Monday 17 August 2015


Space, or lack of it, is often an issue for many retailers, although I do recall working with one retailer who had too much of it, but that’s a whole different story!

Generating high sales per square metre is important for any retailer but when you’re spatially challenged this becomes even more important.  And just because the space is small it doesn’t mean that the shop needs to be crammed with stock, although, depending what your retail offer is, this tactic can work well, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

I think one of the biggest challenges with a small shop is getting the customer to feel comfortable even before stepping across the threshold and then for that feeling to continue once they’re in the space.  As Paco Underhill states

“The longer a shopper remains in a store the more he or she will buy and the amount of time a shopper spends in a store depends on how comfortable the experience is.”

As the title of this blog infers small spaces can deliver exceptionally good retail, but to do this there are a few key things to consider first!

Optimise the shop layout!
  • Circulation – starting with a blank canvas by putting everything else to one side, think about the customer and their journey into your space. How do they enter, what’s their approach, how, if they can, do they circulate once they are in your shop.
  • Pinch points – where are the problem areas that stop customer flow or inhibit the customers shopping activity.
  • Dwell time – we all need a bit of thinking space, where can your customers stop for a moment to think, linger and take stock (no pun intended) without feeling pressurised.
So you’ve thought through the space from you’re customers view point now it’s down to you. How can you best present your retail offer based on your knowledge of your customers shopping activity?
  • Retail offer – what’s your niche market. If you’ve got a small space you simply can’t sell everything so don’t try to compete with those retailers that can. Have courage, develop a long term strategy and focus on your niche market. This may take a bit longer to build sales but it will pay off if you stick with it, stay focused and pay attention to the detail.
  • Merchandising – you know how your customers shop your space so create your merchandising plan to match. Put your best sellers in highly visible places where customers can linger, remember eye level = buy level and make sure products are easily accessible.
  • Product mix – be very selective with your buying, understand your customers’ needs and carefully edit your product mix so you have a tight selection of merchandise at various price points.
  • Stock rotation - if you can, try to rotate your stock on regular basis so customers see constant change in your retail offer.  Every retailer wants their stock to be on the shop floor, after all this is money tied up, but with careful planning it is possible to create an ever-changing retail offer that will keep customers coming back. Time this well and it will facilitate high sales per square metre without damaging your cash flow.
  • Empty space – your retail area may be small but for customers to feel comfortable the chances are you need to allow plenty of empty space around the entrance to your shop. Don’t block it and don’t encourage customers to block it. If you do, customers inside will feel trapped and their attention will be focussed on an escape plan and for customers outside, they just won’t come in. 
These are just a few points but if you apply the basics first and then add in some ‘wow’ visual merchandising you’ll be able to create a vibrant and successful retail offer and, maintain it too!

All the best

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