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6 Affordable Ways to Maximize Small Retail Spaces


Ben Goldstein


By Haley Perkins

As the internet shifts the way that people shop and seek out their retail purchases, retail businesses are hard-pressed more than ever to find new and creative ways to place themselves in front of their target consumers and bring in new customers. This holds especially true for store owners with smaller spaces. Here are six easy and affordable ways for retailers to get the most out of their environments.

Related: Harrison Abramowitz Explains Why Retail Spaces Are Shrinking

1. Use Shelves to Create Vertical Spaces

Placing your wares on many different levels instead of spreading them out across several horizontal layers is an excellent way to ensure you can display all your items without cluttering up space. Small retail spaces can easily become too messy or overstocked, and it will feel especially so if most of your items are displayed on shorter shelves that leave a large amount of room above your customers’ heads.

Many store consultants note this is also simply a much more visually appealing setup for customers who first walk into your store. There are several unique ways to do this. Store owners can put up drapes and colorful dividers to hang from the ceiling to guide a customer’s vision upward, creating the illusion of a bigger environment than you might have.

Think about it this way: The towering shelves you find in home appliance stores like Home Depot or Sam’s Club feel a lot larger than, say, your typical local grocery store—even though the square footage of each space may not be that different.

Keep in mind, however, that moderation is a good thing. Increasing shelving may increase the illusion of height, but you do not want your customers to feel like they’re trapped at the bottom of a deep well. Balance out short shelves with taller ones, depending on what you sell, and you should be able to strike the right balance.

Personalized display shelving might just be the perfect solution. You can even try using open (backless) bookshelves as section dividers, cordoning off parts of your shop with cases that both contain items and create distinct sections. The “open concept” of a bookshelf can be a highly effective way of making your space seem airy and bright.

2. Find Display Methods Other Than Shelving

Even though shelving is an easy and simple way to maximize small retail spaces, you can definitely get more creative with your displays closer to or on the walls. Shelving is an effective way to create the illusion of vertical space closer to the center of the store, but there are many other ways to enlarge your space.

For jewelry displays, for instance, some retail experts suggest creating a cork or bulletin board by taking an inexpensive old painting in an elaborate frame and pulling out the painting canvas on linen. This creates a makeshift board where you can pin your necklaces, earrings, bracelets and other jewelry.

Other ways to create this sort of space are placing tea towels on antique-shaped old headboards leaning against a wall. This way, you can show off your jewelry without taking up all the space of a typical glass display case. (Note that this is probably a better idea for costume jewelry; jewelry made of precious metals or gemstones would be more secure in a standard glass case.)

Related: Use These Retail Merchandising Tips to Capture Attention in Your Store

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3. Light Up Your Space

Nothing triggers a sense of claustrophobia like the dark. Lighting is important, no matter what sort of space you own, but it is particularly the case in the case of retail—and is important if your store is on the smaller side. Experts say that if even one small corner of the shop is not properly lit up, that space may as well not exist. Customers are unlikely to approach areas that are not well lit. This is not because of fear, but because they may simply assume that part of the store is not meant for public access.

A combination of lamps, picture lights, sconces, track lights, and good old-fashioned overhead lighting are all important to ensure that your space is as welcoming as it is filled with your amazing items — and giving your store an additional sense of variety and flair.

4. Redo the Layout of Your Store

You may think that small retail spaces may be easier to set up and optimize space for than a larger one, but in fact, store owners often fail to completely use every part of their small spaces to the best possible advantage. Make sure you are placing items that are popular at the front and center areas of your store and, as the waves of your merchandise’s popularity ebbs and flows, so too should your store layout.

Simply shifting the more profitable items to the forefront of your customers’ lines of sight can bump up your sales margins by a significant amount. However, make sure to strategize your shop’s floor plan according to your revenue to maximize what you get out of your space.

5. Paint One of Your Walls a Bold Color

Adding a pop of color in an otherwise white or off-white space can do wonders for the feel and space of your store. One bright red or sky blue wall is a highly effective and cost-effective method to add vibrancy to your store and enlarge its interior. A color accented wall in the back of the store gives off the illusion the store ends in space.

Don’t have the time to move things around to get a wall painted? Place a patterned or boldly printed curtain, wallpaper, or fabric on a back or side wall to create a similar effect—and, if you use fabric, it could make your store feel just as cozy as it feels spacious—with an added dimensional effect due to the contrast in texture with the other walls of the shop.

6. Personalize Your Space

Make sure your space is specially created for you and your wares. Customers who walk in and see a repetition of every other store they’ve ever entered might feel less cramped if they walk into a space uniquely designed for your store’s offerings and personality. Putting up DIY display units or decorations will not just reduce clutter and increase the illusion of a larger room, it will create a retail space that is customized to your merchandise and brand.

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