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Store Design 2023 - Store Design Best Practice

| Ivana | Editorial Feature

The South African retail landscape has undergone significant transformation in the past year, driven by the post-pandemic race to recover profitability, encourage growth, and most importantly, get more feet through their doors.

This has prompted retailers and supermarkets to, among other things, reimagine their store designs to cater to the evolving needs and expectations of their customers.

According to a recent survey conducted by statistics firm Eighty20 across seven major shopping malls in South Africa, pandemic-era foot traffic decreased by 90%, with Johannesburg’s Sandton City hardest hit. Malls that saw average traffic of 1.5 million visitors a month pre-Covid saw foot traffic decreased by 1.2 million.

The same survey shows that all seven malls have now recovered, if not quite to pre-pandemic levels, then almost. Cape Town’s Canal Walk has come closest to reaching pre-pandemic levels at the beginning of the year, with a 99% recovery.

One of the foremost priorities for post-pandemic store design is implementing robust health and safety measures. Customers want reassurance that their well-being is prioritised, and retailers must address these concerns.

Lockdown measures, like signage that encourages social distancing and the proper use of face masks, are now a thing of the past in most stores, so retailers need to find different elements that continue to convey a sense of calm and cleanliness without overt messaging.

“Covid has made us hyper aware of how easily germs are spread, and it’s something customers are still wary of today,” says Chriselda Kistnasamy, Marketing Manager at store, design, manufacturing and installation company TCK Retail Solutions. “Supermarkets and retailers can’t stop thinking about health and safety and should actively keep certain measures in place.” These include visible sanitation stations, frequent cleaning protocols, and the integration of touchless technologies, such as automatic doors and contactless payment options.

Store design and unique experiential spaces

Health and safety aside, to attract customers back to physical stores, retailers are creating unique and memorable experiences that go beyond traditional shopping.

Curated experiential spaces allow customers to engage with products in an immersive and interactive manner. For example, hosting recipe workshops, live demonstrations, and VIP events can create a sense of community and provide customers with valuable insights. “Working in partnership with suppliers is an extremely cost-efficient way for retailers to create curated experiences instore,” says Kistnasamy. “For example, stores can use upcoming holidays or special occasions as a monthly theme. We find that suppliers are more than willing to come out for demonstrations and to show shoppers useful ways to use their products.” Just don't overcrowd your store with different experiences – rather spread them out over different days and weeks, which has the added effect of attracting a diverse audience and keeps shoppers coming back.

Using focused and/or natural design elements, products that may not be receiving the attention they deserve can be highlighted with clever and attractive merchandising units strategically placed throughout the store.

Maximising your space

One of the key advantages of larger retail spaces is the freedom to explore a wider variety of layout options. These spaces can accommodate multiple departments, distinct product displays, and spacious aisles. The design can focus on creating immersive experiences through thematic zones, brand areas, and interactive elements. Wholesale stores whose job it is to carry bulk and massive ranges also benefit from good layout and design. All customers want a great shopping experience.

Smaller stores with limited space need a more strategic approach to their design and layout. Maximising every square metre becomes crucial. Smaller spaces can employ compact shelving, carefully planned product placement, and creative use of vertical space to optimise the customer journey.

Effective signage and wayfinding systems aid in navigation, ensuring customers can easily locate products, especially when merchandise is moved around and shelves are repacked.

Store design brings the personal touch

In a post-pandemic world, customers value personalised experiences more than ever before. Millennials, who are emerging as the biggest spenders, want personalisation and convenience above all else when shopping.

Store design should aim to cater to individual preferences and needs. “You can offer simple in-store services to make your store worth the trip for millennials, such as Woolworths’ new recycling machines for plastic bottles,” says Kitnasamy. “Millennials love green initiatives, and the convenience of getting their recycling done in-store is a boon for attracting foot traffic. In larger stores, including smaller service kiosks creates a convenient shopping destination that allows customers to drop off their recycling and shop for groceries.”

Online shopping design as an extension of your brand

Online shopping is growing, and retailers are looking for new and innovative ways to seamlessly integrate their digital and physical channels and embrace online extensions of their physical stores.

  1. Online shopping should carry the same trust and confidence as its physical counterparts for shoppers. Safety and security are paramount.
  2. An ecommerce site must be mobile responsive. Many consumers access online shopping from their mobile devices. As there are a multitude of screen sizes, with different operating systems, it is important to ensure that your site is accessible from as many of these as possible.
  3. Just as in a physical store, promotions and special offers should be clearly visible to online shoppers.
  4. Use predictive text and multiple filters to assist shoppers in their product selection.
  5. SEO (search engine optimisation) means setting up a site and content to generate better online search results. SEO utilises relevant keywords, phrases and built-in tools that push your platform further to the top of a search engine such as Google.
  6. Like your physical store, online store design should be simple and easy to navigate, with clearly marked categories and departments.
  7. It goes without saying that visuals and pricing should be kept updated at all times.

A successful supermarket, hyper or wholesaler online store incorporates design elements that bridge the gap between the online and offline worlds. This could include, for instance, interactive in-store digital displays that allow customers to browse and order products online,  in-store pickup options for online orders, and online or instore-only specials and promotions that encourage shoppers to shop both channels.

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Sustainability sells in store design

As sustainability and ethical practices gain prominence in consumer consciousness, integrating these values into store design can be a powerful attraction for customers. Using eco-friendly materials, implementing energy-efficient lighting, and embracing sustainable practices in construction and operations demonstrate a commitment to environmental responsibility. Moreover, highlighting ethical sourcing and production processes through transparent displays or information sharing helps customers make informed choices and feel good about their purchases.

Boutique-style experiential store design

Jumbo Goodmans is a good example of a butchery that offers a different experience to the norm. For example, customers have the option of selecting their own meat, then housing it in the store’s dry aging cabinet. Other features of this store are indoor nature displays that have resulted in increased foot traffic, and just as importantly, more time spent in the store. TCK’s designers and factory collaborated to create the various shopfitting elements to showcase these features.

“Smaller stores should be offering this type of boutique interactive experience,” says Kitnasamy.  “Take one product the store does well and create an experience around it. It could be roasting and grinding artisanal coffee beans, or having a daily dinner inspiration station that supplies recipes and a shopping list. Then use clever shopfitting to merchandise these experiences.”

Store layout and product placement

In the highly competitive world of retail, effective product placement  makes all the difference in attracting customers, influencing purchasing decisions, and maximising sales. Because of this, supermarkets and wholesale stores constantly strive to optimise the layout and positioning of products to create the best shopping experience for their shoppers.

Successful product placement is a multifaceted discipline that combines an understanding of shopper behavior, strategic placement techniques, and the use of technology. As consumer preferences continue to evolve, staying attuned to market trends and adapting product placement strategies will  remain essential for retailers and wholesalers to thrive in the competitive retail landscape.

The science of store design

Mastering product placement

#1: Understand shopper behaviour. This involves analysing customer flow patterns, identifying popular aisles, and demarcating high-traffic areas. Use data analytics and conduct observational studies to gain valuable insights into these shopper preferences, then strategically position products in the most favorable locations.

#2: Optimise shelf placement. The ‘eye-level is buy-level’ principle says best-selling and high-profit items should be positioned at eye level, making them easily noticeable and accessible.

#3: Cross-merchandising. Strategically placing complementary products together encourages cross-category purchasing. For example, placing crisps next to the salsa section or displaying batteries near electronic devices can prompt customers to buy multiple items. Cross-merchandising creates convenience for shoppers, increases basket size, and encourages exploration of different product categories. It also allows new products to be introduced to shoppers.

#4: Create impulse purchase zones. Impulse purchase zones typically feature low-priced, high-margin items like snacks, beverages, and magazines. However impulse buys can extend to homeware, cereals, baked goods, beverages…just ensure the products are visually appealing, well-stocked, and accompanied by persuasive signage or displays that highlight their value.

#5: Monitor and adapt. Effective product placement requires continuous monitoring and adaptation. Retailers should regularly analyse sales data, conduct shopper surveys and seek feedback from their teams to evaluate the effectiveness of their product placement strategies. By identifying areas for improvement and adjusting their tactics accordingly, retailers can stay ahead of evolving consumer preferences and maintain a competitive edge.

Set the mood: how lighting plays a key role in store design

Lighting plays a vital role in shaping the ambiance and enhancing the shopping experience in supermarkets and wholesale stores. When designed thoughtfully, lighting fixtures and the light produced can transform average into extraordinary. Lighting done well attracts customers, showcases merchandise and creates a welcoming atmosphere. In recent years, there have been significant advancements in lighting technology and design strategies that are revolutionising the way these spaces are illuminated.

For large-format hypers and wholesalers, lighting is more than ambiance and highlighting – it brings life to a massive space. Flickering, uneven distribution of light, poor contrast and glare will impact shoppers and staff alike.

Effective lighting design in supermarkets and retail stores also goes beyond mere illumination. It is a powerful tool that enhances the overall in-store shopping journey and contributes to energy efficiency.

Advances in LED technology layered lighting techniques, colour rendering,  and lighting controls give retailers more options to create visually enticing spaces that attract customers into the store and keep them lingering longer.

Klaus Ritschewald, Managing Director of specialist lighting supplier Euro Concepts, says customised lighting solutions are an integral aspect of any well-designed store. “The interplay between ambient and accent lighting showcases the entire store, while highlighting specific areas and food freshness, while atmospheric lighting creates a desired atmosphere and the look and feel of the store.”  

Partner with store design professionals

Working with qualified professional and experienced store designers and shopfitters is a must. Professional store designers have expertise in creating an efficient and logical store layout. They understand how to arrange aisles, displays, and product placements in a way that maximises traffic flow, encourages customer exploration, and minimises congestion.

Store designers understand the importance of aesthetics and visual appeal in attracting customers. They can create an inviting and appealing environment that enhances the overall shopping experience. They can also incorporate branding elements into the store design, such as logos, colours, and signage, to create a cohesive and recognisable brand image. This helps to reinforce brand identity and create a memorable shopping experience that differentiates a store from its competitors.

Ultimately the value of professional store designers lies in creating a positive and convenient shopping experience for customers. They take into account factors such as ease of navigation, accessibility for different customer demographics, placement of amenities like shopping carts and baskets, and the overall atmosphere of the store.

Tell your story through store design

Tell your story, make your store a place people come to again and again. Create opportunities for people to talk about your store on social media. Store design sets the tone, sends a message, enhances the shopping experience and helps you make the most of your space. It’s well worth doing it right.  

Award-winning store design

Shoprite-owned Checkers was the overall category winner of the latest  South African Council of Shopping Centres (SASC) Retail Design & Development Awards. Checkers Foods’ flagship store in Franschhoek won the overall Spectrum Award for 2022, which recognises innovation as well as outstanding economic and creative achievements. The retailer also won in the New Developments category, with Checkers Drakenstein Sentrum, Paarl being the overall winner in this category. Checkers Foods Franschhoek was also the joint winner in the Retail Design – National Retailer category.

By Guy Lerner

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