Retail store design in the ‘new norm’: The dos and don’ts

Need to redesign your store layout for the new norm? Here are some key dos and don’ts you need to know.

The layout and design of a retail store is a crucial part of the customer journey at all times.

However, in the midst of a global pandemic with social distancing and heightened hygiene measures in place, retailers need to work even harder to reassure shoppers their physical store is safe. And this all needs to come without impacting the overall shopping experience. 

Understandably this is no easy feat, but we’re here to help you navigate the new changes by running through some essential retail store design dos and don’ts. This will leave you with actionable advice on how to create a store design that promotes hygiene best practice without impeding on your customers.

Store layouts

Despite the exponential growth of online shopping since lockdown, a whopping 91% of shoppers claim they miss in-store shopping. For retailers, this lust for traditional shopping experiences could pose an opportunity to rethink store layouts that reassure consumers it’s safe to return. 

A huge part of this is creating a space that promotes social distancing and hygiene without impacting negatively on the overall browsing experience. 


Getting people into your store is one thing, but they also need to feel safe and be able to pick out items quickly – all with minimal contact with people and high-touch surfaces. This means widening shopping aisles and reducing inventory on display, not to mention stringent cleaning throughout.

Applying a less is more approach to your store design may seem counterintuitive when you need to drive as many sales as possible. However, focusing your store design on streamlining customer browsing time will all go towards making them feel safer. 

Start by making sure it’s feasible for customers to maintain the 2 metres distance at all times and opt for highly visual displays with fewer products, allowing quick product identification and access.


Of course, implementing these changes in store can result in storage issues in your stockroom. Don’t let this get out of control, as a poorly configured stockroom will have a knock on effect to the efficiency of your optimised shop floor layout. After all, they’re both intrinsically linked. 

Take the time to reassess your stockroom storage and get everything in order. For one, make sure you’re utilising every inch of space effectively by investing in versatile retail shelving unitsthat allow you to store a wide range of inventory on site. 

With everything in its rightful place, replenishing store shelves and finding additional stock for customers will be quicker and more efficient. What’s more, a tidy stockroom and storefront will be easier to maintain and will ensure staff stay suitably distanced too.

Exit and entry points

Many stores have already put temporary measures in place to manage traffic flow, which has also become expected as standard with most shoppers.  However, with cases still prevalent, it’s likely these measures will be here to stay for some time, making it potentially more cost effective to introduce more permanent solutions. 


Managing in-store traffic can help you promote a healthier space for your customers, so where possible introduce measures to help minimise human contact and congestion. With smaller establishments, this can be simple to put into effect with a one in, one out system. However, if you have larger premises with two doors, you could look to create separate exit and entry points.

Floor markers and visual signage can also bolster traffic flow management, directing one-way traffic flow systems and prompting correct social distancing in your store. These visual aspects could go a long way in reassuring customers that you’re taking the appropriate measures to keep them safe. 


Most stores have bottle neck areas such as cashier desks, popular product aisles and changing facilities, so don’t forget to consider how these areas can be better designed to minimise crowding. 

For one, this can be alleviated by reducing the number of people in store, but you could potentially look at reconfiguring product displays to distribute popular products throughout the store instead. 

Point of sale (POS) areas

As we touched on above, your point of sale (POS) areas can be a hotbed for congestion, so addressing these issues will help streamline the process and promote better safety within your store. 


Within your store layout reconfiguration, allow for a larger waiting area near tills so shoppers can naturally practice social distancing. You can also implement contactless payment stations to limit shoppers contact with high-touch surfaces. 

You could also install perspex glass screens at till points, and ensure staff are wearing masks. The addition of anti-bacterial gel dispensers at till points and throughout the store can also prevent the spread of germs. 

If your store also operates online, consider introducing a quick Click-and-Collect point within the store. This will allow customers the option to make their purchase online and pick it up at their nearest outlet. 


Adapting your store to changing shopping habits isn’t always a one size fits all approach, so when you’re looking at your pay points, don’t be afraid to experiment with a few variants to find the one that works best for you and your customers. 

It also goes without saying that you shouldn’t overlook the importance of training sales staff to help make the checkout process as quick and efficient as possible, particularly if you decide to invest in new software. 

Undeniably, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic and a changing retail landscape. However, taking the time to adapt your retail store now for long-term social distancing and an increased emphasis on hygiene will all go towards reassuring those all-important customers and preparing your business for whatever comes next.

Tom Brialey is the Founder and Director of Action Storage, which adopts his philosophy that, in addition to the highest quality products, you must also provide the highest standard of service to your customers in order to succeed. That’s why it’s Tom’s mission to provide expert support 100% of the way.

Photo by BBH Singapore