The economy is making things rough for big box retailers, but executives think they've finally discovered what shoppers love: messier stores.
A few years ago, they decided the solution to the economic downturn was to clear aisles and give stores a cleaner look, but now they're swinging back in the opposite direction. The New York Times reports:
Dollar General is raising the height of its standard shelves to more than six feet; J. C. Penney is turning its empty walls into jewelry and accessory displays; Old Navy is adding lanes lined with items like water bottles, candy and lunchboxes; and Best Buy is testing wheeling in bigger items, like Segways and bicycles, to suck up the space created by thinner TVs and smaller speakers.
Walmart is undergoing a redesign as well. A few years ago it introduced a neater look to hand on to Target customers who started slumming it during the recession. While this increased customer satisfaction, Walmart is experiencing a downturn in same-store sales, so messy pallets are reappearing in the middle of aisles and more items are being crammed onto existing shelves.
Envirosell founder Paco Underhill, who studies shopper behavior, explains the theory behind this:
"Historically, the more a store is packed, the more people think of it as value — just as when you walk into a store and there are fewer things on the floor, you tend to think they're expensive.
Some stores, like Family Dollar, are resisting the cluttered trend, which may be wise, as it seems like retailers could decide in a few years that minimalism is in again. The bigger problem is that online shopping means people are making fewer trips to the store. Introducing a new store layout may be like rearranging packages of discount tube socks on the Titanic.