I love walking into an Anthropologie store. It’s like a cheap bazaar in Morocco. Only it’s not cheap but the experience is far better. As you cross the threshold, the ceiling opens up and the back of the store is miles away, which creates a visual feast. The old adage “how do you eat an elephant?” is the only way to tackle the store — One bite at a time. So you just pick a direction and dive in. There are tables, racks, armoires, found furniture pieces, shelving and walls scattered throughout the store, all filled with a variety of merchandise. It may seem like chaos, but it’s a calculated design — Anthropologie [and most retailers] aim to disrupt the flow of traffic, making it impossible to walk a straight line. And that means the more you see, the more likely you are to buy.
Ultimately though, it’s about discovery. And depending on how you look at it, creating discovery disrupts the flow or disrupting the flow creates discovery. Either way, your customers [and you] win. As you stroll around Anthropologie, you find dozens of nooks and crannies filled with merchandise…it’s so interesting, you check it all out. And then you go back through and discover things you didn’t see the first time around. You can learn more about their philosophy in this article about Anthropologie (the entire article is fascinating but go to the section titled “Stores: Path of Discovery” for info about the topic at hand).
Start taking a look at retailers that disrupt the flow – Williams-Sonoma, Z Gallerie and Restoration Hardware are all good examples. Some sway more toward order like Williams-Sonoma while others are trying to maintain order while coming across as chaotic (Restoration Hardware). Z Gallerie probably comes closest to Anthropologie in creating a full store experience that’s about discovery. You just have to sift through the dirt to find the gems.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY: Disrupt the flow and create a sense of discovery. Purposely move tables, racks, shelving or whatever you use to display your merchandise so that once people get in the door, they have to choose right or left (you can even direct them in one direction based on how you disrupt the flow). Then place those brands or products you want to highlight on the fixtures so your customers literally bump into them as they discover your store. I’m guessing your customers will ask you when you started carrying a certain brand or category of products, even if you’ve carried them all along.