Visual Merchandising for Convenience Stores: 5 Great Tips to Try

When it comes to running a convenience store, crafting an appealing visual merchandising strategy should be high up on your to-do list. In-store visuals and presentation serve many important functions, including guiding shoppers to the right places and driving sales. 

That’s why it’s essential to continuously improve your visual merchandising practices. To help you accomplish this, we’ve put together a quick guide to c-store visual merchandising. In this article, you’ll see the benefits of effective in-store visuals and find examples of other retailers that have done an excellent job showcasing their products and designing their stores. 

Let’s dive in.

What is visual merchandising?

Visual merchandising entails optimizing your store and the placement of products such that they grab the attention of your customers easily.

It involves improving floor plans, aisle spacing, store graphics, colors, displays, lighting, and technology to provide an exciting shopping experience for customers. The science of visual merchandising stems from an understanding of customer psychology. It aims to influence buying decisions through the look and feel of your store. 

The main idea behind visual merchandising is to guide shoppers through every area of your shop so they’ll find what they’re looking for (and in some cases lead them to the high-margin items). A well-designed store offers the right kind of visual cues that encourage customers to explore the space and ultimately make a purchase.

What are the benefits of visual merchandising?

As with every other marketing strategy, the goal of visual merchandising is to boost sales and increase profitability. When done right, visual merchandising can offer a host of benefits for convenience stores. Here are some of the most common ones:

Engage customers

One of the biggest benefits of visual merchandising in convenience stores is that it helps cut through the noise. Most c-stores seem to drown in a barrage of loud text and visual advertising displays which scream to get the customer’s attention.

Unfortunately, they usually keep customers from buying anything extra. In many cases, poor visual merchandising can result in people overlooking the actual products they need.

Visual merchandising combines intelligent design and aesthetics to help shoppers easily find what they’re looking for. It also encourages them to make a few impulse buys along the way.

Increase sales

Did you know that 84% of people sometimes or always add extra items to their shopping carts in-store? That said, a drab c-store with crammed shelves hardly encourages shoppers to buy anything more than they need.

Visual merchandising can help focus shoppers’ attention on products they hadn’t thought of buying when they entered the store. These impulse buys can greatly impact your bottom line, especially if you can sway their focus to the high-margin items.

Boost brand image

Visual merchandising can also help enhance the brand image of your convenience store and establish a unique brand identity. A cohesive theme, tasteful displays, and a consistent color scheme can give your c-store a unique personality. Your brand aesthetic can go a long way in communicating the value you offer to customers. This, in turn, can help you rise above the competition. 

Visual merchandising best practices for convenience stores

Now that we’ve covered the fundamentals of visual merchandising, let’s take a look at some best practices for implementing it in your convenience store(s). Below are a handful of visual merchandising examples from other retailers. Have a look and implement the tactics that make the most sense for your business.

1. Use attractive and captivating graphics

Convenience stores graphics and signage play a huge role in the kind of shopping experience you offer to customers. Visually-appealing graphics can grab their attention and evoke emotions that encourage them to buy your products instead of “just looking.”

Make sure that your graphics are simple, tasteful, and can get your message across in a few words. Use colors that don’t overwhelm the senses, but make sure to create the right kind of contrast that puts the spotlight on products you want to highlight.

Take a cue from the new Chestnut Market outlet that opened last year in Marlboro, New York. The dimensional lettering, textures, and patterns woven into the store graphics completely elevate its look and feel. The illuminated wood beams also create a relaxed and contemporary aesthetic, that’s both warm and inviting.

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2. Opt for a coherent theme in your displays

Shelves full of unrelated products in clashing colors are both chaotic and unnerving. Too many products and too many colors can easily overwhelm the senses and have a negative effect on the shopping experience.

So, when designing your displays, always remember that less is more. You can select similar colors and patterns, or group related products together to create a cohesive look or theme in your displays.

“Products that are grouped together can put a customer’s imagination to work,” says Daniel Velez Vasquez, CEO at Home Security. “Product grouping is appealing because it shows rather than tells by igniting consumers’ imaginations. They’ll most likely be drawn to explore the store further in search of the items grouped in the display.”

The image below shows a display that combines similar hues, prints, and complementing products to create a cohesive theme. It exudes warmth, is easy on the eyes, and puts the spotlight on these home decor accessories that customers tend to overlook easily.

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That being said, it might not always be possible to group together products in similar colors or hues in a convenience store. So it’s important to understand that even a lot of colors can look appealing against the right background. This store, for example, does a great job of making its craft section attractive (not overwhelming) with the clever use of white in the background.

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3. Be strategic about your floor layout plan

The way you design your c-store floor layout and aisle spacing will directly impact how customers move through your store. You need to make sure they can browse freely without having to take their eyes off the merchandise. Cleverly designed floor layouts can guide your customers to the areas of the store that contain your high-margin items. 

The Cruizers Convenience Marketplace at Chapel Hill, N.C. is a great example of a strategically designed c-store. The aisles and floor patterns help customers navigate the store easily and provide a great shopping experience.

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4. Display your products at strategic locations

Regardless of the floor layout you select, keep the following rules in mind when deciding where to place your products. 

Entrance. In general, it’s always a good idea to place any seasonal merchandise near the entrance of your c-store (right after the decompression zone). Since these products won’t sell year-round, you need to make sure that they catch people’s attention immediately. So, displaying them at the front makes the most sense (as in the example below). 

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The right side near the entrance. You can also consider creating a “power wall” to the right of your store entrance where you display the most appealing products. Customers have a tendency of turning right upon entering a store. So, it’s always a good idea to place highly consumable (and high-margin) products in these locations.

The back of the store. You must always keep food and other essentials to the back of your c-store. This compels customers to walk along your entire store and past all the merchandise. When done right, your product displays and signage are sure to catch their attention so that they end up buying a thing or two other than the ones they had planned on. 

As you can see below, this store in Portland puts their frozen section, foods, groceries, and other essentials all the way to the back.

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Center aisles. Remember to place your high-margin items all along the way so that customers making their way towards the back of the store can spot them easily. This can result in more sales and boost profitability. Take a cue from this convenience store in Hawaii that places refreshing cold beverages and portable chargers along the way, which can easily translate to some impulse buys.

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5. Make use of great-looking signage

“One tip for visual merchandising stores looking to drive more sales is to use signage that makes it simpler and easier to shop your store,” says Julien Raby, founder at CoffeeWorks

“Using some form of signage is always a good idea, regardless of the size of your store or the amount of product you sell. That’s because when you use it correctly, you can lead your customers around your store. Furthermore, it makes shopping more convenient and can even serve as a silent salesperson.”

Veronica Miller at VPNoverview echoes this, and says that signage can help you create a more convenient shopping experience. The right signs “guides customers to different parts of the store,” helping you direct them to the right areas of the shop. 

The following retailer makes great use of signage. Notice how the coffee and tea shelves in the store are clearly labeled using big signs with distinct designs. 

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Final words

Who said a convenience store needs to be boring? Remember, if you can get rid of any preconceived notions about what your c-store “should” be like, you’ll realize what it “could” actually be.

Effective visual merchandising can not only help you attract the attention of your customers but also provide them an amazing experience that keeps them coming back. Speaking of providing top-notch experiences, make sure that your c-store’s visual merchandising is always up to snuff through regular retail audits. Inspect your locations regularly and create action plans to ensure compliance.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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