Nabco Retail Shelving Systems


Retail Psychology – The Thinking Behind Shop Layouts

Ryan Willis

Whichever supermarket you happen to be wandering around, there are some things you know will be the same; the bakery at the back, the pharmacy on the perimeter, and that oh-so-tempting snack selection by the till. But have you ever stopped to wonder why shop layouts are so similar?

The fascinating truth is that every shop layout is based on the same, simple psychological principles designed to get customers to spend more money. Here are some of the basic ideas and how you can put them to effective use in your own shop.

Fruit & Flowers

You’ve probably noticed that most supermarkets start with flowers and fresh produce right at the beginning of the shop. This isn’t designed to be particularly practical for customers (after all, easily bruised produce would surely be better placed in the trolley last) but rather to flood the senses with colours and fresh, natural smells that boost your mood – which has been proven to increase spending.

Top tip: Place brightly-coloured or good-smelling produce near the front of your shop to provide a welcoming initial experience and lift your customers’ spirits.

The Bakery

After the fruit and flowers, the next smell you normally register at a supermarket is freshly-baked bread. Bakeries are normally placed at the back of a supermarket to allow the comforting and alluring scent to waft throughout the store and draw people in. It’s not all about the smell, however. With the right type of shelving, you can display your cakes and other baked treats in a way that drives impulse purchases.

Top tip: Give your shop a scent that is pleasing and alluring without being overwhelming. Getting that scent right can both attract customers and keep them browsing.

The Pharmacy

Most supermarket pharmacies can be found on the periphery of the store, usually towards the back. This is a smart way to get people to walk past (and therefore be tempted by) the rest of the store’s produce as they make their way to the pharmacy and wait for their prescription.

Top tip: Do you have one or two popular products your customers tend to visit you for specifically? Place them at the sides or back of the shop to draw people in and ensure they see the rest of your products too.


While some supermarket shelves can look busy and chaotic, the majority are actually subject to careful planning. Working on the principle that ‘eye level is buy level’, planograms (detailed diagrams that work out product placement on shelves) are designed to place products in a way that most maximises sales.

For example, the most expensive products are often placed exactly where customers can see them, while the amount of a product on a shelf also increases its visibility and therefore maximises its chances of being sold. Tests have also shown that people often need time to adjust their vision to shelving and so products that are placed halfway down an aisle, rather than right at the beginning, often sell better.

Top tip: If you have a product you want to sell, or you want to direct your customers towards more expensive purchases, place the desired products where they will get the most visibility.


Last but not least, we’re all familiar with the tempting little shelves of snacks and treats that often accompany a supermarket till. Known as ‘impulse areas’ or ‘grab zones’, these treat shelves are placed to tempt hungry customers into a quick snack and make the most of shoppers’ attention as they wait in a queue.

Experiments have shown that the huge amount of decision-making that goes into the average shop can also break down self-control and make you more vulnerable to quick, low-cost, impulse buys like a magazine or a chocolate bar while you wait.

Top tip: Placing small but tempting low-cost products by the till can encourage customers to buy something on impulse that they wouldn’t necessarily have selected or come into a shop to buy. Till-side shelving could therefore be a worthwhile investment for your own store.

It sounds tricky but retail psychology can be as simple as what your customers see or smell first. Knowing these little tricks can not only drive your sales, but it can also improve customer experience as your customers leave feeling satisfied. Nabco are experts in store design and retail shelving, so if you need help planning your shop layout, get in touch today.

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