One-Handed Shopping

It is critical that pet stores adopt merchandising strategies that make their stores as easy as possible for customers to shop.




Try this: Shop a competitor’s store with one hand. Pick a hand and use only that one. Hold a cup of coffee in the other hand—or a fountain drink, a child’s hand, a dog’s leash—you get the idea. But only use one hand. Choose stores you’re interested in, such as your competitors—PetSmart and Petco—or any other store—like Macy’s or Target. Shop displays, dog clothing, pet food, scratching posts, beds, sale items, etc. Look at the prices. Try to reach all the products. Find an area that’s messy and straighten it up with your one free hand.


Then, do the same thing in your store.


Afterward, ask yourself these questions: Were you able to navigate the store easily? How about the sign system, was it simple and uniform? Were there any signs taped to a fixture or window? Did you have to reach over one item to get to another? Were prices clearly marked? Was it easy to find the sale merchandise?


Here’s the point: Many of your customer’s have only one hand to shop with. They’re holding a drink, a bag, a small dog, a dog’s leash, a child—perhaps a fussy one—etc.


Keep this in mind when merchandising your store. If you can shop your store with one hand, then you’re a great merchant and there is nothing more to do. But if you can’t, you should re-merchandise with this in mind. Make it as easy to shop as possible. A customer can easily get frustrated with a store and walk away. If a customer has to rummage through a display to check a price, it will create more work for you. Or if they don’t want to make more work for you, they’ll avoid it. If something is stacked precariously, it may fall—they’ll need to pick it up and they’ll be embarrassed. Will they go to your competitor instead? Is the competitor’s store easier to shop? These are all things to consider.



Here are four ways to make your store as user friendly as possible:

  • Make your prices easy to find. That’s the first thing people look for if they like an item. Customers always consider expense and make a yes/no decision based on that.
  • Use a sign system. Make it uniform and easy to see the signs. If something is on a ledge or out of reach make sure the price is clearly visible. Don’t require customers to seek assistance to get a price or other basic information.
  • Make things easy to reach. Don’t make your customers reach over one product to get to another. Remember displays aren’t simply about aesthetics; they’re about selling products.
  • Use the One Hand rule as a report card on your store. It can teach you a lot about user-friendly shopping. Their coffee may be very hot, a child may be pulling them away wanting their attention, a dog may be—well—you know what dogs are like. The only time a customer should need two hands is when they take out their wallet.


Tom Crossman is a store designer working for the big guys and little guys. Clients include FAO Schwarz, Legoland, Dollywood and London Fog. He also creates store visuals for entertainment properties such as Star Wars and Sesame Street. His background is not just in the creative realm, however, but also on the business side of retail. He was a buyer at Macy’s and a store manager at the Disney Store. He does training seminars for theme parks, and speaking engagements at trade shows, including the New York Toy Fair.




Don’t Make Visual Mistakes

Wednesday, March 21, 12:15 PM - 12:30 PM

New Products Showcase area



Wednesday, March 21, 2:30 PM - 3:45 PM

Room W204A

Hear from an expert on merchandising concepts every retailer should know. You have one chance to make a first impression with your customers as they enter your store. Learn what the big guys are doing and what we can we learn from Target, Macy’s and Disney. Gain insight on what store designers know about creating traffic flow, display locations, and where to merchandise what products. Learn basic concepts for merchandising displays, walls and tables.​



Thursday, March 22, 10:30 AM - 11:45 AM

Room W203B

Theming keeps customers shopping longer! Learn the merchandising strategy behind theme park retail stores, and how it revolves around a visual concept. Gain unique insight on the value of impactful signage and visual display and walk away with a creative visual concept for your store.


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