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Selecting Shelving and Display Solutions

A well-designed retail space plays a vital role in attracting customers and guiding their journey through the store. It allows the highlighting of products and ultimately encourages the customers to make a purchase. To achieve this, selecting an aesthetically pleasing, accessible, and engaging shelving structure should be one of the key objectives for a retailer either when launching a new retail store or planning a retail layout renovation.

There are numerous challenges retailers face during this stage. When you step into a shop that lacks inspiration and is disorganized, the overall vibe you get is far from inviting and it leaves you feeling lost and uninterested. Unfortunately, such is the reality for some retailers who don’t realize the impact of a thoughtfully designed space. This emphasizes the need and importance of retail fit-out services

A store designed by an experienced retail fit-out contractor is a feast for the senses. It draws customers in, leads them on a journey among the products, and leaves a lasting impression that boosts sales. These professionals are the masterminds behind the retail experience, turning empty spaces into a powerful tool that shapes customer behavior and, eventually, your profits. 

It is important to thoroughly analyze the significance of selecting the right shelving and display options in retail environments. In this article, we will explore crucial factors like the dimensions, composition, and aesthetics of shelves, and observe how these choices significantly contribute to the creation of a successful retail area.

Table of Contents

What is shelving in a retail store?

Types of retail shelving

Why retail shelves are so important?

How do you organize retail shelves?

What is the purpose of display shelves?

How to choose shelves for a display for a retail store?

What are smart shelves?


What is shelving in a retail store?

Shelving in its literal meaning stands for arrangement of platforms in such a way that it allows for the retailer to showcase or present his merchandise to the customers most effectively. However, its purpose is much more complex than that simple definition. Along with the necessity for storing and presenting products, shelving also is a marketing opportunity for retailers.

Key features of shelving

  • Making a bold visual statement: Arrangement of shelves can be done in various ways to make it eye-catching for the customers and draw them in by using unusual color schemes, aesthetic structuring, and prominent materials.


  • Maximizing space: Shelving serves a purpose beyond showcasing products — it acts as a valuable space-saving solution! Make the most of vertical space by opting for tall units, swapping out floor displays for orderly shelves, and customizing heights to accommodate different items. Get innovative with corner shelves and Slatwall panels, and consider built-in features to fully optimize every inch of space available.
  • Durability: Delicate shelves pose a threat of harm and collapse, whereas sturdy alternatives such as metal or reinforced wood guarantee enduring structural stability. Emphasizing strength is crucial as it not only safeguards your merchandise but also reduces repair expenses and conveys an enduring impression of excellence.
  • Product showcasing: When purchasing store shelves, a common mistake is to prioritize the arrangement aesthetic over the main purpose, which is to showcase products. A good shelving arrangement will enhance the product placed in it rather than drawing attention from it. Opting for minimalist shelves can help maintain focus on the displayed items without drawing attention away. Additionally, these shelves offer the flexibility to easily adapt to changes in store design without the need to invest in new shelving units.

Types of retail shelving

There are numerous efficient methods to utilize retail shop shelving, which can vary depending on the store’s size and the products being sold. Here are some of the most efficient types:

  • Wall shelving

The ultimate choice for retail shop shelving is wall shelving. Whether it’s a wooden display shelf or glass shelves, wall shelving is an excellent way to showcase products and make the most of the available space. Mounted securely on walls with brackets, wall shelving is ideal for displaying large and heavy items that require a sturdy shelf. With its space-saving design and polished appearance, wall shelving is the top pick for retail stores everywhere.


  • Gondola display shelves 

These are a contemporary option for retail shop shelving. Ideal for quickly updating product displays, gondola shelving is a versatile unit that is simple to set up and can be customized with accessories like hooks and wire baskets. Whether your store offers clothing or electronics, gondola shelving will help maintain a dynamic and appealing shopping environment.

  • Free-standing display racks 

These display racks, equipped with shelves, offer a dynamic and adaptable solution, enabling effortless modification of your floor space utilization. These racks are highly efficient in revitalizing, reorganizing, or rejuvenating your store layout.

  • Slatwall shelves 

These are a top pick for showcasing retail products due to their versatility and customizable features. Plus, they offer easy mobility and come in various materials to suit your needs.

  • Wire shelving 

These shelves offer a unique robust and adaptable storage solution for supermarkets. Their lightweight construction simplifies installation, while the open wire design promotes air circulation for optimal product preservation. Adjustable shelves further enhance its versatility for various-sized items. 

Why retail shelves are so important?

Shelves can be used as a tool for merchandising and promoting specific products or sales. By strategically placing certain items on eye-catching shelves or creating attractive displays, retailers can draw attention to particular products and increase their chances of being purchased. This can be especially effective during seasonal or promotional periods when retailers want to highlight specific items or discounts.

Moreover, shelves can be utilized to create a sense of exclusivity or luxury within a store. By using high-quality materials, unique designs, or incorporating lighting elements, retailers can elevate the overall aesthetic of their stores and create a more upscale atmosphere. This can help attract a specific target market and position the store as a premium destination for shoppers.

In addition to their functional and aesthetic benefits, shelves can also have a psychological impact on customers. Well-organized and neatly displayed shelves typically create a sense of trust and reliability, making customers more likely to feel confident in their purchasing decisions. On the other hand, cluttered or disorganized shelves can give the impression of a chaotic or unprofessional store, potentially turning customers away. 

Lastly, shelves can also be used as a tool for cross-selling and up-selling. By strategically placing related products or complementary items on nearby shelves, retailers can encourage customers to make additional purchases. For example, placing batteries next to electronic devices or displaying matching accessories alongside clothing items can prompt customers to buy more than originally intended.

How do you organize retail shelves?

Apart from attracting and retaining customers, one of the major obstacles a retail business may encounter is maintaining an organized store. Ensuring that your store appears well-stocked without overwhelming customers can be tricky. 

If you’re struggling with organizing your retail space, here are some tips to help you out: 

Step 1: Create an Effective Floor Plan

Understanding the amount of space available is crucial when organizing your retail shelves. Develop a floor plan to determine the storage solutions needed to utilize the space efficiently, while also allowing customers to move around freely and view your products. This will keep the products more accessible and save space so the store does not feel crowded even when there is a crowd of customers present inside.

Step 2: Maximize the use of vertical space

Make sure your walls are not just empty bystanders! Make the most of the vertical space in your store. Incorporate shelves that extend all the way up to the ceiling, maximizing your display area and freeing up valuable floor space. This additional floor space enables a smoother flow of customers and creates a more captivating product showcase. Keep in mind: satisfied customers tend to browse for longer! 

Moreover, for the essential items placed on higher shelves, consider investing in durable and fashionable ladders for effortless access or have customer support staff present at all times – because convenience is crucial. 

Step 3: Provide adequate lighting

Lighting plays an important role in organizing your store and making your products more appealing to the audience by making them more obvious and memorable. Good lighting can make the products catch customers’ attention that they could otherwise just pass by.


Step 4: Focus on spacing

Ensure consistent spacing between products to prevent a crowded appearance and facilitate convenient access for customers to inspect and select items. 

Step 5: Add diversity in the shelves

Introduce diversity in shelf heights or incorporate color accents (via product packaging or decorative elements) to add visual appeal and break the monotony. 

Step 5: Use signs

Enhance customer navigation by incorporating clear and concise signage that identifies product categories and subcategories. 

Step 6: Utilize cross-merchandising

Utilizing cross-merchandising can be a powerful tool for retailers to drive sales, increase customer satisfaction, and create a more engaging shopping experience for their customers. By strategically positioning related products’ shelves in close proximity to each other, retailers can stimulate impulse buying and encourage customers to make additional purchases, ultimately leading to increased revenue and profitability. 

What is the purpose of display shelves?

The shelves are the point of purchase more than half of the time. This is where the customer meets the production chain (the producer, the brand, the product, and the retailer). Hence, the display shelves hold the utmost importance. 

Shelving may seem like just a place to put products, but it actually plays a huge role in the customer’s initial product discovery (point of purchase – POP) and the final transaction (point of sale – POS). 

Imagine walking into a store where the shelves are a mess. Products are piled up haphazardly, making it difficult to find what you’re looking for. It’s frustrating and takes away from the overall shopping experience. This is where well-designed shelving comes in. It acts as a bridge between the initial discovery of a product and the final transaction, allowing products to shine and drive sales. 

Shelving has the power to influence customer behavior at the point of purchase. By creating visually appealing displays, you can grab the customer’s attention and make them want to engage with the products. Strategic placement ensures that high-profit items or new arrivals are at eye level, making them more visible. Organizing products by category and keeping consistent spacing helps customers navigate the store efficiently and find what they need easily. This positive experience builds trust and may even lead to unplanned purchases. 

But shelving doesn’t stop there. It continues to play a role even when the customer reaches the product. Well-organized shelves make the transition from browsing to purchasing smooth and seamless. Easy access to products reduces delays at the checkout, contributing to a positive customer experience. Similarly, placing impulse-buy items near the checkout area takes advantage of the customer’s “in-the-moment” decision-making, potentially increasing sales at the final step.  

How to choose shelves for a display for a retail store? 

Choosing the right shelving and display alternatives requires careful consideration of various factors. Firstly, the functionality of the shelving is of utmost importance. In addition to that, the aesthetics of the shelving and display options play a crucial role in creating an inviting and visually appealing retail space. The design and materials used should align with your brand image and create a cohesive look throughout the store. Moreover, the layout and arrangement of the shelving and displays can significantly impact customer flow and encourage browsing. 

The right shelving and display options can have a significant impact on your retail area and revenue opportunities. By carefully considering factors such as functionality, aesthetics, layout, and compliance, you can create a retail space that not only showcases your products effectively but also leaves a lasting impression on customers, ultimately boosting your sales and brand recognition. 

Having established the essential considerations, now turn your focus to the very building blocks themselves – the measurements that define the form and function of your retail shelving. 

  • Measurements

The effectiveness of store shelving relies on various factors. If there are any discrepancies in ceiling height, width, store size, aisle space, or fixture height, the shelving in your store will not appear suitable.

What size are retail shelves?

While shelf sizes can vary globally, retail stores typically follow a specific range. Base shelves, designed for heavier items, tend to be wider and deeper. Common depths include 12, 22, 29, and 30 inches, while widths usually fall between 42 and 48 inches to accommodate a variety of product sizes. 

How high should retail shelves be?

Shelf heights can also vary depending on the store’s ceiling. They typically range from 5 feet to 8 feet, allowing stores to utilize their vertical space for displaying products. Most retailers prefer having their shelves as high as the eye level of average adults or somewhat below. Eye-level refers to when something is directly leveled with the eye of a person. The average human eye level is around 5 feet. 

Three things you should keep in mind while choosing the shelf height:

  1. The type of display you want to use for your merchandise
  2. Customers you are targeting with that specific shelf
  3. The dimensions of the store

How deep are retail shelves?

Shelves can have varying depths, ranging from 14 inches to 30 inches or even more. Opting for shallow shelving helps to maximize aisle space and can easily accommodate a wide range of small-sized products that do not require a lot of depth for inventory storage. On the other hand, deep shelving is essential for large-sized or high-volume products that have significant inventory requirements. 

2. Material

Shelving material depends on the retailer’s needs. Various kinds of materials can be advantageous or disadvantageous in different circumstances. 

What are retail shelves made of?

  • Glass display: Glass display showcasing can be advantageous when presenting delicate, or fragile products such as perfume bottles, cosmetics, and jewelry. The use of glass material can add to the perceived value in the sight of the customer. However, with these alluring features come disadvantages. Glass displays can easily scratch or break affecting the presentation of the products. Since glass is more fragile, it makes it difficult to access the shelves on the go for the customers. This type of showcasing also is difficult to maintain.
  • Metal shelving: Metal shelving comparatively is more common and popular, since it is more durable, easier to install, move, and adjust, as well as clean. One of the more specific types of metal shelving is slatwall. 
  • Wood shelving: Wood shelving is a great option for displaying items that are not too heavy or won’t damage the wood. For instance, it can be utilized in clothing stores to showcase shirts or in pharmacies to organize medicines. Wood shelving enhances the overall appearance of the store, giving it a sophisticated and elegant touch. Despite its aesthetic appeal, wood shelving demands regular maintenance, which may not be feasible for every retailer. Moreover, the vulnerability of wood to liquid spills poses a risk of damage. 


What is the best material to make shelves?

There is no one best material to make shelves. The material can range according to the retailer’s needs. However, galvanized steel is an excellent choice for shelving due to its strength, durability, and resistance to corrosion, which makes it suitable for outdoor use as well. The steel is coated with a layer of zinc, protecting against rust and other forms of corrosion. This makes galvanized steel shelving perfect for environments exposed to moisture, humidity, or chemicals. Moreover, maintaining galvanized steel shelving is hassle-free, making it a practical option for areas where cleanliness is a priority.

3. Shapes

The shapes of the shelves can hold a deeper meaning in the customer’s perception than just style. Like colors, shapes also play a role in giving out subtle messages to the subconscious of the human mind. 

  • Circles: Consumers prefer circular shapes over angular ones due to the emotional connection they create. Circular shapes are associated with unity, friendship, and continuity, making them more appealing to shoppers. Additionally, curves are seen as feminine, while straight lines are considered masculine. Therefore, Circular Gondola Shelving can be used to attract female customers by placing feminine products in them.


  • Squares and rectangles: Squares and rectangles symbolize reliability and trustworthiness. Square and rectangular shapes convey dependability and solidity, placing tools and heavy-duty products on shelves like these can be advantageous. 

It’s crucial to ensure that the shape you are planning for shelves goes with the space available in your store. Always keep a retail fit-out contractor nearby so that they can guide you with professional advice.

4. Decor and style

Retail shelves serve as more than just storage units; they act as silent salespeople influencing customer behavior. To enhance their impact, it is essential to consider both decoration and style. 

Here are some tips:

  • Incorporate color psychology to enhance visual appeal. 
  • Utilize light and bright colors to create a sense of spaciousness, while warm tones can evoke a welcoming atmosphere. 
  • Introduce pops of color through bold product packaging or decorative elements to draw attention to specific items. 
  • Organize products by category and establish a hierarchy within each section, ensuring high-profit or promotional items are placed at eye level for maximum visibility. 
  • Remember to leave negative space to allow products to stand out and avoid overcrowding shelves.
  • Customer accessibility should also be a priority. Position frequently purchased items within easy reach, while less popular choices can be placed on higher shelves.
  • Maintain a comfortable depth for browsing and retrieval, and clearly label shelves with concise category names or subcategories to aid customer navigation. 
  • Utilize storytelling through displays to engage customers emotionally. 
  • Create seasonal or promotional displays that tell a story through product grouping, props, and creative signage. 
  • Place complementary products together to encourage impulse purchases and intersperse unique items to create focal points and spark curiosity. 
  • Lastly, ensure that your shelving choices align with your brand image. 
  • Select materials and styles that compliment your overall aesthetic, such as sleek metal shelves for a minimalist brand or wooden shelving with a distressed finish for a rustic brand. 
  • Strategic lighting can also play a significant role in highlighting specific products and enhancing the overall look and feel of your shelves.

What are smart shelves?

In retail, fast-paced technological advancement has given birth to the idea of smart shelves. These shelves are programmed in a way to keep track of inventory as well as manage it. They can detect when an item has been purchased or removed. This not only helps in managing the inventory but also makes the whole process of retailing efficient.

Traditional shelving techniques are overshadowed by the introduction of smart shelves in retailing. The benefits include:

  • Collecting real-time data about inventory
  • Providing valuable insights to store owners
  • Helping to make the store more secure and prevent theft
  • Making the whole process more efficient by saving time

These and more benefits are making store owners upgrade to the newer technology as it makes their work easier by providing products’ performance data and optimizing the supply chain. Smart shelves make use of software, sensors, digital displays, and RFID tags to achieve their objectives.


Understanding the importance of retail shelves in the competitive retail industry is crucial. Shelves are not just for displaying products; they significantly impact consumer behavior and store success. Functionality, aesthetics, layout, and compliance are key factors to consider in shelf design. Functional shelves make browsing easy, while visually appealing shelves enhance the shopping experience. Strategic product arrangement and compliance with safety regulations create a seamless and safe shopping environment for customers. 

A qualified Commercial Interior Design Company can make all of this possible. Professionals can provide attractive and effective solutions for your retail store.

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