What is Retail Design?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2019
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Retail design is a highly specialized discipline based on concepts that are central to marketing, merchandising, advertising, ergonomics, and interior design. The purpose of this kind of design is to create a shopping experience that is as positive as possible for both the consumer and the retailer. Some aspects of retail design are rather practical and have to do with the way that merchandise is stocked. Other aspects are much more esoteric and have to do with creating a certain kind of experience for a customer as she walks through the interior space of the store. There are also aspects of retail design that have to do with guiding shoppers through the store.

Fixtures are an important part of retail design. Not only must they display the merchandise effectively, but they should also be convenient for the customer to use. Shelves and displays that place merchandise out of arm's reach, for example, may be rather inconvenient. The displays themselves should also reflect the aesthetic of the products that are being sold.


Some stores are very overt about their retail design and make no efforts to conceal what they are trying to accomplish. Some furniture stores, for example, guide shoppers through various showrooms via arrows that are painted on the store's main walkways. Other stores are more subtle and will simply create a path or a series of paths by strategically placing displays and cash wraps on the store's floor plan. It is common, for example, for a clothing company to divide the store into two paths — one with displays of items for women and another with displays of items for men.

In addition to creating a specific kind of interior space, retail design also governs the design of the exterior of the store. It is crucial for retail design to create an exterior that draws customers in to the space. There are a variety of ways this can be done and the design reflects the type of merchandise that is sold in the store. A high-end boutique, for example, might draw in customers with large windows that are used for exciting product displays, whereas a store for budget home wares is more likely to require an exterior that offers advertising space for the low-price items inside.


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