Spring 2020
Great Things Come in Small Packages By Debbie Eisele

There are several things to consider with a small-spaced store, but the “wow” factor can still be achieved. Overall, there are three factors to consider: layout, inventory and product.


This is a notable challenge and one that cannot be eliminated even though it can sometimes be modified. Yet, if used correctly, it can feel much larger than it really is and provide ample room to merchandise effectively. Ray McKenzie is a retail professional and visitor experience expert. His experience in creating dynamic experiences, a background in business-to-business sales, and developing and implementing customer service plans for a variety of retail and museum settings has led him to train retailers across the country.

In a small footprint, every bit of available space should be used, he explained.

  • Take advantage of vertical surfaces such as walls and tall shelves — use the tops to highlight unique/high ticket items or create beautiful displays on the top shelves and mass out stock on lower shelves for easy shopping, yet do not try to put in too many fixtures.
  • Utilize versatile and moveable fixtures that are layered tightly to create more open walkways.
  • Traffic flow is also important — consider where people line up to make purchases, if the store has areas for shoppers to stop and talk on the floor and how customers can navigate around one another inside the store. And once you visualize and note these patterns, adjustments may be made accordingly.
  • Remember to maintain ADA standard spacing between fixtures.

>>ALSO SEE: Small but Powerful.


  • Freshen space with paint — a fresh coat of paint can make a big difference.
  • Same for fixtures — keep them clean and repaired. Change the paint color of a fixture and you change the entire look of a display.
  • Use lighter and brighter colors to make the space feel brighter and more open, but he cautioned against using too many colors.


Let’s face it, if you don’t have much floor space in the retail environment, the chances are there isn’t much room, if any, to stock as much inventory. So adopt the attitude of “work with what you got” attitude and utilize these key take-aways McKenzie offered.

  • Planning is critical to success in any store but especially so in a small store — every inch of the store must be utilized to its best use.
  • Know what your target sales per square footage and track what displays, fixtures, etc. are performing well.
  • Be selective in the merchandise you buy for the store — carefully edit out product that doesn’t sell.


One way to enhance overall success in a small retail space is to curate an amazing product mix. To buy the right merchandise, you need to know your customer, what price points are the most appealing to shoppers in your store, and what products are your best-sellers. Knowing this information will assist you with developing a buying plan and even help with inventory management. By understanding what you sell the most of and keeping it stocked, you will be rewarded with continuing sales on the items that appeal most to your customers.

Additionally, merchandise displays are important for any brick-and-mortar location, as they draw in customers to interact with product. “Keep displays neat and balanced between one-of-a-kind items and massed out products,” McKenzie shared. Without an appealing display, a well-curated product mix may not perform as well as expected.

Even space-challenged stores can create a destination your customers can appreciate. A well-planned small space can still provide sales, engage customers and provide a positive shopping experience.

Debbie Eisele

Debbie Eisele is the former managing editor for Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and a variety of special issue publications, including: The Guide, Holiday Shop, Celebrations & Occasions and Waterfront Living.

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