museums&MORE Spring 2011
Been There, Done That

Embracing Change in Your Merchandising Strategies

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle
Special to Museums & More

Time. You have that, right?

Okay, so maybe time isn’t on your side. But luckily, changes that can help enhance your store layout and products don’t have to take much time. Through simple yet effective merchandising strategies, you can create a store environment that is designed to move products from your store to customers’ homes. To top it off, there is little to no cost involved in implementing these changes…other than your time, of course.

Ranging from obvious tips – such as using color to help create a focal point – to more complex ideas, the following list of merchandising strategies is intended to highlight product, increase sales and allow for a more pleasant shopping experience.

Use signage
Remember I said obvious, and this is as obvious as it gets. The catch is how you create and use your signs. When preparing signage for your store, use consistency so that all your signage blends together. A great way to do this is to pick a signature color, such as Tiffany stores have with their baby blue boxes, and repeat that color through all your signs. Imagine the difference a lime green sign with bold, black lettering makes versus a white sign with Times New Roman letters.

Using sign holders is a must, as well. Fun frames from a local home store are a great way to add character to your shop signage and overall environment. Simple plastic frames do the trick, as well. Tape holding your sign to a shelf is a no-no, though. Think clean, crisp and professional in appearance. The signs will individually stand out in their designated spots while cohesively blending in from an overall perspective.

Let there be light
Overhead lighting can be so “blah”. Rarely does it do much for merchandise, not to mention your own appearance. Instead, consider other lighting options that can enhance your product and add a whole new ambience to your store. Accent lighting can highlight high-ticket items or be used to showcase products on sale. Case and shelve lighting helps customers see often challenging spots in the store more clearly, therefore not missing any merchandise during their store visit. Adding a dimmer to bright lights is sometimes all you need.

There is no single formula for lighting that you should follow, but instead incorporate what details you believe can help your unique store stand out. Just keep in mind that like products, even lights can clutter a store. Too bright is no good and too dim never works. Find a happy medium that will let your merchandise shine.

Work your windows
Consider the windows in your store like the main stage at a concert event. Customers are naturally drawn to windows that stand out from the rest, so make it your job to capture their attention. Small or large, awkwardly shaped or standard-square, displaying windows is a craft worth understanding. Your goal should be to fill your window space with an attractive display that tells a story. If you are trying to set a mood around romance, explain this through your display. Want to capture the attention of kids? Design with them in mind… and their purchasing parents, too.

Use unexpected items to help spark a mood – old milk crates as shelving, newspaper pages as curtains, ball caps as bowls. Of course, plain and simple sometimes does the job, also. Just make sure your window still screams for attention, even when being simple in your display. If you are trying to highlight your vast assortment of collectibles from around the world, a blown up globe with arrows pointing to products from each respective country showcases a clear way to identify what you are selling.

The key is to make an impression in your window that will capture your customer’s eyes. Don’t get too excited here and junk your window up, though. You should not clutter your window but instead create one centralized display that sparks a certain emotion and captures your customers’ attention. If space allows, you can even extend the mood you create in your display into smaller visual merchandising opportunities for one consistent story throughout your store.

Double it up
Have some inventory you really, really need to sell? Don’t just put it on your center table and let it be your highlight display. Instead, use double merchandising as a technique to leave multiple impressions of this item with your customer. You can include it in your focal display, but also use it in other places throughout your store. This helps to ensure all customers will see it at least once or more, as well as offers the idea that customers “need it” since they keep seeing it.

Double, triple or even quadruple merchandising is great for items that need immediate attention. Whether they are items you want to sell quickly or products that haven’t moved and need new interest from customers, take it to the next level by displaying these items in different ways and with different products each time. This offers multiple ideas of why your customer will “need” to purchase.

Give some space
No one wants to feel jammed between one display and another. Give your customers some breathing room by creating an easy-to-walk, easy-to-shop environment. Optimal spaces that customers will naturally be drawn to include the space immediately to the right of your front door, anything within 4 1/2 and 6 feet high from the floor and island style fixtures. Research tells us that these retail points are among the most shopped, making them the most favorable opportunities for merchandising inventory.

Evaluate your existing floor plan and rearrange necessary fixtures to accommodate this strategy. Remember to allow breathing room for your customers to comfortably enjoy your store. Comfort translates to sales, so there’s no time to spare here – get started in your store re-vamp in an effort to increase your register dollars.

Merchandising is a never-ending cycle that should be viewed as just that – never ending. It’s imperative that you accept this reality and embrace the constant change merchandising can offer your store. A few simple changes to a strong merchandising plan can make a big impact while a complete revamp to a merchandised challenged store can bring whole new life to your business.

Nicole Leinbach Reyhle is an experienced retail and wholesale consultant, speaker and writer. She writes a weekly retail column with Crain’s Business and her professional retail blog, Retail Minded. Reyhle resides in Chicago with her family and is dedicated to supporting local, independent businesses.

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