Improving Performance: Conducting a Traffic Flow Analysis

LAYOUT PRINCIPLES

Departmentalize

  • Group items by commodity
  • Consolidate to increase impact
  • Complement products

Disperse volume and impulse items

  • Tie in slow moving commodities
  • Draw shoppers into areas

Display product sections vertically

  • Work in 4-foot sections
  • Consider significance of eye level space

Create shopplng patterns

  • Move shoppers through entire store
  • Make space for special displays
  • Designate case stack areas
  • Plan special promotions
  • Consider large volume stacks

Consider shopping ease

  • Simplify layout
  • Organize store appearance

Consider stocking ease

  • Allocate adequate space
  • Minimize product handling

Use color contrasts

  • Differentiate between products
  • Enhance appearance
  • Draw the customers' allention to areas

Create interest in new items

  • Make shoppers aware of new products

Change things periodically

  • Give a new look to the department
  • Add and take away from product line
  • Create new emphasis and define store image

The store has been around a few years and grown out of its original layout. Lots of small changes made over the years have made the layout very creative but not very efficient. Sounds like it's time to take a look at the whole picture and come up with some new ideas.

The store layout is the foundation for operations, so conducting a traffic flow analysis is a good step to take when your goal is to improve store performance. This tool is useful whether you are planning a major remodel or a simpler reorganization of the current arrangement. The analysis is also useful when your motive is to fine tune after a remodel.

By establishing customers' shopping patterns, a retailer can examine the strengths and weaknesses of the layout. The analysis is easy to conduct and can be done on a large or small scale, encompassing the whole store or one department. The results will be very clear and make decisions easier to come by.

A floor plan drawn to scale is the main ingredient needed to conduct a traffic flow analysis. The plan needs to include specific details, such as location of products and equipment. Use this floor plan to trace the path of your shoppers, placing an x in the place where they pick up products. Tracing the steps of 50 customers would provide a fair analysis of the given area.

If your analysis also traces employee traffic, differentiate between the two types of traffic, marking the path of employees with a dashed line and the customers with a solid line.

Areas to investigate and potential problems to look for include:

  • dead traffic areas;
  • congested areas;
  • products that are not selling;
  • areas prone to shoplifting.

Dead traffic areas often include the checkout, where bottlenecks block traffic. The solution here may be to make the checkout system more efficient and move shoppers through faster. Adding a bagger may be the easiest remedy.

Congestion also can be the result of consolidating high volume sections or employee traffic crossing with customer traffic. The key here is to find ways to disperse traffic, easing congestion and bringing traffic to dead areas.

Product placement can make a big difference in customer awareness. Make time to work on merchandising and use this tool to educate customers. For example, maybe your macrobiotic section is full of slow sellers. This could in part be the result of an uninformed public, but merchandising techniques can increase the customers' exposure and interest.

In general, product layout should be logical and efficient, and as products and trends come along, the store layout should be revamped to accommodate this.

The easiest way to inhibit shoplifting is to start with a layout that makes theft difficult. Security issues should have a significant influence on the placement of products and equipment.

At the same time, the arrangement cannot inhibit sales of a product. If the solution to shoplifting is to place the product behind the checkout, an area that may already be overflowing with functions, a better decision may be to stop carrying the product altogether. The traffic flow analysis and a check on inventory turns could help make these decisions.

Other studies go hand in hand with a traffic flow analysis. Evaluation of product sales, including inventory turns and allocation of space compared to sales, can help define the effectiveness of traffic flow and product line decisions.

If an even bigger picture is desired, a customer survey can give you an idea of why people shop in the store, how much they spend, and what ideas they have.

The overall objective of conducting a traffic flow analysis is to determine ways to make shopping and running the store easier, using layout and merchandising techniques to improve sales, enhance the store's appearance and make shopping more fun.

See other articles from this issue: #022 April - June - 1989