Retail interior design: the 7 principles of retail store design

Although every retail store is different, they all have one goal and one goal only: to get customers over the threshold and influence them to part with their cash. Retailers have tried everything from playing music, to filling their stores with alluring scents – and while it is nothing new, there is a real art to getting it right.

It starts with retail store design, and with years of experience in delivering award-winning commercial interior designs, we are masters of this art at Green Room. From the initial planning through to implementation and delivery, the trick to getting retail store design right is understanding the customer.

We’re going to look at seven retail design techniques that will transform any retail environment. But before that, why not sign up to receive our newsletter?

1. Eye-catching visual merchandising

The power of retail window design should never be underestimated. A striking piece of visual merchandising will capture shoppers’ attention. Window displays are usually the first point of visual contact a customer has with a store and can often be the difference between a customer entering to see more, or just walking on by.

After all, shop windows are the eyes of a retail store or shop. They should tell a story that is then carried through into a physical space. The trick is to explore creative interpretations, while always placing the product at the heart of the display. This should grab attention, while communicating a message and telling a story.

To learn more about how to best take advantage of visual merchandising to maximise your sales, read our article on the principles of visual merchandising.

ASICS MetaRun window

2. Slow down the customer journey in the store

Modern consumers are extremely busy and have a tendency to shop in a hurry. It is the job of retail interior design to slow down this journey and increase dwell time in the store, encouraging customers to slow down, browse and potentially discover something new.

Encouraging this kind of shopping behaviour starts with your store layout and continues all the way to creating an immersive experience. Your store layout determines how and where you’ll display products and the path customers take through your store. Within retail store design there’s grid layouts, herringbone layouts, loop layouts or free flow. The loop layout is particularly effective for creating a path for customers to follow through your store.

The North Face – Flagship Store, Stanford, USA

You should also place a large, eye-catching display at the store entrance. Customers will decide very quickly whether they like what they see, and placing key products at the front of the store can help them make this decision. By stopping the customer at the store entrance, retailers can encourage them to travel further into the space.

3. Mark out the customer pathway around the store

Similarly, retailers will know the path they want customers to take around their store. They will have a clear idea of which products should lead where and how they want customers to end up at the till. Stores need to make this journey clearly apparent to shoppers.

You may have heard of food retailers strategically placing necessities such as eggs and milk at the back of the store, meaning a customer has to then navigate through the other goods to reach it, potentially becoming influenced to pick up other products. Department stores also use this strategy, placing the kids department on the top floor so that parents have to make their way through other sections, thus increasing the likelihood of additional purchases.

Some retailers fail to guide consumers around the store effectively; leading them up aisles without thinking where in the store it’s taking them. Instead, brands should lead customers around a path that increases dwell time and leverages sales. Take a look at how we did this in the PUMA X Man City Store.

PUMA X MCFC City Store launch, Manchester

4. Steer customers to the right of the store

Research into retail interior design has shown that customers naturally veer towards the right when they enter a retail space. Given that the majority of the world’s population is right handed, this makes complete sense. We can assume that the majority of the population are stronger on their right, will generally reach with their hand and most importantly, tend to be drawn to the right hand side of any space.

To capitalise on this, retailers should place visually arresting signs and Point of Sale displays on the right hand side of a store. This will then naturally guide customers anti-clockwise around a space which has been shown to be a preferred route. By factoring this into the pathway outlined previously, brands can transform their retail space and leverage sales.

5. Be bold, creative and innovative with store design

With an increasing number of shoppers turning to e-commerce to purchase products, it’s all the more important for brands to make their retail spaces enticing and interactive. Focusing on that physical experience that e-commerce lacks is the key to keeping stores busy. The physical space can be smaller and the levels of stock can be lower but the actual experience needs to be more stimulating. One way of doing this is to focus on retail interior design. This allows brands the opportunity to be bold with their spaces and attract customers in an entirely new way.

Spark flagship store, Newmarket, New Zealand

Through clever colour choices, bold signage, and innovative designs, stores have the potential to create an immersive environment that reinforces brand advocacy and keeps customers coming back to the store. The store is the ultimate showcase and it’s the physical touch point between the brand and the customer. Creating an attractive space where a customer can be completely immersed in the brand really brings it to life and turns them into a true brand advocate.

6. Aerate the store design and layout

While innovative and creative interior design can pack a punch, it is vital that retailers give their consumers some breathing space. Busy, over-crowded retail environments can give the impression that products are of a lesser quality. Instead, it is vital that there are gaps in the store design to allow customers space to think and move around more freely.

Our collaboration with SEAT successfully achieved this in the form of the olive tree at the centre of the retail concept store at Westfield, inviting tired customers to take a seat beneath it’s branches.

7. Make the most of any shop space

For brands looking to enter a new market or boost their profile, it is often preferable to open a retail concession or pop-up store. But just because there are restrictions, it doesn’t mean the design of the store should suffer.

In fact, the design of these smaller, more temporary retail spaces needs to be even more eye-catching. The principles remain the same, but retailers need to learn to adapt their offering. Customers will expect an experience in these spaces, and the retail interior design will need to reflect this. Our Philips Pop-up in Utrecht is a fantastic example of how to utilise a smaller space to your advantage.

Have a look at our latest projects to find out how we have applied these retail store interior design to help our clients maximise their sales. We're also proud to have been included in DesignRush' Top Digital Agencies, so if it's digital design you're after, then get in touch with our team to discuss how we can help you.

This article was originally published in November 2013, but we have updated the content to keep it in-line with the latest Retail Design thinking *


7 min05 Sep 21