Why do Grocery Stores Change Their Layout?

Why do grocery stores change their layout? One thing’s for sure. It’s all part of their sales strategy. When grocery stores rotate their shelves and aisles, it means you’d spend a long time finding grocery items. This allows you to check through new aisles and see new product lineups. 

The store is trying to get you to notice other products. Those products are supposed to capture your attention, even though they’re not what you originally came to the store to buy. 

In this article, you’ll learn more about that. You’ll also know the importance of store layouts and the factors that influence them.

Why do grocery stores constantly rearrange everything?

As aforementioned, grocery stores change their layouts as part of their sales strategy. The idea is to get customers to notice other products they don’t usually pay attention to. This will encourage them to add those items to their carts and increase profit for the grocery store.

Geoffrey Chaucer, the father of English Literature, once said “familiarity breeds contempt” in English in the 1300s. It’s safe to say that statement applies to grocery store layouts. 

When customers get too familiar with a grocery store’s arrangement, they go straight for their usual aisles during shopping errands. The chances of them straying away from those aisles and making purchases outside their shopping list are low. 

Man holding black shopping basket and staring at a grocery a soft drinks aisle

By rearranging the layouts, stores encourage you to explore other parts and discover new items. This will trigger impulse buying when you see things of interest. 

Another reason why grocery stores change their layouts is to use space efficiently. For example, a grocery store may decide to rearrange everything if the staff discover new ways to make customers move around freely. 

Why is the layout of a grocery store important?

Grocery stores can predict customer behavior.

The layout of any grocery store is vital because it encourages herd behavior. Herd behavior refers to the collective behavior of individuals in an area. The individuals act similarly rather than independently. In this case, shoppers will follow the same behavioral pattern, such as visiting the aisle sections, following the same routes to get there, etc.

Herd behavior helps grocery stores analyze and predict human behavior. It helps them know what customers shop for most and what they least purchase. For example, once the store rearranges its layout, most customers will follow the same routes to get to the Fresh produce aisle. 

Grocery store staff and their inventory management systems can track what customers buy after visiting those aisles. This helps prevent over and under stocking and allows the store to make other informed decisions.

Improves customer experience

73% of customers agree that customer experience influences their buying decisions. So grocery stores must ensure that customers have the best time while shopping for items. 

Rearranging aisles can contribute to making this possible. Besides generating more profit for the store through impulse buying triggers, the store can save space. 

Aisle arrangements can help grocery stores discover focal points. Focal points are areas of the store that draw more attention than other parts. They help stores eliminate shelves or items they don’t need to create more space for customers to move freely. You wouldn’t want to bump your cart into other shoppers now, would you?

7 common types of grocery store layouts

Grocery stores, and other store types, use different layouts to encourage herd behavior. Some include the following:

1. Grid layout

Illustration of the grid layout in a grocery store
Photo source: consumercredit.com

This is the most common type of store layout. The framework of this layout takes a grid shape. Long aisles are arranged in a row. Customers can weave through the spaces in between them to find items. Sales items stay at the front sections towards the store entrance while regular items are concentrated in the back area. 

2. Loop or Racetrack layout

Illustration of the loop or racetrack layout in a clothing store
Photo source: dotactiv.com

In the loop layout, grocery stores arrange their shelves so that customers start at the entrance or front of the store. Then they move down aisles in a circular pattern back to the storefront. This way, customers have to pass through every aisle before leaving the store. 

3. Free-flow layout

Illustration of the Free flow store layout
Photo source: smartsheet.com

This is the most creative type of grocery store layout. It doesn’t force customers to follow herd behavior. Instead, customers can wander around the store as it has no defined shape or structure. 

4. Spine or Straight layout

Illustration of the Spine or Straight store layout
Photo source: slideshare.net

In this type of layout, the grocery store looks like a spine. A central path leads to the store’s back, where the cashier is. So from the entrance, customers can walk straight to the store’s back without passing through aisles. 

On either side of the path, grocery aisles and shelves of different shapes and sizes are placed. The cashier desk is just beside the entrance.

The downside of this aisle is that it has a dead end. When customers walk to the back, they still have to return to the front of the store to exit the building.  

5. Herringbone layout

Illustration of the Herringbone store layout
Photo source: koronapos.com

This layout looks more like a spine than the straight layout does. The difference is that the checkout or cashier area is at the back, not the front. Also, the central path is straight. In the Spine layout, it isn’t necessarily straightforward. The path could be diagonal, as long as it leads down to the backend of the store.

There is also a central pathway leading to the store’s back end. Grocery aisles are then arranged in a straight file on both sides of the path. So it looks like a spine, the way there is a bone at the center with ribs branching out on the right and left.

6. Diagonal layout

Illustration of the Diagonal store layout
Photo source: smartsheet.com

The diagonal store layout is just like the grid layout. The only difference is that the aisles are slanted so that customers can see the contents of shelves in an aisle without needing to stand in between them.

7. Multiple or Mixed layouts

The multiple or mixed grocery store layout combines elements from other structures, just as the name implies. For example, a grocery store can combine the loop and diagonal arrangements. 

What factors influence the store layout?

Display shelves

The size and shape of grocery store display shelves influence the layout. The larger or broader the frames, the more space they would consume. Typically, grocery stores with these kinds of shelves arrange them diagonally. 

Demographic data

Grocery stores rely on demographic data to make informed decisions on store matters. This data includes age group, genders, shopping interests, etc. They help the grocery store predict which products to showcase and where to display them.

The checkout area

This is the most underrated part of the grocery store. Surprisingly, it’s the most crucial part to consider in determining your store layout. If you’re too focused on cramping up the store with shelves, you could block the checkout area. This will eliminate any free space for customers to queue up. A cluttered checkout area can discourage shoppers from making purchases. They could even abandon their carts and walk away.

Building design

The larger a store, the more capacity its to accommodate complex or space-demanding layouts. 

Traffic flow & accessibility

While accommodating all your products seems like the top priority, customer needs should always come first. Your customers should be able to move around the store without bumping into anyone or needing to squeeze through aisles to grab an item. 

Events & special promotions

Special events also influence how grocery stores arrange their aisles. For example, stores may rotate shelves with holiday-themed items to the front during the holidays.

State laws & policies

State laws vary across the United States of America (USA). Therefore, grocery store owners must learn about the laws that apply to grocery stores in their region before making major decisions. 

The safety of customers and employees matters a lot. It would be disastrous if the store’s arrangement becomes a threat to human life. As the grocery store owner with the hazardous arrangement, you could go to jail or pay a hefty fine. That is if your store layout harms someone.

Budget & finances

Once you’ve met state law requirements, make sure that you have enough funds to cover the costs of getting the approved materials. It would also help to keep funds aside for extra expenses incurred by the rearrangement process.

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