A floor model traditionally is an item displayed as a representative example of a specific product that is or will be offered for sale. The use of floor models is widespread throughout several types of retail stores. The items featured as floor models tend to be electronics, furniture and appliances. A newer type of floor model is the retail sales associate, which some stores have taken to calling floor models.
The need for display floor models is a practical one. Some sort of packaging is practically a must for many items offered at retail, making it hard for a potential customer to see what he or she is getting. A floor model allows the item to somewhat sell itself. It gives the customer the ability to interact with the item in ways that would be impossible with a packaged item.
Most durable goods — consumer items that do not wear out — are shipped in packaging for several reasons. First, doing so assures they will not be dented, stained or otherwise damaged prior to a retailer offering them for sale. Second, packaging allows the items to be more easily stored and delivered; for example, boxed items can be stacked many levels high for transit. Third, boxes allow for tracking codes to be applied to the goods for the sake of security or to identify their manufacturing date or location.
Smaller items, usually electronics, are packed both for shipping and for loss prevention. Such goods tend to have a high value-to-volume ratio. Packaging can serve to ensure the item is much harder to steal.
Regardless of the reason an item is packaged, a traditional floor model is simply an item removed from its packaging and displayed in an attempt to sell more of that item. This can be done with multiple items but, more often than not, only one item serves as a floor model. Floor models are placed to attract customer attention and invite exploration by sight and touch. For a larger item, such as a washing machine, a customer might want to measure it or see what it looks like inside, while smaller wares such as cell phones may be presented so the customer can experiment with how the device works. In many cases, floor models of competing types or brands are displayed together for comparison.
A floor model also can represent an opportunity to purchase an item at a lower cost. Retailers often discount floor models, particularly when an item has been discontinued and the floor model is the only one left in stock. Floor models are frequently handled and can sometimes exhibit characteristics of a used item, such as wear or dirt, so retailers tend to offer price reductions on them.
While product-based floor models are a long-standing feature of retail shopping, a more contemporary version of the floor model is the retail sales associate. Some stores, especially clothing stores that market themselves to a teen or young adult audience, refer to their sales associates as floor models. Despite the name change, these employees handle the standard tasks of refolding merchandise, straightening shelves and racks of clothing, and assisting customers.