The Seven basic Elements of Good Store Design

What do the Coolest Stores have in common? Glen Beres talks to the pros.

Some stores just work. And it’s not some great mystery as to how they do it. Well-designed retail stores share certain characteristics that make them more memorable than their competitors. Here are some of the common denominators behind superior store design, according to the people who design jewelry stores for a living.

Proper balance between fashion and function. It’s important to make the overall look of your store attractive — but not by sacrificing functionality. “Your design has to reflect the way you operate,” notes  design consultant Ruth Mellergaard, the president and CEO of New York-based GRID 3 International. “You don’t want the design to compete with the merchandise,  so make your interior tasteful and unique, but simple,” says Nicholas Zalany, a partner with Jencen, a Cleveland-based design firm.

A Visually Strong Storefront

The storefront must serve a number of purposes, according to Zalany. It must present the merchandise in an enticing manner; it must reflect the image the store wants to convey; and it must attract the target customer. This includes signage that is “tastefully” integrated into the architecture of the storefront.

Continuity Between Outside and Inside Design

Well-designed stores have a storefront look that meshes well with the interior design. This means the first-time customer who has decided to enter based to the look of the storefront won’t be surprised, confused, or disappointed upon actually entering the store. “You don’t want to shock your customers,” Mellergaard warns. “They don’t expect to walk into a French chateau and find a cutting-edge, high-tech store.” This doesn’t mean you should pick just any design, though. “A lot of jewelers see a store design they like, either inside or outside their industry, and decide they must have it in their store,” says Samuel Marouhos, president of Toronto-based S/M/A Design Group. “But they haven’t considered their market and existing customer base, type of merchandise, level of service or a host of other critical factors.”

Proper Lighting

There’s nothing worse for a jewelry store than to have cases filled with dull-looking merchandise. Better-designed stores understand that superior lighting draws in customers, improves the look of the jewelry, and enhances a store’s image. In effect, lighting can be a strong sales tool that is well worth the added investment, Mellergaard says. For each type of merchandise, there is a specific light source that works the best. And there should be an appropriate balance between general store lighting and accent lighting for the merchandise. “I see too many stores that are all track lighting,” Zalany says. “They’re bright, but the merchandise looks washed out.”

A Store Layout That Maximizes Traffic Flow

“People should walk through your store without thinking about it,” Zalany says. “They should be concentrating on the merchandise, not where they are walking.” This means aisles should be wide (between five and seven feet), but not so wide that customers “get lost.” If you cram too many showcases into the store, customers will be bumping into one another. Merchandise should be laid out so that customers are first exposed to items you want to build impulse or future purchases on, and they should have to walk past all your other cases before getting to the best-selling stuff in the back, Marouhos advises.

Consistent Signage and Graphics

Signs and displays outside the store should match those inside. This means that signage/display sizes, colors, messages, design, graphics, logos and other characteristics should have a similar look. Such continuity is an essential branding element for any store, says Mellergaard.

Proper Security Features in Place

Many jewelers neglect this all-important store feature because of the cost, or because they worry that certain security measures — cameras, heavy-duty locks on cases, and so on — might clash with the aesthetics of the store and the merchandise, Marouhos explains. Even worse, some jewelers fear that overt security measures can actually intimidate customers and send them walking. “But the bottom line is that you need to make that ‘grab and run’ as complicated as possible,” Marouhos counters. “Jewelers who don’t have proper security measures in place are short-changing themselves.”

This story is from the August 2002 edition of INSTORE

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