Merchandise adjacency plan

by Natalie Tan

While a floor plan is an element of shop layout and refers to fixtures and aisle placement, the other component of shop layout is the product category adjacency plan. This outlines how retailers decide where to locate departments or product categories within their selling space.

Product category layout determines the type of merchandise housed in various sections of the store. It impacts the shopping experience. An effective product category layout is mindful of how merchandise categories are sequenced, as customers walk deeper into the selling space. It ensures that this presentation sequence results in multiple selling opportunities. There are a few ways stores can create an effective product category layout and they include the following:

  • An adjacency plan takes into account categories that complement each other and should be placed adjacently to encourage multiple selling between categories.
  • Logical sequencing is another way of deciding how products are placed. Retail operators may wish to factor in seasonality in the way they sequence product categories or how they think their customers may prefer to shop their stores based on popular practices.
  • Core vs. peripherals takes into account a shop’s core merchandise categories and strategically locates this to a destination area wherein customers will be exposed to peripherals as many times as possible as customers access the core products.
  • Some retailers prefer to merchandise their categories based on their own unique way to support the image and identity they wish to convey to their customers.


A shop selling men’s and women’s products may want to set one side of the shop for men and another for women. The ‘bridge’ can be categories that both share. For example, the image above shows 2 ‘bridges’ – the fragrance category and leather goods. Within each section, multiple selling is encouraged as the flow from one category to the next is seamless. Men’s suits are flanked by accessories and fragrance which is then mirrored on the women’s side as well.


In presenting categories to customers, retailers have control over what customers first see upon entry. They can also decide which category shoppers see next as customers walk deeper into the selling space. Their goal is not only to interest customers into further exploration of the selling space but also in terms of store operations, in making the shifting of departments or categories easier as seasons change.

The image above shows a typical shop selling scrapbook materials. You will notice that the grouping is done by end-use, as you have learned from May's article. This is not conducive to shoppers looking to purchase scrapbook materials. Customers here create scrapbooks based on occasions like wedding, travel, birthdays, etc. If a customer was looking to create a wedding album in this shop, they would have to browse through hundreds of different papers to find ones that fit within the wedding theme. That goes for accessories such as stickers and ribbons as well.

This shop below categorized their products by occasion. Can you see the difference in how easy it is for customers to shop in this store?

Due to the nature of merchandise selection in this shop, logical sequencing is a good strategy to implement. Seasonality is a great factor and the layout shown below reflects this. For the month of June, new merchandise like Father’s Day themed products is placed upfront. Wedding is another large category for this month as this is reflected in its prime location. Following the wedding category is the travel category, in addition to honeymoons, summer months are a prime travel time. Therefore, flipping the travel group upfront come August will be easy. Basic supplies are ‘destination’ or ‘core’ products so they are located in the least desirable locations, as customers will seek these products out.

Natalie Tan has over 25 years in specialty retailing, offering her expertise to malls, retail shops and airport operators. She teaches Merchandising and Display Strategies at the BCIT School of Business and has served as a member of Retail BC's Board of Directors, as well as on the board of the BC Shopping Centres Association.

She is the author of "Ready, Set, Sell", an easy-to-implement guide to small business owners and a book currently used by her students. Natalie has been featured in several publications and is often called by the CBC for her expert perspective on current retail issues.

Natalie will be a Retail Solutions Seminars speaker at the Fall 2017 Alberta Gift Fair.

Effective Retail Strategies Designed to Move Your Merchandise
In this regular column, we explore retail strategies that are not only easy to implement but also aim to sell the merchandise. This will provide you with opportunities to view your own store in a different light and discover new ways to present your merchandise. Ultimately, our goal is to increase your sales. So let us know when you have applied one of the strategies featured here and yielded desirable results in your store — we’d love to hear success stories.

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