How to Set Your Pet Retail Sales Floor to Sell!

By Georganne Bender & Rich Kizer, retail consultants and featured speakers at SuperZoo 2023. A version of this article originally appeared in Pet Product News.

Be honest: When did you last make a major floor move? And we don’t mean moving product from over here to over there.

Your pet retail sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change — frequently — to flourish, and it’s your job to make that happen. If your store is full of the latest product, but your sales are in a rut, it could be because your customers are bored. They come to your store not just to buy; they come for ideas, inspiration and to be entertained. Even when they don’t buy anything, it’s the experience that brings them back.


The Target Syndrome

Think about the last time you shopped at a Target store. How much did you spend? Chances are, even if you went in to buy a bottle of glass cleaner you spent at least $50 on things you hadn’t planned on purchasing. We call this “The Target Syndrome” because it doesn’t happen in many other stores.

When you really look at the workings of a Target store, you see a neutral box that allows the merchandise to pop. The sales floor serves as a backdrop for powerful signing and creative displays that encourage you to fill your cart with things you didn’t realize you needed until you got there. The store layout is designed to move you easily throughout the store.


Create and Control the Shopper Journey

At Kizer & Bender, we're known for our store makeovers — both physically and virtually — on all sorts of stores. We begin each one by observing how people shop the sales floor: Where do they go? Where do they linger? Which areas do they avoid or miss altogether? Afterward, we take a hard look at the three critical things that must be assessed before beginning each job:

1. The Enablers. These are the important but often overlooked things that allow customers to shop comfortably. Enablers make shoppers feel welcome: Think displays and signing that attract attention; carts and baskets that do the heavy lifting; clear, easy-to-navigate aisles; and strong displays that make shoppers excited to interact with the merchandise and, most importantly, buy.

2. The Inhibitors. These are the potholes, the shopper-stoppers that disrupt the buying experience. Good examples include empty fixtures, messy or unorganized displays, product that’s stacked too high or displays that are packed so tightly they turn customers away. The Inhibitors give us a strong indication of how well the store is run.

3. The Impression Points. These things start outside of your front door — sometimes even in the parking lot if your store is free-standing or located in a strip center — and continue throughout the sales floor. Impression Points create the perceptions customers carry with them as they shop your store. They also contribute to what they share with friends afterward. Impression Points create customer “Moments of Truth” — aha moments, both good and bad. A typical visit to your store could result in more than 25 Moments of Truth.


Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work. Each of the following areas will help you set your pet retail sales floor to sell:


Tip 1: Set Winning Windows

Potential customers should be able to take in your window displays in eight seconds or less. Your displays should capture the eye and hold attention long enough for the passerby to absorb what’s being shown and entice that person to come into your store.

Create displays using props and larger products that will be noticed in those critical eight seconds. Add vinyl lettering to the display that highlights what you sell and consider using vibrant photo graphics that fill the space when the window size/shape is less than ideal.


Tip 2: The First 10-Second Impression

Stand just inside the front door and look around. In the first 10 seconds, shoppers are making value judgements about what they see, thinking, should I grab what I need here or head to another store to browse at my leisure? View your sales floor from just inside the door each day, checking to ensure you are giving shoppers the impression you intended.


Tip 3: Check Your Sight Line

While you are still at the front of your store, check that shoppers to are able to see into and through the sales floor. Get rid of tall fixtures near or at the front that block product housed behind them. Instead, place shorter fixtures up front and taller fixtures toward the rear of the store. Remember, the more shoppers see, the more they’ll buy.


Tip 4: Work Your Decompression Zone

Every store has an area located just inside the front door that’s known as the Decompression Zone (size depends on your store’s square footage). The purpose of this space is to give shoppers a chance to transition from whatever they were doing outside of your store. It’s important to note that the Decompression Zone is a no man’s land and that shoppers are likely to walk right by anything you place there. Instead, place floor signs, carts, baskets, product displays, etc., just beyond the Decompression Zone where shoppers are more likely to see them.


Tip 5: Choose the Right Layout

It’s said that half of your sales floor is never seen by shoppers, so a big part of your job is to create and control how they move about the sales floor. You absolutely can control how customers shop your store just by where you place your fixtures. There are many variations of layouts to choose from but the following three are the most popular:


Grid Layout

Grocery stores use a grid layout where fixtures run parallel to the walls. Shoppers have been trained to pick up a cart at the front door and walk up and down every aisle. In a grid layout end features are stacked with promotional goods to increase the average sale.

Loop Layout

Best Buy, Target and Macy’s rely on a loop layout to move shoppers through the store. Loop layouts use a clearly defined main aisle that circles through the store like a racetrack. This layout offers maximum product exposure because the perimeter walls and gondola valleys are just as important as the end features. Loop layouts generally work best in a larger footprint.

Free-Flow Layout

Boutique and specialty retailers benefit from a free-flow layout. In this layout, customers shop the sales floor according to how and where you place the fixtures. Free-flow layouts are completely flexible, easy to set and easy to change.


Tip 6: Watch for Desire Paths

Have you ever cut across the grass because it was a quicker way to get where you were going? In doing so, you created a shortcut called a desire path — you have them on your sales floor, too. Check your carpeting for excess wear in certain areas or spend time watching how customers shop the floor. Once you identify the shortcuts they prefer, you can place displays directly in the middle of that space.


Tip 7: Choose the Right Fixtures

Fixturing should add to the ambiance of your sales floor but it should never be the focal point; good fixtures let the merchandise stand out. You need basic fixturing like wall units, gondolas and shelving to maximize dollars per square foot, plus specialty fixturing for feature displays such as “speed bumps.” The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires a minimum of 36" in between fixtures so all customers can shop comfortably.


Tip 8: Optimize Your Lake Front Property

There are parts of your sales floor that are more important than others; we call these areas lake front property. This space should be used to feature new, important and high-margin product. Merchandise the basics toward the rear of the store so shoppers must walk past fashion and seasonal merchandise to get to them. If your store has a center door, 90% of customers will enter and either look or turn to the right — items there should be merchandised with particular care.


Tip 9: Cause a Pause

Speed bumps are the first displays shoppers see when entering the store. Located center stage, speed bumps like small tables slow shoppers down and set the tone for what they can expect to find as they browse the sales floor (be careful not to create a barrier with long tables). Cross-merchandise your speed bumps with groupings of irresistible product. Tell a story! Why just sell a sweater when you can add on a collar, leash, boots and maybe a treat, too?

Change your speed bump displays at least once a week — whether they need it or not — more often if you have frequent repeat customers, the displays sell down or items become shopworn.


Tip 10: Merchandise Outposts

Say you’re at the grocery store before Thanksgiving. Along your path to get your turkey, you have to pass displays of other items you need to complete your meal. These merchandise outposts allow you to cross-merchandise throughout your sales floor. They encourage impulse purchases and are especially effective during the holidays to highlight immediate gifting needs. Don’t be afraid to set a display of toys near the pet food aisles.


Tip 11: Vary the Heights

Displays work best when they incorporate height and depth, so add props and risers in table displays for visual interest. Vary the arm heights on apparel fixtures, gondola shelving and wall units. When everything is the same height, nothing stands out.


Tip 12: Use the Power of 3

The human brain is wired to seek out the asymmetrical — that’s why we are drawn to displays that feature products grouped in odd numbers, especially groups of three. By forcing the eye to move around, these groupings cause the shopper to see more of the items on display.

The Power of 3 also benefits from the Pyramid Principle.  This is where you place the tallest item in the center and flank it with smaller items. The eye unconsciously seeks the tallest item first before scanning the smaller items, creating a pyramid-like step-down. Again, shoppers see more of what’s on display.


Tip 13: Follow the Signs

A study done by Brigham Young University found displays with signs outperformed displays without signs by 20%. In the battle between sale and non-sale items, regularly priced merchandise outperformed sale merchandise by 18% when it had signage and the sale items did not. Bottom line: Displays need to be appropriately signed.

Signing should be simple and immediately understood. Think short sentences versus paragraphs and follow this rule: Take the average age of your oldest customers and divide it in half; this is the smallest font size you can use. Do not use anything smaller than a 30-point font so shoppers who wear reading glasses can easily read your signs without them.


Tip 14: Wrap It Up

Even in line to pay, customers should never stop thinking about merchandise. Display small, high-profit, impulse items on and around the cash wrap. If you are lucky enough to have a wall directly behind your counter, use it to tell a merchandise story or to showcase important product. If your store has checkout lanes, consider adding displays of impulse items shoppers must pass through.


Tip 15: The 360-Degree Pass-By

If you’ve ever witnessed a store associate lead a shopper to a display and say, “I know it was right here yesterday!” you need to adopt our 360-Degree Pass-By exercise: a quick daily walk through every inch of the sales floor by every associate at the beginning of each shift. You will easily pick up on areas that need attention, product that needs restocking, displays to straighten and signs that need to be replaced.


Store layout is an art but it’s also a science. The techniques shared in this article aren’t new, but they have been utilized by successful retailers for one simple reason: they work.

Before you start to make changes, grab your smartphone or camera and take photos of your sales floor. The camera will see things the human eye misses. Next, mount a blueprint of your sales floor to a piece of foam board and add a velum overlay to plan moves — it’s much easier to play on paper before you start dismantling displays. And if you’re still not sure what to do first, give us a call. Together, we’ll brainstorm ideas to help you get started!


Learn more from pet retail experts at SuperZoo 2023, North America’s largest pet retail event! Register today at 


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