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Industry Innovation

C-Store Layout Considerations

Understanding C-Store Layouts and Layout Drivers

graphic of a c-store layout

here are over 148,00 convenience stores just in the US, and they all look similar. But why do so many C-stores look the same? Do they just copy each other or is there a method to their layout?

Well, it is a little of both for many stores.

The C-Store layout does have a lot to do with having a successful store. However, the layout doesn't happen by accident. There are some key things that help to influence the layout and how it should evolve over time.

Keep reading to find out about the different C-Store layouts and what are the key areas influencing them today.

C-Store Layouts

Many C-Stores have a similar layout and can't use creative retail floor plans. This is because it is hard to be too creative when you have limited space. However, a few different options can work for a store with space limitations.

Grid Floor Plans

The grid plan is the most common for C-Stores to use. This is because they get the most product display for the space. Your customers have a familiar long aisle to move through to find their products.

Most stores put the impulse items at the front and the staple items in the back. This encourages your customers to walk through the store. The biggest problem with this style is the size of the aisle.

Some stores make the aisle so small that people are reluctant to go down them if someone else is standing in them. Creating larger aisles is a struggle for many C-Store owners who are trying to fit everything in the store.

Diagonal Floor Plans

The diagonal floor plan is similar to the grid plan but it places the aisles at an angle. This gives more exposure to your products as the customers move through the store.

It also makes it easy for your customers to flow throughout the store as they head toward your staple items. Your staff can also keep a better eye on the store in the diagonal floor plan.

The biggest problem is similar to the grid plan and that is aisle space. Diagonal plans tend to have smaller aisles for the shelves.

Mixed Floor Plans

Mixed floor plans, also called free-flow, give you the ultimate freedom to make a space anything you want. If you have plenty of space in your store, this can be a creative style to use.

The key is to implement careful planning or mixed floor plans can turn into something that doesn't have any flow to it. If you carefully plan the layout, a mixed floor plan can cause your C-store to stand out from competitors.

Key Layout Influencers

Picking the layout correctly starts with understanding a few things about your store and your customers. Your layout develops from these key influences.

Your Space Realities

Knowing how much space you are working with is the foundational influence of your layout choice. Unless you are building your own store, you are often working with parameters that are set for you.

How high are the ceilings? Where will the coolers and fountain drink area be located? These facts will often dictate what layout will work best for your situation.

You want to make sure that the layout fits the size of the store and you don't try to make a store fit your layout preference. Creating your own C-store feng shui starts with recognizing what you have to work with.

Customer Flow

Thinking through your customer flow and seeing what you want them to do in your store will also influence your choice. Will you try to give your customers a little space by the door for decompression?

Most people do not like getting hit with products as soon as they walk into a store. They want to take everything in and see where they want to move. This will help you set up a flow that allows them to look around and view the store.

Thinking through your customer flow and seeing what you want them to do in your store will also influence your choice. Will you try to give your customers a little space by the door for decompression?

From the decompression area, you want to make it easy for them to flow through the store. Most people will move counter-clockwise, so allow them to do that to fit with their natural pattern.

Simple Updates

Even if you can't change a lot of aspects of your store, see what simple updates you can do to improve the feel. You want to make sure that the lighting is bright and focused on your product.

Try to look at your store from the perspective of a customer who has never been there. Sometimes people who see it every day can get used to the things that turn customers off.

Observation and Data

Sales data not only shows you if you are in the red or black, but it also gives you great information about your layout. Many owners will think through data when laying out the store but they need to keep looking at it.

Your POS system should be able to show you if your sales programs are really working. What products are moving and what products aren't? Is your advertising connecting with your customers or being ignored?

The All-Seeing Eye

Your cameras are great for security but you can use them to observe what habits your customers have. You can see if your layout is helping them move smoothly through the store or not.

Spending time watching your security footage is better than surveys. These are your actual customers who will show you what works by their actions. You can watch them as they move through your store to see how they move.

Security footage helps you observe hours of footage in less than an hour with its ability to be sped up. This can help you observe patterns over time rather than just watching it live in the back.

C-Store Futures

As C-Stores came out of the pandemic, many of them have been experimenting with new ways to draw customers. Some of these new ways may affect future layout changes.

Ultimate Convenience Options

Increasing the use of mobile applications has helped some stores increase traffic. Their focus is on adding to the "convenience" aspect of using their store.

By offering mobile pay apps and delivery services, many stores are connecting with customers' desire for convenience! This is helping their reputation and connecting them to a younger tech-savvy audience.  

Rewards and Loyalty

Loyalty and rewards programs are another way to grow numbers for many C-Stores. Giving special perks and conveniences to loyal customers is helping to build a regular core of people for the store.

Customers who get special rewards and perks will come and visit more. They want to get their free reward and will often get more while they are there.

Convenient Solutions for Customers

Your C-Store layout is more than just a place to put your product. It is a customer-centered frame of thought. Knowing what influences their decisions not only helps your layout, but it helps you grow your revenues.

June 17, 2022