How Much of your Retail Space should be Allocated to your Staff?


Retail professionals are under extreme pressure to deliver what they always have, but now in a retail landscape that is being transformed by changing customer behaviour and a migration of retail sales to e-commerce, questions that have never had to be faced before are now becoming uncomfortably relevant…


I have witnessed some unseemly “scraps” for store square metres in my time between competing categories all trying to get as much of their “stuff” on the shop floor as possible, in the best and the most prominent places.

I’ve also witnessed with incredulity a proud boast from a well-known DIY store about its enormous, and no doubt manly, store acreage, which at the size of a small county actually demonstrated the curvature of the earth from one end to the other.

And so goes on the obsession for space.


This is not to belittle the significance of space and it is all too easy to play the “hand of hindsight” in criticising practices of the past. But the fact is the obsession with space, from sqm in individual stores, to the accumulative across portfolios is changing. In many cases it is now an obsession to lose space rather than celebrate it.

And so to the matter in hand and what to do with the allocation of the square metres inside our stores? To the new realisation that allocation to product display may not in fact be the most profitable use of our gross square metres.

Firstly ecommerce and omnichannel are for sure behind half of the argument against product display as the only priority. Smaller assortments in physical stores acting as best seller beacons and conduits to the full online assortment are the reality for many, whilst click & collect is demanding that more of the storage space allocation is converted to parcel collection.

Witness the transformation of stockrooms in retailers such as John Lewis from speculative storage for the as yet unsold, into holding bays for goods already bought and sitting on the sales balance sheet. Which would you chose as the best use of space?

However a less obvious but potentially much more lucrative use of gross square metres is that allocated for the comfort and benefit of your sales personnel. In the historic clamour for sales space our valuable employees have often been ascribed a space the size of a broom cupboard in which to not only function as professional employees but as functioning human beings.

Is there any wonder that customers are often met with the forlorn instead of the fanfare they expect from sales personnel. And that’s the key today.

What sells more in our omni-channel stores? Attractive product displays, or engaged and enthusiastic sales personnel attending to our every need.


Of course the combination of the two is the only solution, however with smaller assortments and hopefully lighting quick replenishment and fluid inventory there is now an enormous case for spoiling your staff with space!

The other undoubtable from omnichannel is the value of sales personnel in creating store theatre and experience. They are rapidly becoming the single most important factor in pulling people into the physical store, creating engagement, loyalty and sales conversion.

Of course, their energy and expertise comes down to more than space and facilities, however no amount of training, coaching and brand communication can replace the glow that being made to feel special can generate.

So think about it. Next time you allocate the retail space of your new store, consider the sales impact of making your sales personnel feel special and why not “spoil them with space!”


Not sure about how to allocate your gross square metres?

Wondering how to future proof your store formats?

We can help.


Sleep on it and give us a call in the morning…

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Do you know the new rules and parameters for your next new store concept or refurb programme?


In response VM-Unleashed has developed “omnichannel unveiled” as a sophisticated benchmarking process to answer the many questions and dilemnas for retailers wrestling with omnichannel customer journeys and experiences and sales figures.

Omnichannel-unveiled aims to reveal the realities of the strengths and weaknesses of any retailer’s multi-channel touchpoints and to devise a focused plan for realistic and sustainable improvements.

If you’re interested in getting the delivery detail correct in your omnichannel retail business…why not take a look at omni-channel unveiled