museums&MORE Winter 2011
The Four M’s of Retail

Marketing, merchandising, management and merchant services can help increase store sales

Let’s face it – retail still isn’t where we want it to be. Even if your foot traffic is strong, your sales may still be struggling. Despite your many efforts to increase sales, many of you are still looking for new ways to grow your numbers. Reviewing some very basic details in a new light may help kick-start new growth in your business.

Merchandising-Back to Basics
Consumers today aren’t as impulsive as they use to be. A great display simply won’t do the trick anymore when closing a sale, but it certainly helps. Many stores have challenged themselves with the idea that they have to be different to stand out, when often sticking to the basics of merchandising is what gets the desired response from your customers.

To enhance your store’s visual appeal and your customer’s shopping experience, concentrate on the proven tenets of merchandising that never lose relevance. Use practical fixtures to showcase your products and double-expose items to increase their appeal and purpose. Change your displays regularly to keep things interesting and fresh and provide adequate lighting in your store and on your displays.

Group like-minded products together and create displays that draw attention to a certain event taking place at your museum. Use colorful signage that doesn’t get lost in the “crowd” of your products to ensure visibility, offering details on your products, pricing, item’s purpose, interesting facts and more.

Finally, keep a constant rotation of your inventory going so that your store never looks stale, never gets dusty (yes, this does happen!) and always provides an enticing place to shop. Don’t forget to feature low cost items by your check out area to help increase the chance of multiple units per sale, as well.

Marketing – Ride The Mainstream Wave
The craze of marketing nowadays is intense. Customers are bombarded with media impressions and social networking sites that leave them drowning in brands, products and celebrity images. Rather than ignore this wave of marketing, use it to your advantage to communicate with your audience.

If you aren’t on Twitter or Facebook, you should be. If you know local community groups, schools or organizations plan to visit your museum, make it a point to leave impressions of your store with them through these sites. It’s evident that the wave of social media marketing is here to stay. Therefore, your business should join the ride.

When honing in on ways to gain consumer attention, look beyond your museum to see what is going on in mainstream media. Is a new movie coming out that could somehow relate back to a certain product at your store? Make a connection and then use your merchandising to tell this story. Is there a local event taking place? Get involved and increase sales by selling like-minded products about this event. In the case of marketing, the obvious isn’t always clear to see-it’s what’s beyond the expected that pushes your chance of sales.

Management-Pushing the Envelope to Get Results
As managers to store associates and even yourself, it’s time to push your store associates to the next level. Creating daily goals is a great start, but introducing sales incentives, vendor prizes and employee boot camps can take your store beyond your goals.

Sales incentives are an effective, though not completely unexpected, way to generate employee motivation. If you have a slow day, throw out some encouraging motivation that includes a prize for the highest seller of the day. If commission or keeping track of individual sales is not your thing, offer a collective prize for your store associates. Pizza Fridays, Starbucks gift card, a preferred Saturday off and more are fun ways to get your employees talking, moving and maybe even throwing some friendly competition towards each other.

If you anticipate a hot product or a craze over a certain something, talk to your vendor to see if they can provide you with a prize or motivation tactic for your employees. Anytime something new is introduced to your store is a great time to use this as an extra push to get things selling faster. All it takes is the conversation with your rep to make this happen.

Sometimes contests and prizes won’t get your team moving in the direction you need to keep your store doing great. Everything from customer service to merchandising to daily tasks may need to be addressed. Make your communication bold and loud by creating an employee boot camp where every detail you want to discuss is addressed. Go the extra step and create an employee manual as a take-away piece from your actual boot camp event.

Offer management leadership while providing guidance, direction and checklists for your team to follow. If the defined goals can’t be met, then it’s up to you to make the next decision. Sales won’t increase with a mediocre team – plain and simple. It’s up to you as their leader to make your store stand out in employee performance, which will only lead to stronger sales.

Merchant Services – The Unexpected “M”
Saving money. Wouldn’t you like to do more of that? One sneaky little place to do this is through your merchant services account. With so many details in the fine print of each merchant services provider contract, it’s important you know what to look for.

The first rule of thumb is that most merchant services providers have a three-year contract commitment with an early termination fee if broken. Since three years is a long time, you want to be sure you will like what your provider has to offer. Consider all that you want to do as a retailer in terms of payment acceptance from customers and then make sure your provider can offer you this.

Do you want to accept all credit cards or are you okay with having some exceptions, such as not accepting Discover? Do you have a loyalty program that you want to connect through payments? How about gift cards? As an example of some hidden fees in the fine print, some providers charge extra for certain credit cards used by customers. Now would you want to turn a customer away simply because they have a preferred Visa they like to use? Probably not. So know in advance what your “extras” may be.

Discuss your payment preferences and needs up front to best determine what provider can best support your business. Though the cost of a merchant service provider can vary, those that are the cheapest tend not to offer the best supporting packages while those that cost the most tend to best support their retailers with fewer hidden fees. At the end of the day, if you can’t accept all forms of payment comfortably, you will miss sales. This is definitely not the goal, so be savvy enough to do your homework before getting locked into something for three years that doesn’t meet your unique business’ needs.

Reviewing the basic M’s of retail is essential in succeeding in the constantly changing sea of retail. Learn to ride the tides and dive through the waves to make your store successful in the (seemingly) simple M’s of retail.

By Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Special to Museums & More

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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