Floor Planning: Lightyears Ahead of Where It Used to Be

By Susan Bliss

Floor planning isn’t what it used to be, and floor planners worldwide are thankful for that.

I started my retail career in the 1990s when I came to understand the importance of product adjacencies and how store layouts impact customer traffic and buying patterns. Back then, even though many companies had planogram software at the corporate level, many of us who worked in the stores used Excel spreadsheets to draw things out as best we could using cells of different dimensions.

Doing so was tricky and time-consuming. It was also confusing for anyone who was working from our handmade plans. So, we usually had to include dozens of notes explaining how the shelves should look.

My first experience on the other side of the table was as a floor planner in store layouts in the early 2000s. I worked for a company that managed all its floorplans in AutoCAD and thus had little insight into actual store layouts. Scheduled category resets requiring map changes were updated in AutoCAD file using a clunky, time-intensive tagging application.

As the company migrated to a new space planning system, we traveled to each store with an architectural drawing, tape measure and pencil in hand to capture the current fixture plan of each store. While this was expensive and tedious, the new system made it easier to keep fixture plans updated. However, any pictures or documents related to the store had to be maintained on a shared corporate drive. These documents were not associated with the layout and quickly became outdated.

The next company I joined had very few actual store floorplans or insight into actual store conditions or fixture layouts. To solve this problem, they hired a third-party survey company to visit and survey all 4,500 locations and create layouts for each. This, too, was time-consuming and expensive.

What’s more, those files had to be reviewed, processed and uploaded individually into our space planning software. Once that was done, maintaining the floorplans wasn’t too difficult. However, there was still no real-time insight into store conditions or platform for communicating changes to or from the field. Pictures taken when the survey was done quickly became obsolete and, as before, had to be housed on a separate shared corporate drive.

I then joined a seemingly tech-savvy company whose stores had all the bells and whistles but not its corporate office. As a result, insight into and a method of maintaining layouts was practically non-existent. In addition, projects that included fixture and merchandise layouts were managed in Excel, and communications took place via phone or email. There was no insight into fixture types or model numbers, no idea of placement and no access to power or water. Nor was there any standard process for capturing that information.

This seems to be a pattern with many large companies. Once the store is open, the records for store layouts become more outdated with each merchandise reflow or fixture update, with each remodel or upgrade. Moreover, the home office is often unaware of how many promotional ends or how much available floorspace each location has. This often results in too many or too few promotional items or in fixtures or displays being sent to stores that have no floor space for them.

Faster, better and more collaborative

Fast forward to today. I’m now at MerchLogix. Wow, have things changed! Thanks to our suite of solutions, there is no need to store space plans and files on shared drives. No need to wonder if a colleague remembered to upload the most up-to-date version of a floorplan. No more delivering products for fixtures that don’t exist. No more delivering fixtures that don’t fit on the sales floor. No more providing planograms that do not suit the fixture or the space.

Instead, MerchLogix Floorplan makes floor planning easy. Cloud-based and with no per-person user fees, it brings your entire team out of their silos and connects them in real-time. The solution makes it not only possible, but easy, for your vision to reach store shelves. And because the software is so easy-to-use, you and your entire team can get much more granular—and profitable—with store-level planning.

Now, with the help of MerchLogix, retailers can give customers access to accurate floorplans and real-time data they can use while shopping to locate products on store shelves.

Good store planners are still critical to success

Despite this evolution, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed. Store planners still must be logical and data-driven, yet creative enough to think outside the box.

With these skills and solutions from MerchLogix, today’s store planners can

  • Understand store layouts for all locations
  • Optimize existing space and improve adjacencies and customer experience
  • Gain insight into actual in-store conditions, fixture constraints, obstructions and other merchandising roadblocks with real-time photo updates
  • Instantly communicate layout changes to and from the field to maintain accurate store maps
  • Increase sales per square foot
  • Increase store profitability

And now, thanks to MerchLogix, store floorplans and maps can be accessed by any user on any device at any time from anywhere. And that, while lightyears ahead of where we used to be, is just the beginning of what we’ll see in the years ahead.

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