Operators Use Displays to Direct Traffic and Create Atmosphere

Operators are getting creative and turning to modular displays that can direct traffic within their stores and highlight their products.


Gone are the days of the old, stale displays and simple, long-run gondolas. Operators are getting creative and turning to modular displays that can direct traffic within their stores and highlight their products.

During a recent remodel, Don Demko of Eco Travel Plaza, Crossville, Tenn., was able to add new food and beverage offerings and display space within his existing footprint by changing his gondolas and moving his coolers into an area that was being used for storage. 

“We were able to gain about 25 percent of floor space without adding to the footprint of the building,” Demko said.

Demko knew he wanted to make room for grab-and-go food offerings and additional beverages. “We put in a full coffee bar and a full fountain with roller grills and a lot of the condiments for the drinks—flavor shots and so on,” he said. The location also added coolers for grab-and-go items, sandwiches and deli items and healthy snacks.

To help with space, Demko went from 48-inch gondolas to 72-inch gondolas. “We also reconfigured them a bit so we have more length. We have two rows—one is 24 feet and one is 28 feet. With the change, Demko went from about 650 square feet of display space to 950 square feet.

Tricia Howell, store manager, Truck N Travel, Eugene, Ore., also revamped her displays recently and now uses the gondolas to create additional walkways. 

“Before we had long rows of gondolas. We broke that up so there are more walkways and they break the store into smaller, focused sections,” Howell said, adding the location has a bedding section and a cleaning section, for example. “It helped give definition.”

Howell cut down the number of SKUs in the location to make room for the extra walkways. “It has to be uncluttered and simple. When you have too much visually in front of a customer, it is overwhelming,” she said.

To help simplify the store, Howell said she has eliminated a lot of freestanding fixtures that she felt added to the clutter. She added that while some displays may work well for one location, they may not work for another. “Everyone thinks wing racks are the latest and greatest, but they are cumbersome and they don’t work for me. I took those out and it flows better,” Howell said. Now she relies on simple end caps.

Seth Miller with Petro #353 Travel Store in Portage, Wisc., also utilizes end caps to promote specials. To make the end caps more visible, Miller positioned his displays to direct traffic through the store and particularly down key paths.

“We’ve turned the gondolas so the end caps are on our hot aisle where the customer travel flow is heaviest. As the customers head down our hot aisle, they have the end caps right there within reach,” Miller said. 

To add to customers’ experiences within the store, Miller also strives to create themed areas. He turned his beer coolers into a beer cave by bricking it in with a brick veneer. “It gave it an old-styled pub feel to it,” he said.

In the deli, Miller uses old wooden apple crates to display canned goods, and the location has replaced its traditional gondolas with color-coded iunits.

Miller said he also relies on displays and shippers from suppliers to help increase sales. “Hershey’s, Mounds and M&Ms have candy shippers that are really slick. You just have to slice it open and put the sign on it that comes in the shipper and put it by the cash register,” he said.

However, Miller said operators have to be careful not to clutter their location, particularly with large shippers. “There is a delicate balance there. We have designated zones for shippers and if the zone is filled up then we don’t put shippers out,” he said.

Howell also works hard to keep the store looking clean. “I’ve gotten rid of a lot of the freestanding fixtures because they added to the clutter,” she said.

Operators said they’ve gotten new ideas for displays by talking with their suppliers. “I’ve learned almost everything I know at this point by listening to what other people have to say. The vendors are very knowledgeable,” Howell said.

The best part is operators said they’ve seen an increase in sales since changing their displays, even if they cut SKUs. Most importantly, however, is the improved shopping experience they said they’re giving their customers. 

NATSO operators submitted pictures of some of the creative displays they are using to Stop Watch magazine. View a slideshow of these displays here.


This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watchsubmit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

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