.
However, make sure that you don’t rush your customers.  With all the effort and time put into merchandising products, the last thing you need is customer hurrying along merrily without even giving it a second glance.
Create natural breaks on your road through special signage, seasonal displays or even a live promotion for the day. Special display fixtures – featuring products near the end of or in between aisles – also encourage impulse buys particularly if they complement other products in close proximity.
If your store doesn’t have specific aisles you can also, on your shopping path, group products together that are a natural fit.  Also, remember to keep high-demand or products or promotion at eye level.
Lastly, ensure that you are constantly rotating or “re-designing” these displays without taking away the familiarity of the store layout.

The end of the line
Till or checkout counter placement can leave you with quite a headache.  A good rule of thumb is to place it at the end of your path or shopping experience.  In big stores individual checkout counters per department are also very convenient.
If possible, design a big enough counter for shoppers to place their products and personal belongings.  Also, take advantage of the wall behind the counter to create interesting and engaging displays as well important exchange and return policy notifications.
With all the above boxes ticket, it’s important that you continue to evolve your store as new shopper needs arise.  Furthermore, ensure that you observe customers and what they are drawn to, avoid, how they move and continue to tweak your design.