New Year, New Look: 9 Ways to Spruce Up the Design of Your Retail Stores

The start of the year is always a good time to ideate and come up with new business practices. And one of the most important areas to consider when making changes is your retail store design. Aesthetics, shopping behaviors, and consumer preferences are always evolving, so you need to make sure that your store’s look and feel reflects the latest trends and the needs of your customers.  

To that end, here are 9 store design ideas that you can implement. 

1. Rethink your window displays

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Compelling window displays are essential, particularly during these times when there are fewer people out and about. Your windows should be bold and unique enough to grab the attention of today’s consumers, many of which are hesitant to shop at non-essential stores. 

The good news is that there isn’t a shortage of ideas that you can try. 

“Landlords have been relaxing their window policies in order to ensure business continuity in the face of the pandemic, so use this opportunity to experiment with what messaging resonates with your customers and drives traffic,” says Rachel Gerli, principal at Right Hand Brands.

“Previously, windows were merchandised to show ways to style the assortment, but windows are now the key to traffic and conversion. Customers need to be able to tell what’s in your shop and what’s on sale from the street,” she adds.

Gerli recommends finding new ways to share your brand’s story. Instead of a mannequin, try window clings. Or rather than using tended chalkboards, consider using chalk paint on your window. The key is to “be loud,” she says

Also, remember that consumers are more inclined to buy online or call in their orders rather than to shop in-store. See to it that your windows communicate the other ways that people can buy. You can do this by talking up your pickup and delivery services, and by telling shoppers how to reach you.

Wet Nose, a store that sells pet food and supplies, does this by promoting its white glove home delivery services in its window display. 

Then right by the entrance is a sign listing the store’s fulfillment options and website. 

Source: @kizerandbender on Instagram: 

2. Communicate optimism through your designs

The beginning of every year signifies fresh starts and there’s always a sense of optimism. Next year is no exception, particularly after the tough year we just faced.

“2021 is a year of hope for everyone and more than ever it marks new beginnings and new aspirations for a better tomorrow,” says BryanStoddard of Homewares Insider.

“Optimism and hope should be reflected in your design,” he continues. “Bright tones, organized shelves, meaningful aisles, are what will give the impression of luxury that is practical.”

One retailer that’s doing an excellent job at creating “feel good” yet meaningful store designs is Declaration & Co., a gift and clothing shop. The photo below shows the store’s candle displays, and behind it are posters sharing the product’s story along with a sign that reads, “Made with love.”

Source: @declarationco on Instagram: 

Try something similar in your store. Give yourself and customers a “pick me up” by implementing fresh and uplifting designs that communicate optimism for the coming year.

3. Optimize your location for curbside pickup

Curbside pickup was undoubtedly one of the winners of 2020, with stores seeing triple-digit increases in curbside activity

And many experts agree that curbside pickup is here to stay. In a conversation with RetailDive, Neil Saunders, managing director at Global Data said that curbside “is undoubtedly one of the trends that will stick post-virus. It is a win-win for consumers and retailers. From the shopper point of view, it is convenient and quick; from the retailer point of view, it is more cost-effective than delivering to home.”

All this to say that if you’re running any curbside retail services, you should think about how to implement them for the long term. 

Part of doing that could mean revamping the outside of your store to optimize for curbside pickup. Depending on your location, this could be as basic as having dedicated parking spaces for order pickups. It could mean rethinking the flow of vehicle traffic at your location and setting signage and spaces where cars can enter and exit.

In some cases, you may have the opportunity to work with your landlord in designing a good curbside experience. Federal Realty Investment Trust, a retail REIT, announced plans to create hundreds of dedicated curbside spaces across its national portfolio. The program, dubbed as The Pick-Up, will help the company’s retail tenants to better serve their customers. 

Federal Realty Senior Vice President of Regional Leasing Stuart Biel told that the program will stay beyond the pandemic. “We see it evolving as a long-term solution and another asset our retailers can have as a convenient way for customers to shop that helps also to solve a broader last-mile issue that has not been solved for many years… By creating this framework, we think it’s a solution that helps our retailers become more profitable.”

4. Use open floor plans and designs 

People’s need for more personal space will likely continue in 2021, so having an open and spacious store will be beneficial. 

“Retail design that gives the impression of plenty of personal space and open areas is the key trend of 2021 and beyond, which is of course driven by Covid-19,” says Polly Kay, senior marketing manager at English Blinds.

“Retail design then needs to concentrate on enabling physical spacing and creating the impression and illusion of greater space; such as by using light colors and uncluttered walls and displays, natural lighting, high ceilings, and minimalist designs.”

You can put this tip to action by spacing out the different elements and fixtures of your store to give shoppers room to move and browse. 

That’s exactly what Reformation is doing in one of its LA-based stores. Rather than having a store with overflowing shelves and racks, Reformation has a thoughtfully curated assortment, and has just a select number of pieces on display. The store’s high ceiling and large windows also contribute to the spacious environment that many people are craving today.

Source: @platform_la on Instagram: 

5. Make room for personalized experiences

For certain retailers, giving people space could also mean setting up areas for 1 to 1 experiences. It makes sense for some retailers to serve customers on an appointment basis. 

With this in mind, you could set up spaces within your store dedicated to such appointments. Consider having a meeting area or fitting room that customers can have all to themselves. 

Nordstrom does this well at its Nordstrom Local stores, which it considers as “service hubs.” These stores don’t carry any inventory; rather, they act as “service hubs” with offerings like online order pickup, alterations, and styling services.

Customers who come in to get styled have their own large dressing room (as seen below) containing hand-picked items based on their needs and preferences. 

Source: Nordstrom

6. Incorporate QR codes into your store’s fixtures and collateral

It appears that QR codes are making a comeback.

Seek, a QR code tech company saw a 600% increase in demand for QR codes due to the pandemic. 

The rise of contactless shopping has prodded businesses to leverage QR codes to give customers the ability to learn more about the store’s brands and products without the need for physical contact. 

Some restaurants, for example, have QR codes in their seating areas so customers can pull up the menu on their phone. Meanwhile, retail hubs like HudsonYards are using these codes to enable shoppers to interact with digital kiosks without touching anything. 

See if you could implement similar initiatives in your store. If there’s an opportunity to incorporate QR codes into your efforts, try them out and see how it goes.

7. Consider implementing a “shop-in-shop” initiative 

The “shop inside a shop” concept has been a thing for a while now, but it continues to gain steam. Ulta Beauty and Target for example, recently announced a strategic partnership that would involve having Ulta shops in Target locations.

The concept is certainly appealing for many brands and retailers. On the retail side, shop-in-shops allow stores to stay fresh and always have something new for their customers. Brands, on the other hand, are able to tap into the retailer’s traffic and customer base. 

You should consider exploring this trend. Find other non-competitive brands that align with your values and see if it makes sense to implement a “shop-in-shop” concept in your store.   

8. Weave corporate social responsibility into your designs

2020 has renewed the focus on the importance of corporate social responsibility. As Chris Biggs, Global Head of Retail at Boston Consulting Group told Forbes, “The pandemic has encouraged consumers to be more conscious of their shopping choices and wanting to ‘do good’. These values are also something that consumers want the brands they’re buying from to reflect.”

As such, if you’re running initiatives that promote sustainable and socially responsible practices, find ways to weave them into your store’s aesthetic. 

Check out the below example from the Nordstrom Local store in West Village. The store donates used clothing to the non-profit group Housing Works, and uses one of its store’s walls to promote the initiative. 

Source: Nordstrom

9. Don’t forget about the backoffice

The customer-facing elements of your store are essential, but equally important are the rooms and spaces where the behind-the-scenes actions take place. If you’ve made a lot of changes to your operations, inventory, and fulfillment practices, you may need to overhaul your back office as well. 

According to Carlos Castelán, managing director at The Navio Group, “Retail store design in 2021 and beyond will look different as stores actively embrace hybrid fulfillment models from their stores and change their layout to actively embrace options for customers such as buy online pickup in-store (BOPIS) and curbside pickup. Customers that come into the store may not notice this difference but, for example, we are likely to see retailers expand their back rooms to store or ship products to customers as well as potentially have dedicated pickup areas in their stores if the volume warrants.”

As you ideate on new product displays or in-store initiatives, keep your back office in mind as well. If necessary, update your backroom and workspaces to improve the efficiency of your teams. 

As Castelán notes, these changes may be invisible to your customers, but they’ll go a long way in improving the shopping experience. 

Stop leaving money on the table with poorly executed merchandising

Bonus tip: verify and evaluate

We offered several examples and tips on how to spruce up your retail designs in the coming months. Hopefully, they stir up your creativity and prod you to try new things. 

And when you do get those ideas, see to it that they’re well-executed by using a store visit and audit  tool like Bindy. Our platform enables you to coordinate with your team and efficiently conduct inspections and audits to ensure that all your initiatives are running smoothly. 


Refer to the Merchandising category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for merchandising.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

2 thoughts on “New Year, New Look: 9 Ways to Spruce Up the Design of Your Retail Stores

  1. I liked that you said that it is beneficial to consider a store that is open and spacious to ensure that the need for more personal space is met. This is something that retail shop owners must consider, especially if they are selling clothes and shoes. I could imagine how the right shop fittings could allow shoppers to feel more comfortable while looking at different deals.

  2. The thing that stuck out to me the most is when you suggested having a spacious store that will allow shoppers to enjoy personal space while shopping. This is something that must be shared by shoe store owners, especially if they aim to provide the best shopping experience to their customers. I could imagine how they could partner up with an in-store design solution company. I could imagine how satisfied customers could actually market their products.

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