In my local department store (House of Fraser, High Wycombe, UK) there are 3 floors with escalators in the middle of the store.

It drives me a little bit crazy, because the direction the escalators are set on you can not get off one, and go straight on to the next one going down another floor. Instead you have to walk around to the other side to go down on the next down escalator. The same is true for going up.

This is HoF in High Wycombe: Inside House of Fraser High Wycombe

This results in, especially at this time of the year, a great number of people all tripping over one another as they navigate to the next escalator that they want, crossing other shoppers paths almost with every step.

I presume that this is set up to get customers going through more of the shop, look at more, and subsequently purchase more. However with the amount of "sorry"'s being said for bumping in to one another I think this might give a negative overall feeling about the store shopping experience.

So my question, in a couple of parts:

  • Does anyone know if this is standard procedure to set them going in this set up, or is it a lone manager? Does it happen anywhere else (can't say I have noticed it)?
  • Is there any evidence of this or something similar causing a negative shopping experience
  • And why? My business assumption is nothing more than an idea. Is there a more specific reason for this poor set up?
  • All I can say is that here in France, you won't find a store that does not have this configuration. I never thought about your guess for the reason (see more items), and it suddenly makes sense.
    – thomasb
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 12:40
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    My actually have more to do convenience (in setting them up, all the ones going down are on one side) and orientation. When you get off an escalator going up, you are always facing them same way on every floot. Same getting off when going down. The set up you propose could be very disorienting as it would mean getting off going up means you are facing the floor in a different direction depending on what floor you are on. Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 14:19
  • With no current insight into why - There is 1 local mall that has this configuration and it drives me insane. In my experience this pattern is not the normal (Ohio, Indiana, Washington), at least in the malls & stores I visit. The mall I speak of is attached to a major department store that also has escalators... that are configured "correctly". Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 16:35
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    A downside from the store's point of view is that they have to use up space which could have product in it to provide a path between the escalators.
    – PhillipW
    Commented Dec 21, 2013 at 18:16
  • Well this configuration also saves a large amount of space compared to a "spiral staircase" style setup (the only alternative I can presently think of)
    – Zelda
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 14:08

6 Answers 6


I think you actually have the wrong idea of the UX expected from escalators.

Escalators are provided as a convenience, but shops also know how to increase sales.

The idea of making you walk around to get to the next escalator forces you to pass more merchandise, and hopefully to increase your impulse purchasing.

Trying to find confirming data has so far mostly left me with poor results, but there are sites with similar data

Escalators – Multi-level Department stores often use their escalators to encourage you to see more of the store. Travelling either up or down the store you will find you have to walk half way around the level in order to find your next connecting escalator, as opposed to it being the one next to you. This has not happened by accident.

This is essentially the same concept as Milk at the back of the grocery store, the more stuff you must walk past the more stuff you might buy.

  • 3
    I guess you're right, but with @tim.baker I think that this breaks down if the store goes too busy. It might work well if there is a normal number of people in the store, but if it is very busy, it might lead to actually seeing less of the store, not so much by the people traveling the escalator, but also by other shoppers already on the floor. Changing the layout however depending on (expected) busyness might be even more confusing and frustrating... Note that here in the Netherlands, I often see the escalators layed out in the "logical" way for quick travel.
    – André
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 9:17
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    My friend was a visual merchandising guy who directed arrangement of shelves. This may be extended to construction: a moviegoer in a nearby mall climbs exits the hall by climbing it to top floor and is routed around the games area (kinda novel in India) and the other stores you dont usually seek out. Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 7:10

It's the same mechanism that make your store move stuff within the store to confuse shoppers. The less you find the stuff you usually buy, the more you walk the store. The more you walk the store, the bigger chance you find something that you didn't intend to buy - and as a consequence you spend more money at the store.

The longer we can have shopper wandering around in the store, the more likely they'll buy stuff from us. At least, that is the theory. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with UX.

Thanks to Kit Grose who taught me that this method is called Gruen transfer.

  • 1
    This has everything to do with UX doesn't it? It's a purposeful choice by the store to provide a specific experience.
    – GollyJer
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 13:14
  • Good points though I agree with @GollyJer even forgetting my original UX points shoppers buying more, discovering new things is a user experience surely?
    – tim.baker
    Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 13:32
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    @GollyJer I can agree to that it is UX. Bad one :-) Commented Dec 22, 2013 at 14:12
  • 1
    @BennySkogberg, it all depends on the experience you're optimizing for.
    – GollyJer
    Commented Dec 23, 2013 at 17:09
  • 3
    Just as a reference, this intentional confusion of the customer to get them to spend more time in a shopping centre is called the Gruen transfer.
    – Kit Grose
    Commented Dec 27, 2013 at 5:29

To add some UX terminology, this likely falls into the 'dark patterns' or 'black hat' buckets.

As many have stated, the goal isn't necessarily focused on the user in this case. It's focused on the store--specifically sales.


Yes you are right, as you mentioned this one is design intentionally so that customers ll spend more time in shop and start getting tempted to their products and create environment where people ll start moving here and there.

it has its positive as well as negative side. Positive - This is great design for region/place where people spend lot of time in shopping malls. example - in Dubai, Muscat - people love spending time.

negative - If people are very particular and doesnt have much time to roam, than its bad design.

as we ll know, shopping malls are basically for Eat, Fun and Shop place. I think this is good approach to engage people and have more business. If some one is in hurry, they can definitely take lift.


There's one good reason to do this: on the ground floor, as there are relatively few people who want to go from floor -1 to +1.


"Does it happen anywhere else "?

I'll answer the question "Does it happen everywhere else?" and the answer is no; my local shopping centre has 3 floors with central main escalators allowing you to step off one level, turn immediately right (or left) and continue in the same direction up or down.

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