Merchandise Planning

The New World of Furniture Shopping

It comes as no surprise that retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart, and Target have expanded their already vast product offerings into the furniture space. While these leading brands have undoubtedly been successful across a diverse line of product categories, selling furniture can be trickier. Furniture still remains one of the most expensive purchases a consumer will make, next to buying a home or a car. And despite advancements in technology and online shopping, most customers still want to sit, feel, and experience furniture prior to purchase. Traditional furniture retailers can combat the retail giants by making an immediate positive impact to the customer shopping experience through well executed merchandising.

Merchandising is the visual link between buyers and sellers. Great merchandising layouts display products in the right place, at the right time, and lead to higher sales, larger average tickets, and better margin.

The optimal furniture store layout is achieved by embracing a few key principles:

  1. The customer’s shopping experience should be enhanced

customer shopping experience

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. To that end, the showroom’s entry point, or “decompression zone,” should transport customers from the distractions of the outside world into a shopping mindset. This decompression zone should be open, inviting, and provide an unobstructed view of the rest of the showroom. Sales associates should suppress the urge to engage guests while they are in the decompression zone. Instead, retailers should consider setting up a speed bump just beyond the entry point. Speed bumps are high-impact, eye-catching displays designed to slow a customer’s progression through the showroom. By placing a speed bump just past the decompression zone, retailers can combine the traditional concept of a speed bump with a less intimidating way for associates and guests to interact.

  1. The design should allow for flexibility

Retailers have a variety of store layout options (grid, free-flow, loop, etc.) and each layout has its own advantages and disadvantages. Free-flow layouts allow for more creativity and flexibility in designing vignettes and are therefore a good option for home furnishing retailers. A free-flow plan encourages customers to wander from one vignette to the next. The lack of a defined walking path means customers are drawn to displays that capture their interest, creating a more immersive shopping experience.


The free-flow layout also gives designers the creativity to completely change the look of the showroom without the constraints of a grid. Free-flow layouts create open sightlines that naturally invite customers to explore the entire showroom. Although the customer’s path is not clearly defined, strategic placement of furniture, power walls and speed bumps can produce a natural and engaging route through the store.


  1. Design should reflect consumer behavior and appeal to the target market

When designing a showroom, understanding consumer behavior is paramount. Studies have shown that people tend to shop the way they drive (we drive on the right side of the road, so we tend to veer to the right when we shop). Retailers know most guests will turn right after leaving the decompression zone, so the first department / vignette they see should make an impactful statement. Whatever the design, it should create a “wow” moment for the customer and encourage them to keep browsing.

Retailers need to have a predefined target market as it is difficult to appeal to everyone in a limited space. I once worked for a home furnishings retailer that tried to cater to all, from the budget-conscious consumer all the way up to the luxury consumer. In their showroom, they had on display a $399 sofa with a pair of lamps that retailed for $249 each.  Imagine the customer’s surprise when they realized that the pair of lamps would cost more than the sofa. It didn’t make sense, and it certainly did not make for a positive customer experience.

Succeeding in the new world of furniture retail requires getting back to basics! Retailers can have the best assortment of optimally arranged merchandise but if the showroom shows signs of uncleanliness with narrow aisles or cluttered vignettes, all your hard work will be lost as your customers feel unwelcome. Make sure the retail space and shopping experience is comfortable and inviting and you are already on the path to success.

Sarah has more than 20 years’ experience and achievement within the retail furniture industry including leadership managing individual retail stores and multi-units at the district level, inventory and warehouse management, process improvement, sales and merchandising. Sarah’s combination of knowledge in the furniture segment along with her consulting expertise give her a unique perspective on the challenges facing furniture retailers today.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *