- CONVENIENCE STORE CHECKOUT COUNTER CONCEPT:
The convenience store checkout counter should be the start of the layout for any well-designed convenience store. The checkout counter is the one place that every customer stops after entering the store. This is what makes the checkout counter the most important of the fixtures in a store.
When any purchase is made the customer’s mindset is to find their way through the convenience store fixtures to the C-store checkout counter in order to pay for the purchase and exit the store. Often they are thinking about getting to the sales counter and finalizing the store experience with the least amount of travel and hoping to get there with a minimal wait in line for the cashier. It is important for the store to have multiple pay points at their sales counter and that these are covered by attendants with a friendly attitude. The number of attendants should be determined by the store’s volume and can fluctuate during different periods of the day depending on the volume of customers. The daily patterns of customer traffic the C-store is something that every store owner should know.
However, when the customer arrives at the convenience store checkout counter they typically have a general feeling of relief that they have finalized their store experience and they will be able to pay for their purchases and exit the store fairly easily. This is part of the psychology of shopping behavior and this brief period of relief allows them to stop for a few fleeting seconds and look around them. This is the precise time when the checkout counter must catch their attention and give them the opportunity to open their minds for impulse items to purchase. That is the main advantage of a well-designed checkout counter.
- STORE CHECKOUT COUNTER LOCATION:
While there are different theories regarding the location of the convenience store checkout counter in the store, almost every designer agrees that the convenience store checkout must be fairly close to the exit in order to maintain visibility of, and control over, the customers leaving the store. It is also an advantage to have it near the convenience store’s entrance. That is why many convenience stores have the entrance and exit through the same doors.
Some stores have a designated entrance and a separate exit at different locations, generally separated at different ends of the building. This can be effective for forcing the customer to walk through most of the store exposing them to the entire range of merchandise offerings before they reach the convenience store checkout counter. However, it can also serve to irritate customers that are in a hurry, since it forces them to travel through the maze of convenience store fixtures to reach the sales counter and then exit. Since the concept of the convenience store is convenience, this layout is often considered as counterproductive.
Most successful convenience stores have wide double doors located near the middle of the building to serve as both the entrance and exit for customers. Since the checkout counter should be relatively close to the exit, this generally means that the checkout counter should be on one side or the other of the entrance/exit, or it should be an island design placed in front of the entrance/exit.
- ISLAND VERSES SIDE CHECKOUT COUNTERS:
The argument of the best location for the convenience store checkout counter often comes down to the size of the store and the services it offers. For example, an island C-store checkout counter generally takes up much more room than a side design. So it should only be considered for stores with a large footprint and many convenience store fixtures. The island concept makes the sales counter the focal point of the store, which is good in theory, but sometimes makes it too easy for the customer to walk straight into the sales counter, pay for their gas, and then leave without seeing much of the rest of the store.
A side counter design allows the store designer to place the C-store checkout counter back away from the entrance by several feet, while still allowing clear visibility of the exit to control possible pilferage. The advantage here is that the customer will walk into the store and be presented with the full array of the store’s offerings before they locate the C-store sales counter. The customer will often get a panoramic view of the full store convenience store fixtures and services before deciding which direction to turn. This gives them the chance to see the coffee counter, the drink counter, the food service options, the walk-in coolers, and the rest of the convenience store fixtures before deciding which way to proceed.
While it has been proven statistically that most customers that enter a convenience store go to the walk-in coolers (which is why the coolers should be at the rear of the store), there is also a distinction between those that want something from the walk-in coolers and those that want some of the other services. For example, most customers don’t get drinks from the walk-in cooler and then also go to the fountain to get another drink. It’s usually one or the other. So it’s not a bad plan to have the walk-in coolers on one side of the store, with the food service toward the rear and the coffee on the side by the sales counter. Since customers are generally in a greater hurry in the morning (on their way into work), the coffee by the convenience store checkout counter makes it easier for them to fill up a coffee cup and pay in a minimum amount of time.
The gondola shelving part of the convenience store fixtures should be designed in the middle area of the store with the intent of allowing the customers good customer flow through the store while presenting as much merchandise as possible. Long gondola runs should be avoided. Short runs with gondolas at different angles to create an interesting layout are more effective for customer browsing.
- CLEAN COUNTER DESIGN:
The design of the stores’ checkout counter itself is critically important. While the idea is to present as much impulse merchandise as possible to the customer, it is imperative that the display of the merchandise be orderly and well laid out. The psychology of customer behavior is that customers are attracted to well organized and orderly displays. Candy bars that are lined up in straight rows, with different brands side by side, tend to attract the customer’s attention. However, disorganized displays where merchandise is presented in many different displays (such a different vendor displays from multiple vendors) tends to confuse the customer and actually repels their focus. It is for this reason that the convenience store checkout counter should be designed with shelves on the front to present the merchandise in an organized manner. It is also important to present a well-defined pay point to the customer to avoid confusion about where to pay. That way they can focus on the merchandise and not on where to stand to pay for their purchases.
- MAXIMIZE MERCHANDISING:
It’s relatively easy to fill up the convenience store checkout counter are with a lot of merchandise, but it’s not so easy to get the best, highest selling items well positioned in an organized manner. As mentioned in the previous paragraph too much merchandise or a lot of clutter can actually deter impulse sales. Another truism about C-store checkout counter design is that merchandise should be positioned up at eye level so that the customer doesn’t have to get down on their knees or get out of line to pick that specific item that catches their eye. Vertical merchandiser displays that are designed into the checkout counter (as shown in the photos below) are an excellent way to accomplish this objective.
Vertical merchandiser units can be freestanding or built into the counter itself. Those that are built-in are generally less expensive and more functional. However, some counters don’t lend themselves to being redesigned and the free-standing display works well in those situations.
- SALES COUNTER SPECIAL FEATURES: (Triangles, half circles, cascades, etc.)
Some very upscale and creative convenience store checkout counters have different strategic elements that are designed to stand out and catch attention, while also presenting impulse merchandise in an attractive manner.
A cascade unit is designed to present shelves at different positions from a high position at or slightly above eye level to a fairly low location around 12” to 18 above the floor in a cascading manner. The photo below shows a typical cascade unit, which can be an effective way to display merchandise.
Half-circle shelves can be used to display specials and other merchandise in a way that catches the attention of customers and creates more impulse sales. These types of displays are more effective for bulk types of merchandise such as single candies and gum.
Triangle units can be used as both creative eye-catching merchandise display units at the stores’ sales counter and also serve as dividers between pay point areas. This can dress up the stores’ sales counter while adding to the upscale environment of the store and also help to define the pay points for the customers. Since the triangle units are not the same old standard shelving unit, they tend to draw the customer’s attention to the merchandise presented on the shelves.
Curved corners on the store checkout counter can add an upscale feel to the store while also appearing softer to the customers than hard right angles. An especially creative store checkout counter can have multiple curved sections combined with merchandising to create a classy look while also attracting the customers’ interest and promoting impulse merchandise.
- CHECKOUT VERSES COFFEE AND FOOD SERVICE COUNTERS:
The convenience store fixtures are a critical part of the overall store design that is often overlooked or sometimes forgotten until the last minute when it is too late to maximize the design potential. The design of the sales counter and the other counters in the store, including the coffee counter, the cold drink counter, the food service counter, and the gondola shelving, are all elements that should be designed to work together in a complementary and cohesive program to maximize the store’s potential and increase impulse sales.
All too often a store developer will focus attention on the convenience store coffee counter or drink counter and forget to properly design the checkout counter. This can be a critical mistake and result in thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
- CHECKOUT AND SALES COUNTERS DESIGN SUMMARY
A well-designed convenience store checkout counter should include shelves on the front for merchandising as much of the highest selling impulse merchandise as possible in an attractive and organized manner to entice impulse sales. It should be positioned to be able to monitor the exit and also be easy to access from the entrance and should have designated pay points to make it easy for the customers to complete their purchasing experience in a way that makes the entire shopping experience pleasurable and enjoyable.