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Industry Expert Gary Petz on Store Planning and Layout

Store planning and layout can be a daunting task to develop a strategy for, but it is also instrumental to a successful operation. Hardware Retailing spoke with Gary Petz, vice president of Discovery Retail Group, about store planning and layout best practices.

Hardware Retailing (HR): What is your background and experience in the home improvement industry? 

Gary Petz (GP): Currently, I am the vice president of Discovery Retail Group. We are a consulting firm that specializes in the home improvement industry, which includes home centers, hardware stores and lumber yards. Personally, I have over 30 years of management experience in both the wholesale and retail side of the home improvement industry. I’ve worked with and for several national chain stores and regional home improvement retailers. I also have been an instructor for the North American Hardware and Paint Associations’s Retail Management Certification Program for 11 years.

HR: What do you love most about your job?

GP: It’s super rewarding. Our job is to help independent home improvement stores, and you can’t help but feel good about that. It’s probably the best job I’ve ever had. It’s nice to not have any other agenda other than helping businesses improve.

HR: What is the first step in store planning?

GP: The first step is product sourcing. In order to have a successful store layout, retailers have to be able to fill the layout with current, complete product offerings and reliable fill rates.

HR: What are your store layout best practices?

GP: Customer flow through the environment is the most important element of a store plan. Customers need to be physically guided through as much of the store as possible. The more products they are exposed to, the more time they spend in the store and the more money they invest or spend in the store.

I also advise retailers to keep the front right section of their store open to change because studies have shown that customers naturally drift to the right. That’s where featured products and the products retailers want to sell the most of should be placed. Often, this is also a good area for seasonal products such as grills, holiday displays, etc.

HR: What are common store layout or planning mistakes?

GP: The biggest mistake retailers make in store planning is when they don’t address the areas that are broken. This could be old exteriors, cleanliness, lighting or tired public bathrooms. All of these problems make a significant impact on the customer experience. Retailers need to pay attention to these issues and fix them in order to achieve a finished and successful store plan.

HR: How can store layout affect a business?

GP: Improved layouts can solve staffing issues. The better the layout, the better the sightlines, which allows fewer employees to manage customers’ needs more readily. Additionally, an updated layout should make more efficient use of space; studies show more product per square foot often increases sales. The majority of successful stores have a very high inventory per square foot.

HR: What is one thing you wish all retailers knew about store planning or layout?

GP: Store planning is not just a one-and-done concept. A store needs to continue to improve and update its environment and product offerings on a yearly basis. It should be an ongoing process, not just once every 10 years. This is true especially because big-box competition updates constantly.

Store Planning

About Gary Petz
Gary Petz is a partner and co-founder of Discovery Retail Group, a consulting company that helps retailers facilitate and communicate profit-focused differentiation. His company works with many different store types. Having served many years in management at both retail and wholesale hardware and lumber operations, Gary has developed a strong background and unique perspective that allows him to help retailers focus on the customer experience their stores create. He is also the co-author of Stores On Fire, Discovery-Based Retail and 10 Weeks to a Better Retail Operation. These internationally selling books suggest ways in which a store’s performance can be enhanced in just a short amount of time.

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