Foot Traffic

by Katie Lee

Floor mats, cleaning and beyond.

By Adam Strizzi

According to a variety of studies, the amount of walk-in foot traffic in retail stores has been on the decline for several years. Some suggest that the economic crash of 2008 was the turning point. Consumers basically stopped shopping and as the economy improved, many simply never returned.

Now, this can be due to many factors, including:

• Consumers are much more careful with their dollars.

• Saving money is taking far greater precedence over spending money.

• Online purchasing has become the preferred way to shop for many consumers.

• Some consumers just never fully recovered from the downturn.

As a result, numerous large and small retailers are implementing a number of strategies to get customers back. In some cases, they are having a “grand reopening” to generate renewed interest. Some are turning to PR professionals to get their stores talked about in social and traditional media. Many have amped up their customer service like never before. And some are putting much greater emphasis on cleaning.

Wait…how can cleaning help bring customers back and keep coming back to retailers? Cleaning is very important when it comes to attracting and maintaining walk-in foot traffic. As some retailers may recall, a Harris Interactive Poll about 4 years ago reported that over 90% of the U.S. adults surveyed indicated that poor cleanliness would negatively affect their perception of a store. Dirty areas and items that affected consumers’ perceptions of a store included floors, shopping carts, restrooms, display racks, etc.

So does this mean retailers must make a much bigger investment in cleaning? In some cases, this may be so. But before writing out a bigger check, something far less expensive is to simply make sure a soil reduction strategy is in place, and it all starts at the front door.

Mats and Cleaning

Several years ago, ISSA, the worldwide cleaning association, reported that up to 24 pounds of dirt can be tracked into a building by 1,000 people in 20 days. At the time, ISSA estimated it costs $600 per pound to remove the soiling — a whopping $14,400 in cleaning costs to remove 20 days of accumulated dirt (24 lbs. x $600 per lb. = $14,400). But, it gets worse. Now the estimate is closer to $800 to remove each pound of dirt, which includes dust, soil, grease, landscape materials, tar, liquids, etc.

Stopping all of this soiling at the door is near impossible. However, keeping 80% or more of it from entering the store is definitely feasible. To do this, retailers should purchase mats and not use a rental service’s matting for store entries. There are a few reasons why purchasing over renting is ideal. The rental mat industry is very cost competitive. Because of this, these manufacturers may not select the highest quality mats — the ones that can be most effective at soil reduction — in order to keep their own costs down. Manufacturers that market mats for installation are not under such cost-cutting pressure and as a result, can put more time and emphasis on quality and effectiveness.

With this said, we also need to take a systems approach to entry mats. This means installing 5 feet of each: “scraper mats” outside the store; “wiper/scrapers” directly inside the store; and “wiper” mats beyond that. Taking this systems approach captures soil and can significantly reduce cleaning needs and costs. The American Institute of Architects reports that 5 feet of matting will capture 33% of walked-in debris; 10 feet will capture 52%; and 15 to 25 feet can capture as much as 100% of soil on a building user’s shoe bottoms, preventing the soil from entering the facility.

Mat Varieties

Mats are not only used in entries. In a retail store, the following should also be considered:

• Anti-fatigue mats should be installed in areas where workers must stand for long periods, such as check-out, warehouse and shipping areas. Retail workers frequently complain about discomfort, fatigue and sore feet as a result of standing for long periods of time. These mats are designed to help reduce this pain and fatigue in several ways. More advanced anti-fatigue mats have a patented foam called Zedlan, which provides a gentle but definite “bounce” as the mats are walked on. This bounce is what helps increase blood flow to the lower limbs, which can reduce fatigue and pain.

• Logo mats greet shoppers and can even be used to direct shoppers to specific areas in the store. Overall, they enhance the aesthetics of a store and improve the impression shoppers have of the store. These mats can also assist in branding efforts.

• If electronics are being marketed, it could serve retailers to consider anti-static mats. Static electricity can damage electronic components and the “shock” that it produces can potentially cause an accident. These mats are designed to prevent static electricity buildup by removing static charge.

We should also note that when selecting mats, especially entry mats discussed earlier, retailers should look for what are termed “high performance” mats. The term is slightly misleading; yes, high performance mats do perform better but what it actually references is the fact that these are higher quality mats. As a result, in addition to working more effectively, expect them to last longer, be more durable, and in the long run be more cost-effective.

Proper Cleaning of Mats

Because high performance mats typically must be purchased, the retailer will also be responsible for their upkeep and cleanliness. The good news is that often all that is necessary is effective, frequent vacuuming. While many different types of soils may be in mats, for the most part they are dry soils and the best way to remove dry soils is through vacuuming.

However, moisture, grease, oil and time (normal wear and tear) will require the mat to be cleaned. Usually the best approach is extraction with a portable carpet extractor. Most likely your cleaning professionals (or cleaning contractor) will have this equipment and the process is quite simple and fast.

However, once cleaned, the mats should be placed flat on a dry surface for a sufficient time in order to dry. Just like carpeting, it is best to let the mat dry for 6 or more hours before reinstalling. In addition, when storing the mat, it is also important to lay it flat on the floor; do not roll the mat as if it were carpet. The mat will likely have a rubber backing. Rolling the mat can put stress on this backing that could lead to tears.

Can an effective matting system that helps keep retail stores cleaner bring more customers in the door? Maybe that is too difficult to measure, but, in closing, I would like to share a personal story of how a dirty floor recently impacted my impression of a retail store. It happened in a retail store in Chicago that did not have an effective matting system in place. As I walked into the store I noticed the hard surface floor was dirty and the carpet next to the floor was even more soiled. Instead of focusing on what I walked into the store to look at, I kept staring at the floor and then wanted to see if the display counters and shelves were also soiled.

No retailer wants their customers to focus on dirt. An effective matting system is the first way in making sure this does not happen in your store.

— Adam Strizzi is marketing manager for Crown Matting Technologies, one of the oldest and largest matting manufacturers in North America. He can be reached via his website at

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