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The Only Guide You Need to Design the Best Retail Store Layouts (2024)

GemPages Team
10 minutes read
The Only Guide You Need to Design the Best Retail Store Layouts (2024)

Using an intuitive store layout to shape customers’ shopping journeys should be on top of every merchant’s to-do list, no matter the size of one’s business. From the moment your customer walks through the door, they will feel more inclined to stay and browse, given an enticing environment. Curious to learn how to ace different retail store layouts based on your business goals? This blog will have you covered, and then some.

Retail Store Layouts 101: Learn the Basics

What is a retail store layout?

A retail store layout refers to the strategic arrangement of various elements in a store, including the browsing path, shelves, fixtures, aisles, product displays, etc. By altering these details, businesses can adopt different types of store layouts to meet their needs.

Why is a retail store layout important?

A well-designed store layout have multiple benefits, below are some examples:

  • Enhances customer experience
  • Reinforces brand identity
  • Generates revenue
  • Utilizes space effectively
  • Improves customer retention

We will get into the nitty-gritty in the chapter and go over exactly how different types of retail store layouts can be advantageous to a business.

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10 Types of Retail Store Layout Ideas for Your Business

1. Grid Layout

An illustration of the gride store layout.

Grid is a common layout for stores with a variety of products (i.e. supermarkets). Source: Fohlio.

The first layout example on our list is grid layout - the most commonly used idea in retail store design. If you have ever been inside a grocery store, you have experienced this type of layout first-hand as a customer.

In this layout, the products are displayed in a parallel manner, which together form a grid-like pattern. Customers are naturally guided throughout every aisle on a pre-destined path, where they will go past goods that were not initially on their shopping list. Thus, this layout is the secret to enhancing product visibility and maximizing sales.

The grid layout is best for:

  • Large retail chains
  • Supermarkets
  • Grocery stores
  • Variety stores

2. Loop Layout

An illustration of the loop store layout.

    Guide your customers through a pre-destined path with the use of the loop layout. Source: Fohlio.

    Another prized store layout idea is the loop layout, AKA racetrack layout. As the name suggests, this design aims to build a continuous pathway that leads visitors around the store in a loop. This layout leaves no spot to be undiscovered, where the entrance and exit are typically placed right next to each other, as seen above. Businesses with a well-structured product display are the best matches for the loop layout. 

    The loop layout is best for:

    • Department stores
    • Furniture stores
    • Variety stores
    • Apparel stores

    3. Herringbone Layout

    An illustration of the herringbone store layout.

      Shelves and fixtures are distinctively displayed in a bone-like manner to create a dynamic floor map in a herringbone layout. Source: Shoppermotion.

      The herringbone layout is not hard to spot, due to its distinctive structure of diagonal sections, which are neatly arranged in a zigzag-like manner. If you are looking for a design that is less on-the-nose but still equally engaging, this layout might be your next best friend. Instead of building parallel sections where visitors have to gradually explore one by one, the herringbone approach offers a sneak peek at each aisle at the beginning of the pathway. This way, shoppers will feel more inclined to explore each section as they wish.

      A bonus point of this layout is the clever use of awkward space. As aisles are placed at an angle, the same number of products can fit into a smaller shop as they do in a standard one. To simply put, the herringbone layout is a more zhuzhed up, flexible version of the grid design.

      The herringbone layout is best for:

      • Boutique stores
      • High-end fashion stores
      • Art-related stores

      4. Free-flow Layout

      An illustration of the free-flow store layout.

        The free-flow layout allows for a flexible customer path where products are shown without much calculation, thus the browsing freedom is prioritized. Source: DGI Communications.

        The free-flow layout is all about providing customers with an open, independent customer journey, hence the name. This approach breaks free from the norm since the shopping experience is favored above all. How exactly does this layout generate profits for sellers like other examples of retail store layouts in this list? The key lies in the buyers themselves: they will create their own pathways and purchasing decisions when there is no reinforced rule.

        As erratic as this approach sounds, there is still a certain technique to follow through. Merchants are advised to construct a visually pleasing scenery, albeit being random. This is why despite seeming simple, the free-flow layout requires extensive preparation and execution.

        The free-flow layout is best for:

        • Boutique stores
        • Lifestyle brands
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        5. Spine Layout

        An illustration of the spine store layout.

        Utilize space wisely with the spine layout, where products’ visibility is maximized as customers browse the store. Source: DGI Communications.

        The name “spine layout” is self-explanatory: a design that consists of a central path, AKA the spine, with branches of different sections on both sides of the store. The picture above will give you a general idea of how a usual spine approach is mapped out in an establishment.

        The goal of this particular layout is to showcase the product variety in full display the moment a customer enters the store. They will then navigate through the store in a logical manner where most of the areas will be explored. It is also brilliant at managing customer flow, which makes this layout fitting for businesses with higher traffic.

        The spine layout is best for:

        • Electronics stores
        • Department stores
        • Large-scale retailers

        6. Angular Layout

        An illustration of the angular store layout.

        Create a unique purchasing path for your customers with an example of an angular layout. Source: Smartsheet.

        If you value aesthetics and a unique brand identity, the angular layout is not to be overlooked. There is nothing ordinary about this design since it is all about encouraging shoppers to explore the store at their own pace. The repetitiveness of a pre-destined pathway is omitted, and customers are bound to be impressed with strategically placed focal points as they browse. Stores with unconventional or limited products will get a chance to shine with this approach as well.

        The angular layout is best for:

        7. Diagonal Layout

        An illustration of the diagonal store layout.

        Provide buyers with a visually engaging shopping journey with the implementation of the diagonal store layout. Source: Smartsheet.

        A variation of the herringbone layout is the trusty diagonal design - a no-fuss design concept that works well with businesses across many industries. Instead of angling the sections to create a bone-like pattern, these aisles follow the same direction all throughout. As a result, they intersect harmonically to create an exciting shopping path for visitors.

        From a glance, this approach might obstruct merchandise exposure, but it excels at showcasing special, in-campaign items instead. That is why this layout is among the types of retail store layouts that are best at highlighting niche businesses with a curated product collection.

        The diagonal layout is best for:

        • Art stores
        • Fashion retailers
        • Themed cuisine food stores

        8. Geometric Layout

        An illustration of the geometric store layout.

        The implementation of shapes and patterns is the core of a typical geometric store layout. Source: DGI Communications.

        If you are the type of business owners who like to go all out with the most minute details, this geometric store layout is a brilliant medium for you to go to town with. This concept challenges your artistic abilities, as well as knowledge about symmetry, structures, and of course, shapes. Instead of presenting a straightforward shopping pathway, the geometric layout aims to divide your store into different sections. These blow-by-blow areas have a specific theme each, thus, customer navigation is streamlined.

        Since the ultimate goal is to take shoppers on a venture in which visual elements are preferred, this layout will mingle well with contemporary brands whose vision is well-realized.

        The geometric layout is best for:

        9. Hybrid Layout

        An illustration of the hybrid store layout.

        The hybrid layout is a foolproof idea for stores with a diverse audience demographic. Source: Smartsheet.

        Not many businesses are keen on this approach, since it requires more effort to set up than most of the retail store designs and layouts in this blog post. That said, if you are a veteran retailer who wants to augment your business’ performance, the hybrid store layout could be a part of your next project.

        In layman’s terms, instead of opting for one layout, the hybrid concept is a mix of 2 or more layouts. The objective is to have a well-rounded approach that embodies both visual appeal, space optimization, flexibility, and intuitive customer experience. You will likely see this layout in large-scale retailers.

        The hybrid layout is best for:

        • Department stores
        • Grocery stores

        10. Boutique Store Layout

        An illustration of the boutique store layout.

        Small-scale businesses can benefit from the boutique store layout to boost their revenue. Source: Smartsheet.

        We have mentioned several design concepts that are suitable for fashion stores, but perhaps the most surefire example of retail clothing store layouts is the boutique store layout. This style can be identified through the combination of intimate sections that boast curated items, instead of identical shelves carrying similar merchandise. This is where the boutique layout stands out from other direct approaches which are more effective for larger retailers.

        The boutique-like ambiance can be felt through other interior design elements, apart from the product areas themselves. This way, clients will not feel pressured to make a purchase but could rather enjoy a relaxing, personalized environment.

        The boutique store layout is best for:

        • Small to medium-sized boutiques
        • Jewelry stores
        • Luxury skincare stores
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        3 Real-Life Examples of Efficient Retail Store


        Now that we have gotten a grasp of how different store layouts work, let’s dive in further to see which design these famous brands are implementing, and how exactly they are working out in their favor.

        1. Apple - Free-flow Layout

        An example of a typical Apple store that utilizes the free-flow store layout.

          Apple’s clients are free to explore the establishment and make a purchase at their liberty with this intuitive store layout. Source: Shutterstock.

          In the past decades, people around the globe have learned another meaning of the word apple - an unassuming name for an everyday fruit. The notoriety of Apple is undeniable, and aspired brands are always eager to have a bite of that success. On the subject of store layouts, let’s see which one Apple prefers for its stores around the world.

          A quick look at this video from Business Insider gives us a general idea of how Apple segments its store: 360° Genius Bar (Tech Support and Repairs), Family Zone (Training and Personal Setup), and Red Zone (Product Displays and Sales).

          Although clearly divided, the pathways around these areas are not designed to guide visitors in a specific direction. The zones are simply put up to cater to different customer needs efficiently. Thus, it is safe to assume that Apple has adopted a free-flow store layout and customized it to achieve a distinctive feel as we know and love.

          2. IKEA - Loop Layout

          An example of a typical IKEA store that utilizes the loop layout approach.

            IKEA is a master in crafting a predictable store layout that encourages sales and enhances customer experience. Source: Shutterstock.

            When an iconic store layout is mentioned, IKEA cannot be taken out of the equation. This Swedish-born furniture chain is famous for its unique store maps that have been carefully crafted to prevent customers from getting lost. Just from a look at the photo above, the loop layout is immediately identified.

            With that being said, the people at a multinational company like IKEA had more in mind when designing their floor maps, apart from keeping people from wandering off track. This research suggests that the ‘Gruen Effect’ has been well-used by IKEA as the backbone of its store tour: to exhibit all the products in an attractive way through the pathway and make shoppers travel the longest route to arrive at the register. The result? Customers will end up buying way more stuff than they initially anticipated while being aware of this tactic the whole time. Case studies like this have accelerated the growth of the loop layout year after year.

            3. Zara - Hybrid Layout

            An example of a Zara store that utilizes the hybrid layout approach.

              Zara puts a lot of effort into perfecting its store layout and maximizing revenue by intensive testing. Source: Shutterstock.

              Zara is a prime example of a clothing brand with an ample product collection. Customers rarely come in for personal consultation or fitting, but lean more towards a quick shop-and-go spot. This makes it insufficient for it to adopt an intimate approach like the classic boutique store layout. Instead, the company has opted for the hybrid design concept: a mix of grid and loop layout.

              The signs are apparent: linear, parallel aisles, a designated pathway, thematic sections, thorough customer flow, etc. Zara even took it a step further and built pilot stores to test the efficiency of their layouts before having an official launch. In comparison to fashion brands of the same caliber, the company has mastered its marketing strategy to the fullest.

              Key Takeaways

              A store layout goes beyond achieving just the visual appeal. Depending on your business, a design concept will speak to you more than the others. The examples from us are for your consideration only, as it is your duty to find the best match that will level up your store’s performance. It is important to carefully test different options before hard launching your final choice, and it is also not the end of the world if you have to re-design after trials and errors either. After all, this is what doing business is all about, and we at GemPages always aim to assist you with the different facets of this diverse profession.

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              FAQ about Retail Store Layouts

              What is a retail store layout?
              A retail store layout is a space arrangement that includes shelves, fixtures, a shopping path, etc. This strategic design has a single goal in sight: to enhance customer experience and revenue of said store.
              What are the best retail store layouts?
              It largely depends on your business goal to be able to choose the best retail store layout that works for you. However, some examples are more popular than others, here is a full list of the most common retail store layouts for your consideration.

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