Store planning can be a daunting process if you’re a fashion retailer. After all, as an apparel store, you’d need to provide your customer with a full sensory experience, using aesthetics and atmospherics. That’s to keep them in the store for as long as possible in the hope of them making a purchase.
Of course, it doesn’t help that you’re in an already competitive market dominated by e-commerce. Fortunately, your consumers still want the experience and immediacy that a brick and mortar store has to offer.
If you take the correct approach to your store planning, you can deliver an experience that entices customers to stay for longer.
Whether you are opening a new apparel store or redesigning an existing one, the below five tips will lead you in the right direction.
1. Understand your retail space
Understanding your retail space is the starting point when it comes to planning your apparel store.
You should consider your entire floor space to maximise the potential of your retail selling space. This means looking at every inch of your floor plan and what fixtures go where.
Space allocation is also vital in optimising all of the sales space available to you. Enough space must be allocated to each category according to its sales contribution. On top of that, when it comes to apparel and allocating category space, you must also consider the size and display of your products.
Then, of course, you must consider how much space you’d allocate to shop fittings or non-selling fixtures such as your fitting rooms and checkout space. Allocate too much and important selling space is lost. Allocate too little and shoppers can get frustrated.
Also, by giving shoppers enough space to complete their transaction comfortably you create the opportunity for impulse purchases.
Then there is the point that you need to consider how often your assortment changes. Since new items are added to your range more often than in the FMCG sector, it changes the way in which you plan your space. That includes regular updates (and future planning) around your merchandising layout.
This should be done in a way that avoids customer confusion but still allows customers to easily navigate through the store to find the products that they are looking for.
2. Consider your store layout options
When you walk into an apparel store, you’ll likely notice the way the store is laid out. This is not just random product placement; this has taken time, careful consideration and lots of planning.
The first and most important consideration when deciding on the appropriate store layout for your apparel store is the physical shape and size of your retail space. This will largely determine how you place the fixtures in your store and how you lay out a consumer path.
It’s worth researching your direct competitors to see what works for them in terms of their layout before trying it out in your store first. This will provide you with some insight as to what layouts can be considered for your store. The common goal of a store layout is to expose shoppers to as much merchandise as possible to increase their basket size.
The different types of store layouts to consider include:
- Grid layout: the most traditional type of layout where fixtures are placed in rows and can be used to create a path to reflect how you want your shoppers to shop in your store.
- Free flow layout: There is no specific consumer path and fixtures are placed in a free flowing pattern on the store floor so that shoppers can wander the store freely.
- Loop layout: a very controlled shopper path used to expose your shoppers to the most retail space possible.
- Herringbone layout: best used for long, narrow stores as it has a passage running down the middle of the store with paths forming the aisles.
For further insight and the advantages and disadvantages of each type of store layout, you can read about it here.
3. Choose the appropriate store fixtures
The fixtures chosen for your store are closely related to your store layout and product items and will influence product merchandising.
There are many different types of store fixtures used in apparel retailers. For example, clothing pieces can be quite large in size and accessories can be very small in size. Therefore they are displayed in different ways to optimise the use of space.
Fixtures available for apparel displays include display tables, two-way stands, counters, wall-mounted shelving units, support columns, and bench seating. You can also allocate space to snake aisles or dump bins as they can promote impulse purchases.
The placement and space between store fixtures is also important to keep in mind as shoppers need to be able to comfortably move around the store and in between aisles. The goal is to avoid store congestion as this can result in frustrated shoppers.
4. Know Your Product Assortment
When it comes to assortment planning, there are many role players involved and many factors to take into account. As an apparel retailer, you’d ideally look to plan your assortment at SKU level. That means that you’d consider the style, colour, construction and materials used for each individual SKU before adding it to your range.
Your retail planners and buyers also play major roles in planning your apparel product assortments based on financial and sales reports. These reports provide them with performance data segmented by product category that they can analyse to identify current and future trends.
The apparel environment changes constantly and new stock arrives often. Stores that do not keep up with this fast moving environment are losing out on sales. As an apparel retailer, you’re faced with a competitive fast fashion environment and need to keep up with the short lead times and quick stock turns of your competitors.
Your product assortment must also consider the financial objectives and seasonality of the product selection so that both you and your customers gain from the outcome. When planning your apparel product assortment the various factors must be taken into account to provide your customers with the right product range.
There is also your brand identity. Your customers will have an expectation regarding the quality of items ranged and how trendy the range is. Primarily determined by your target market, it is directly related to your consumer demographics. This is dependant on the price range that your consumers are comfortable with and can also influences any store clustering efforts.
As an apparel store, you’d receive different ranges based on your location to match the different product needs of your customers.
Product classification of apparel items is also different to FMCG stores because the way that apparel items are placed in categories largely depends on market demographics and trends.
For example, your clothing categories are separated into basics, fashion basics and fashion items. The basics category in ladies apparel might represent products with an extended life cycle such as a plain white collared shirt whereas fashion basics represents standard seasonal variations in color, print and fabric. The fashion category includes the newest designs based on trends. The fashion basics and fashion categories typically have shorter demand windows.
Due to the consumer trend of fast fashion, apparel retailers have a very short lead time. To remain competitive, you’d need to keep up with consumer trends and therefore add new products to your range almost weekly.
When it comes to apparel, the fashion industry plays a major role in choosing items for your range. Seasonal trends need to be catered for to ensure that you are providing products that satisfy the wants of your consumers.
5. Study your customer path through the store
Although customer behavior may seem random, as a retailer, you know that consumers move in distinct patterns around your store. Understanding how and when customers are likely to make a purchase helps you to determine how to merchandise products in your store. It also highlights opportunities for cross merchandising.
It is important to note that some areas in a store are more important than others as they are more likely to receive higher traffic. That could be because a product is on sale or currently in fashion. You can look at your data to determine both high traffic areas and cold spots.
After looking at your data, you can reorganise your product layouts and create a path for your customers to follow. That includes leading them down a path that exposes them to as much of your merchandise as possible and reorganising the store layout to boost traffic in cold spots on the floor.
Using this data, you can also build planograms that are both visually appealing and are localised to the specific shoppers’ wishes.
Once you’ve implemented these tips into your apparel store, you will be well on your way to achieving a competitive store environment and maximising the selling potential of your retail space. Looking for category management software to help you achieve the above? Visit our online store here and get a 14-day trial of any edition.