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retail store layout
15 April 2021
Shalini John

How Layout Design Differs for Different Retail Sectors

Yes, we are manipulated by the retail industry – and we like it. Retailers think very seriously about how we think, what we like, who we are and who we want to be. Since we typically meet retail products for the first time in retail spaces, it’s important for retailers to create the right impression. The right store layout will determine product placement, guide customer traffic and denote the ambience of the retail space, so a significant amount of thought is required to making that right impression. Retail building design or retail space planning will need the support of high-quality retail drawings, 3D modelling for stores, retail rendering and retail construction drawings.

A variety of considerations will impact the floor plan choice, such as the size and shape of available floor space, the merchandise and even the target customers.

The retail industry is a vast ocean of sectors, and so it helps to segment it into smaller seas based on the type of product, such as food, beverage, tobacco products, personal and houseware, apparel, footwear, accessories, furniture, toys, industrial, automotive, electronic and household appliances, pharmaceuticals, luxury goods and more.

Retail can also be classified according to distribution channels – hypermarkets and supermarkets, specialty stores, department stores, convenience stores, e-commerce, etc.

Types of Retail Outlets

Department Stores– wide range of products under one roof, fulfilling all shopping needs – a one-stop shop, e.g. Pantaloons


  • Electronic appliances
  • Apparel
  • Jewellery
  • Toiletries
  • Cosmetics
  • Footwear
  • Sportswear
  • Toys
  • Books

Discount Stores– also offer a huge range of products but at a discounted rate, generally of a slightly inferior quality, e.g. Walmart


Same as department store but cheaper price and quality

Supermarkets– sell food products and household items, properly placed and arranged in specific departments, e.g. Carrefour, Sainsbury’s, CostCo


  • Bakery items
  • Cereals
  • Meat products, fish products
  • Breads
  • Medicines
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Soft drinks
  • Frozen food
  • Canned juices

Specialty Stores– specialise in a particular product, its specific range and nothing else, e.g. Reebok stores have Reebok merchandise and nothing else, no other brands

Malls– Many retail stores selling individual types of merchandise at one place, e.g. Mall of America, Mall of the Emirates, etc.

As each subset within the broader retail umbrella has different products, different target customers and different design styles, it’s important to plan meticulously and gather detailed data to create the most profitable store design and use floor layouts that are effective.

Floor Plan

When choosing a floor plan type, the retailer must plan the location of the shelves or racks to display the merchandise, the position of the mannequins or the cash counter, etc. Basic retail floor plans are as follows:

Grid Floor/Straight Floor Plan– A grid floor plan, also called a straight layout, features fixtures and displays parallel to walls. This floor plan maximises floor space and corners, using walls for promotional items.

  • Makes optimum use of the walls, space
  • Creates spaces within the store for increased traffic to move and shop freely
  • Commonly implemented store designs

Fig.1 – Grid Floor/Straight Floor Plan

  • Easy for retailers to organise
  • Used in grocery, big box and convenience stores
  • Shelf-stocked goods, such as books, toys, specialty foods, hardware, homeware, etc.

Loop Floor Plan– Sometimes called a racetrack layout, a loop floor plan guides shoppers along a defined path, exposing them to every item. Highly visible perimeter walls can display more merchandise.

  • Maximises wall space and leads shoppers along a set pathway, so they see products in a certain order
  • High product visibility

Fig.2 – Loop Floor Plan

  • Used for apparel, accessories, toys, homeware, kitchenware, personal care and specialty retail stores

Diagonal Floor Plan– This floor plan allows open sightlines, customer testing and product interaction. Apple stores have been known to favour this floor plan.

  • Shelves/racks kept diagonal to each other so the store manager can watch the customers
  • Works well for stores where customers walk in, pick up and sample merchandise without sales staff assistance

Fig.3 – Diagonal Floor Plan

  • Customers and staff can easily move between aisles
  • Used for stores with self-serve kiosks, tech, electronic stores, specialty food, beauty and cosmetic retailers

Angular Floor Plan– Angular floor plans use small, round displays in the centre of the retail space to highlight specific limited merchandise, while shoppers can see each product from all angles. It becomes easy to customise and rearrange products.

There is a strong perception of high quality, with high prices and with most products featured on floor displays instead of aisles or walls.

Fig.4 – Angular Floor Plan

  • Fixtures and walls have a curved look to add style
  • Showcases curated products in designer or specialty shops
  • More sophisticated look for high-end stores
  • Used for designers, artisans, boutiques, jewellery, high-end apparel and accessories retailers, limited edition collections

Forced Path Floor Plan– Forced-path, or guided, floor plans are used in large spaces, with one open entry and a singular pathway option through the entire store to the checkout area and exit. The furniture store IKEA has mastered the use of this floor plan.

This plan creates a memorable, fun experience and can showcase a variety of product departments and design displays.

Fig.5 – Forced Path Floor Plan

  • Encourages impulse sales and upsell opportunities
  • Shoppers exposed to all products, sometimes more than once
  • Increases opportunities for shopper interaction in demonstrations, samplings, entertainment, etc.
  • Customers are guided through a predetermined path, so retailers can control the order that products are introduced to shoppers.
  • Used more often in furniture stores, home decor, experiential retail stores and showrooms

Geometric Floor Plan– Useful to gain the attention of a millennial demographic or to present a brand as hip or trendy, the geometric layout uses a mix of shapes and sizes in its displays, such as squares, ovals, triangles and rectangles.

  • Shoppers follow a particular pattern while navigating the retail space.
  • High-end price points can be easily targeted.

Fig.6 – Geometric Floor Plan

  • Customers are directed to merchandise that needs to move quickly.
  • Racks/fixtures given a geometric shape
  • Used to produce trendy and unique looks to appeal to a certain niche kind of customer

Mixed/Free-flow Floor Plan– Preferred by specialty retailers, a free-flow floor plan enables creative displays and can be easily changed or updated. Angled fixtures and displays make shoppers slow down and explore products.

Specialty displays and walls featuring high-sale products make it easy to guide shoppers to specific zones using accent colours and product groupings.

Fig.7 – Mixed/Free-flow Floor Plan

  • Makes the best use of irregular space
  • Offers flexibility to work with unique floor layouts
  • Encourages browsing and product discovery with creative floor displays
  • Uses a combination of angular, diagonal and straight layouts for optimum functionality
  • Used in specialty and boutique settings, such as apparel, accessory, personal care, specialty brand and mixed-use stores, such as bakeries that also display packaged goods
Store Design/Layout Tips
  • Signage with store name and logo must be easily visible, even from a distance.
  • Wall colours set the mood; most stores prefer light, subtle shades.
  • Fixtures or furniture should not become obstacles.
  • Racks must be well organised, with clear labels.
  • Lighting must adequately highlight products.
  • Expensive products, such as watches, jewellery, precious stones, mobile handsets, etc., need to be in locked cabinets.
  • Cameras, CCTVs are a must. Careful planning is required to decide on their locations.

As can be seen, effective retail space planning and retail building design take a range of relevant factors into account. Different types of retail spaces and retail products can be showcased for optimum results only with in-depth knowledge of these factors. With the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM) becoming more widespread globally in design and build firms, it’s only natural that BIM retail design also catches on. With the right design support, retailers can expect near-flawless, high-quality and cost-effective retail drawings, 3D modelling for stores, retail rendering and retail construction drawings from experienced and technically well-qualified design support firms, delivered within budget and on time. Retail space planning done right can make all the difference in sales and, ultimately, profits.

XS CAD has valuable experience providing retail building design services and retail space planning drawings for engineers, architects and retailers. Our range of services for structural, architectural and building engineering firms, such as consultants and contractors across the world, include retail drawings, 3D modelling for stores, retail construction drawings and retail rendering. We have proven to be a preferred BIM outsourcing partner, due to the high quality of our 3D models and BIM retail design, created by using Revit, AutoCAD, Inventor and BIM 360 Collaborate for cloud collaboration.