Retail Store Design - Front Sales Counter Should Not Be Up Front

retail stores store counters

In Toronto Ontario Canada new stores fashioned in concrete at street level and in the basements and underground 'Pathway', a massive shopping mall which connect many of the downtown skyscrapers, are much smaller than older stores in old brick buildings across 'main street' Canada. Modern merchandisers in this city must truly maximize their limited space, and adopt innovations like glass and aluminum display case to put stuff on display even as shoppers are buying their goods and leaving the store.  Triangular glass and aluminum frame display cases maximize the corners and make showcases to catch consumers' eyes. Having a small thriving business in a busy location can be a recipe for success and is far preferable than having many locations do only a modest trade. The congested downtown core is heaven for smart entrepreneurs with good 'concept stores' that have interesting floor plans and smart fixtures.

In the last decade the price of housing and of course commercial office and retail space too has doubled in Toronto and will likely do so again next decade.  So much like the precedents set in Tokyo and New York City the little shops get squeezed together in the crush that is our new and 'denser' urban reality.

Today retailers are forced to consider new floor plans with smarter fixtures to better maximize the amount of merchandise on display.

Here's Andy Ientile a Toronti area serial entrepreneur that's very excited to be opening an organic grocery market in Liberty Village.  He has a challenging space to contend with as he crafts the interior design of his dreams with the limited furnishings and decor he can find and afford today.

After contemplating his floor plan for many months, Andy brought in professional help (who in turn called us to supply his store fixtures) because there are so many factors to be considered when designing a modern supermarket.

As we walked through the space with Andy we soon discovered that some things can be moved, while other business elements must remain. He cannot adjust the position of the front door for example or the shape of the space he's renting, and also there are fixed elements in the store - ie the meat and fish poultry eggs and dairy must be kept refrigerated at the back and along the left side of the box shaped store as this is where the power supply and service is and also this area is most accessible for deliveries. The produce will be kept up front where it can be seen in the window and be the first thing people encounter inside the market. But where to put the checkout counter?

Where to put the front desk has been the topic of discussion for some time in the world of retail store design.

For many years this check-out area was right up front and used to actually block or guard the front door. If the retailer needs to see store merchandise on the sidewalk out front then he or she might have good reason to be near the entrance and may even choose to elevate the counter area sightly on a riser and keep the opening close to the front door for quicker pursuit and apprehensive of shoplifters. But these things shouldn't affect store design's number one priority - to put consumers in a comfortable space where they can relax and contemplate the potentialities of each purchase.

The front entrance of any store is a decompression zone of sorts and shouldn't be cluttered or conflicted with the dynamic action of people leaving the store.  Thus in many cases you will notice the entrance is on the right hand side of the shop while people leave on the left hand side. If there is the possibility of setting up your store like a racetrack and encouraging the same behaviour as people driving then you should always consider this design. This layout works especially well in grocery stores and supermarkets where people natural push wheeled carts. 

The 'front' desk seems well positioned on the left side of the store against the wall where possible and seamlessly integrated into the retail concept.  People on their way out should not impact or affect the forward movement of those entering the venue.


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