The Invariant Right – How People Move Around Stores

It is a fact that the majority of people will walk to their right when they walk into a store. This is known as being the “invariant right” and is a result of most people being right-handed. Smart retailers keep this in mind when executing their merchandising strategies. By knowing the majority of the people walking through their doors will head towards the right, they are able to maximize this valuable floor space.

[tweetmeme]Suggested ways to help entice your right-handed, right-minded customers include the following:

1. Show off your “must see” products to the right of the store. This may include new arrivals, must have markdowns and great marketing pieces.

2. Offer baskets or other containers that customers can quickly pick up to start their shopping. If your store is filled with many smaller items, this is a must have. If your items won’t fit appropriately in a container, no worries. Just make sure to let your customers know you are there to help keep their hands open (and shopping!) if they should get filled. Start a dressing room, put items on the cash wrap – you get the idea.

3. Avoid having your cash wrap display directly to the right of your store entrance. Customers will immediately walk towards you and instinctively, many will feel overwhelmed by the “in your face” approach since associates usually are standing by this area. Instead, position your cash wrap in the middle or back center of the store so you can see your store more clearly and most importantly, your customers can shop more comfortably.

4. Keep the traffic flow comfortable. If customers bear to the right when they first walk into a store, make sure there is room for them to do so. Allow for your floor plan to easily flow with a customer’s natural walking path. Aisles should be clear and flowing so that customers will not have to wonder how to get from one place to the next. Let them just glide through the store so that they will enjoy their shopping experience longer – giving them more opportunities to buy!

5. Use strong visual displays that immediately captivate your audience. Sloppy shelves, unorganized hang bars and other lazy merchandising efforts will immediately leave an impression on customers if this is the first thing they see. Go out of your way to make sure this area always looks great.

If you are aware of how your customer shops, then you are more aware of how to help them. Watch how the customers move in and out of your store and see if there is a way to improve their time spent with you. Ask yourself if displays may be limiting their experience by preventing them to walk  the store more comfortably. Determine if your customers are struggling with where to turn and what to do next in their shopping experience. Look beyond the right space in your store and analyze their entire experience. You just may be surprised at how a few changes can make a big difference!


  • Steve Brown
    May 18, 2011

    The Invariant Right is discussed but is there any hard empricial evidence for this or is it anecdotal from retailers? My research in non-shopping fields has been that people almost always turn LEFT which seems to contradict the notion of an ‘invariant’ right?? Be interested to see the data…

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