To attract and hold customers, a thriving retail store relies on more than a marketing strategy or a product line. As a retailer, you need to understand what customers need and expect from your store when they first walk in, and whether your store provides it.
One thing they need and expect is order. According to the Brick and Mortar Retail Report, during a six-month period 70% of shoppers had a negative experience, like disorganized inventory and empty or broken shelves, and more than half of them left the store without buying anything. The reason? The physical condition of the store and an apparent lack of brand consistency.
Empty shelves are another issue for consumers. A 2021 NielsenIQ survey showed that when they came across empty shelves, 20% of US consumers delayed their purchase, 10% bought the item elsewhere, and 16% chose to buy online.
And your store can miss the mark even when inventory management and shelf stocking are a priority. As people grab items off the shelf during the day, half-empty looking shelves can detract potential customers later. That’s where facing comes in.
Table of Contents
- What is facing in retail?
- Facing as a noun vs. facing as a verb
- Why is facing in retail important?
- Tips for facing your store
What is facing in retail?
In retail, facing is the act of bringing products to the front of the shelf and making sure their labels are facing forward. It’s also sometimes called fronting, zoning, blocking, straightening, or leveling.
Facing helps the store look great—organized, stocked, clean, and tidy. Customers want a smooth shopping experience, one that lets them find products intuitively and compare their options. When you regularly practice facing in your store, you make it easy for them to see your product lines and buy exactly what they’re looking for.
Every morning as you open the store, as well as throughout the day, facing lets you tell your customers: “we’re ready for you.”
Facing as a noun vs. facing as a verb
You can use the term facing in the retail context in two ways: as a noun and as a verb.
The noun facing describes the amount of shelf space given to each of the products you display and sell. For example, a spice store might have five facings of green pepper and eight facings of black pepper.
The verb facing is what this guide focuses on: the practice of pulling your products to the front of the shelf. It’s the activity that makes your shelves look stocked and organized, and your products visible.
Why is facing in retail important?
Your retail success depends on many factors and strategies you implement in the store, like product merchandising, the store layout and planogram, and product pricing. When these efforts work together to serve your brick-and-mortar customers, facing serves as the final touch that makes your store look well stocked and put together.
1. Enjoyable customer experience
Facing helps your customers quickly find the products they’re looking for. They don’t have to bend uncomfortably, reach deep into the shelf, or move other products around just to grab what they need.
When it comes to new customers, facing is how you can make sure you’re showing them your entire product assortment. If only some of your products are visible, they may walk out with a product that isn’t quite the right fit—or without buying anything at all.
For existing customers, facing is about effortless shopping, including ease and speed. These customers already know what you offer, they have their favorite or desired purchases, and they’re scanning your shelves to find them.
When all your products are regularly pulled to the front with their labels facing forward, customers will always find what they need in a matter of moments.
2. Memorable branding
Retail branding is about giving your store a consistent look and feel—one that customers feel great about and remember easily.
Signage, colors, textures, scents, and lighting are key building blocks of your branding. Facing brings those elements and your product packaging together through shelves that look full and regularly attended to.
And since branding is also about what your customers think about your brand, facing lets you present your store as immaculate, and your brand as one that has its customers’ backs.
3. Easier inventory control
When you make facing a daily effort, it becomes easy to notice when certain products are more popular than usual, or when shelves are staying fully stocked for longer.
This can serve as an early warning to adjust your inventory in the short run; for example, you might increase your next order of a certain product because you’re seeing an immediate peak in customer demand for it. In this case, it might also pay off to assign more shelf space to that product or its entire product category.
If that product keeps growing in popularity, that can also be a useful nudge to examine your long-term approach to demand planning, storage room organization, and your overall product offering.
Regularly facing your store and pairing what you’ve learned from it with your POS data is a clever way to understand the needs of your customers on a daily basis—and serve them well in the long run.
Tips for facing your store
Here are some ways to make facing a regular part of your day-to-day store operations.
1. Face the store during slow periods
Make it a habit to straighten up your products and pull them to the front of the shelves when there’s a stretch of time with few to no customers in your store.
If you track your store’s foot traffic, whether manually with a counter or by using retail tracking software, you’ll already have an idea of when these quiet times typically occur. Plan ahead to dedicate some time to face the store during those periods.
Even if you can’t quite predict when those slow periods will happen, start by paying attention to it over the next week and taking notes, so you can build facing into your daily routines and brief your employees on it.
The amount of time facing will take you depends on the size of your store and on how busy each particular day gets, but the more you practice it, the better idea you’ll have of the effort it takes.
2. Have employees dedicated to facing shelves
Once you establish a daily facing routine, make it a part of your staff schedule, meaning there’s a person (or people, if you have a bigger team and lots of foot traffic) in charge of facing throughout the day.
This can be as simple as adding an asterisk to a printed schedule that’s visible in your back room. Every staff member should know who’s in charge of facing in each of the shifts, as well as when it’s their turn.
Of course, make sure you distribute facing equally among your team members over the course of the week and month.
3. Start facing toward end of business day
If you can only dedicate time to facing your products for a portion of the business day, prioritize it around the end of each day.
This will help you prepare the store for next morning’s opening. As the morning shift completes the store opening checklist, the visual merchandising step will go more smoothly thanks to the facing effort from the day before.
4. Schedule facing shifts during busy seasons
Seasons like holidays, sales events like Black Friday, or otherwise busy periods create two challenges:
- Your products will sell faster
- Your staff will have a heavier workload and less downtime for facing
The extra product demand and a larger workload for everyone means that facing might get deprioritized. Whether you hire temporary staff during this period or not, it’s worth creating a dedicated schedule for facing your shelves.
You can do this by having a few predefined slots throughout the day and a team member dedicated to each of them. Instead of the usual waiting for downtime, this ensures that facing gets done even during the busiest times of the year—first impressions always matter.
5. Leverage a team approach
Encourage your team members to have each other’s backs. The goal is to embed the importance of tidy, clean shelves into your team’s everyday goals and focus.
This way, if the person who’s in charge of facing for the shift is overwhelmed with work, someone else can jump in and take over the facing task for them.
6. Create a product facing checklist
To make facing easier to complete every day, create a list of tasks for your staff to follow. Here are some examples of items for that list:
- Pull products to the front of the shelf
- Make sure products are turned right side up and with labels facing front
- Check for products that were moved from their dedicated place and put them back
- Check for any empty spots and either restock them or, if the product is out of stock, replace with a nearby product and add an out-of-stock label next to the price tag
- Dust empty spaces before facing or restocking them
Improve facing at your retail store
You’re already doing everything right: planning your assortment, marketing your store to bring customers in, and using visual merchandising to make your products appealing.
Facing helps you maximize that effort. It ensures that your store looks put together, organized, and functional—and shows your customers you prioritize them and how they feel while they shop with you.