How to Design Retail Storefronts

The James Store

A retail storefront represents your brand, sells your product and catches people's eye to draw them into the store. Your potential customer's first impression is created by the look of your store. A cohesive design that ties signage, lighting and displays together is essential. Successful design takes these elements into account and tailors them to the retailer's product. These tips can be used for retail establishments that are built from the ground up or applied to existing storefronts.

Provide big windows for merchandise displays. Add focal points by building risers, wooden cubes and shelves for merchandise. Keep the windows clean.

Design a sidewalk awning to protect people looking at your window displays from rain, sun or snow. They'll be less inclined to move along in inclement weather.

Create prominent signage that is easy to read, attractive and leaves no mysteries about what your retail space provides. Hang a sign on the exterior of the building, another over the front door and in windows.

Make sure the entrance to your store is inviting. Decorate the pavement with colorful tile. Install a door that's big enough to accommodate the disabled but not difficult to open. Hang a glass door so customers can see into the store. High-end stores should employ a doorman.

Install lighting. Train spotlights on merchandise in the display windows. Light the entryway. Focus lights on your signage.

Find ways to make your storefront stand out from other storefronts in the area. Paint it a vibrant color, hang seasonal banners or flags and decorate for the holidays.


  • Change window displays at least once a week. Vertical elements help draw the eye upward.

    Put planter boxes at the edge of the sidewalk to buffer your storefront from the street and parking.

    Make sure the sidewalk outside your store is level and clean so that potential customers don't trip.

    Check with your local jurisdiction's regulations before building an awning or placing items on the sidewalk.



About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.

Photo Credits

  • The James Store