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Building Out a Brick & Mortar Retail Space, an Intro

I don't claim to be an expert by any means, however, my toy store, Wonder World Toys, is going to be relocating. If you are reading this, you are obviously thinking of starting your own brick and mortar store front. You may as well subscribe to learn from my mistakes and successes as I post them in real time.


A little background, I own Wonder World Toys with my sister-in-law, Jessica. In 2017, when I bought into her toy store, she had already purchased it as an existing business back in 2016. This means that neither of us have any experience building a physical store. We inherited a space that had already been built out into the store that we have come to love and enjoy. This includes, designing the space as well as the labor involved.


Over the last 4 years, we have grown a loyal customer base, increased sales and survived a Pandemic. We decided that it was time to find a larger space to offer more selection. However, we refused to leave our darling Main Street in Medford. We have become a street staple and play well with our neighbors to create street events. By no means were we willing to give that up. One day, a 'For Rent" sign popped up across the street! Out of the blue! It was an office space that had decided they no longer needed a retail store front- long story short, it's larger and our lease starts February 1st, 2021!


Excited is an understatement. We got in to measure the space on January 1st. What a perfect way to kick off our 2021 New Year! (We also all met back up later that day to Angelo & Jessica's mom's house for a lovely traditional New Year's Day feast.)


Now it's time to dive in figuring out what to do with our new space! My next section is written in the form of how-to. Hopefully this helps people who are just starting their journey of creating their perfect retail space like me!


left to right, Matt (Jessica's boyfriend), Skylar (Jessica's daughter), Jessica, Angelo, me and Piper



View from front door


Where to Start?


There are a multitude of places that you can start- none of which are wrong. You just have to jump in. I decided to start by visualizing myself walking through. Which toys would I see first? Second? Last? Why would I see toys in certain areas of the store? To figure out which toys should go where, I ran my favorite report- product categories by profit. (If you don't have a POS- Point of Sale- System in place, I highly recommend one before you open to avoid any future hassle of starting one with a full existing store full of product. It can help you sort product, track sales, track customers, check out customers and more.) If you are a start up, I'm sure that you have already anticipated what your best sellers will be- think of those first when designing layout. Knowing which categories make me the most money means that they will be in the most visible spaces or have their own defined prominent grouping within the store.


Categories, in my case, are Building, Arts/Crafts, Science, Games, Stuffed Animals, et al. Once I know which categories that I am going to give the most space to, I can move forward with design.


Let's Talk Design


Design is more than just making things look pretty, which we will talk about soon enough. Before we know colors, we need to figure out our layout. I will be doing a rough sketch of the space. If you don't have a tape measurer, I suggest getting one- mine is my best friend during this process. All you'll do is measure your exterior walls and any interior walls that you may have. Doors, windows, and hallways too.


You don't need to go out and buy a whole pack of graph paper to design either- I used a pencil and ruler. To make math easy, which I am all about, each inch on my ruler represents 1 foot. This is an easy way to convert measurements where they are large enough for me to make notes as I see fit. There are also free room planning sites that you could use if you aren't as handy with a ruler.


Once you have your layout, imagine yourself walking through the space. The way that people walk through a space is called Traffic Flow.


Traffic Flow


I've read numerous articles on this topic and in sum, people automatically turn to the right and follow street traffic patterns throughout the store. I know this is especially true in my current store. People walk in, hug to the right and look then turn around while staying to the right to look. Then out the door they go. Full circle.



When someone enters your space, I would suggest leaving a few feet of blank space (determined by your size space) for the customer to "take it all in". When you walk into a store, the last thing you want is to run into a display or feel trapped. Keep this space open to allow a customer a space of their own. I've learned that people need at minimum 4 feet of walking space between displays. Displays will be shifted and shifted once you get them into the space- totally normal.


You have to constantly think "if this wasn't my store, would I be able to navigate the space?".


Determining where to place the cashwrap is a big decision. It's going to affect your flow. We've all seen checkout points at different spaces of the store... the back, the front, the middle. They all have their pluses and minuses. I'll be choosing the middle-right of the store.


Below are my rough sketches for the new store. The space is broken up into 4 rooms, so we have decided to add a Baby Boutique in the last room due to popular requests of more baby items. You'll also notice a small room labeled "stuffed animals". Yes. I will have a transition room from the toy store into the baby boutique with an area full of stuffed animals only. Needless to say, I absolutely cannot wait to merchandise this particular room. In person, the pages line up with each other to form the long space, but I couldn't get it all in 1 picture. I am interested to see if I stick to this layout as I move everything into the store. I am expecting changes, but hopefully no scrapping this design completely.




Notice that from these sketches, you can easily guess which brands and categories are top sellers for me. I went through my list and was able to accommodate my Top 10 Categories by Profit. My top 3 have the largest spaces on purpose. Every section should be purposefully put somewhere. For example, I put games and outdoor next to each other because we sell many games that are made to play outdoor. The sections flow into each other. Science and Crafts are similar because of the create, do-it-yourself, see fun results and learn a skill aspect. Hence why they are next to each other.


That wraps up today's blog. I hope you found something interesting or helpful. Even if you're a nosey customer wondering what's going on in my brain, I am grateful for you. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I wrote this! Likes & Comments are appreciated!



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