Clear out the First Few Feet of Your Store

How does a typical customer feel when he or she enters the first few feet of your store? Is the experience relaxing or stress-inducing? Even if a customer is committed to your brand, a stressful environment will impact sales in a negative way.

Relaxation Increases Spending

A recent Columbia Business School study revealed that relaxed retail customers spent about 12 percent more money than a control group. The control group was not necessarily stressed. They were simply not exposed to relaxation exercises that were used on the relaxed customers. Imagine how much more money relaxed customers spend than stressed customers.

Of course, putting customers at ease is not a ground-breaking technique to high-end merchants. Boutique customers almost expect amenities, such as refreshments, calming music, and comfortable seating. Your store may not be able to offer over-the-top pampering, but you can still take steps to make shopping a relaxing experience rather than a stressful one.

Give Customers Some Space

Create a decompression zone. When they walk in, customers simply need a moment with no stimulation. Don't worry. Freeing up space won't impact your sales since most customers automatically "tune out" any product that you place too close to the door. In other words, customers will experience anxiety and create their own decompression zone to compensate if you don't create one for them.

Americans value their personal space. If a customer feels accosted, even by an inanimate object like a rolling rack of discount items, she will do one of two things: leave or refuse to engage with sales associates until she feels safe. Simply by creating a decompression zone, you will lower your customers' stress level and increase sales.

Use the Umbrella Rule

How much space do customers need to decompress and relax? The umbrella rule may help you decide. Imagine torrential rain outside your door. Visualize a customer rushing through the door to escape the downpour -- wet, flustered, and fumbling with a dripping umbrella.

What will this customer do? He'll shake off his umbrella before trying to fold it up and store it. If he bumps into a rack while negotiating this task, or if any imaginary drops from his umbrella spray onto your product, your store is configured to invade his space.

If you invade the customer's personal space, his stress level increases. Product placement just cost you 12 percent in sales.

Visual Appeal

In addition to having a decompression zone, customers also need to identify the store's boundaries before they shop. Knowledge of our surroundings is calming, but disorientation is stressful. Therefore, make sure that racks do not obscure the store's perimeter.

If a customer feels lost in a maze before she even leaves the decompression zone, her anxiety will rise and sales will plummet. Make sure that all displays near the front of the store are visually appealing and guide the eye through the store. Large displays can overpower the customer and should be moved away from the entrance.

Are you ready to increase profits? All it takes is a relaxing atmosphere: peaceful music, soothing displays, and most of all some space for customers to decompress. Make sure the front of your store soothes tired shoppers, and you will watch your sales reports skyrocket.