Polkadog Bakery interior store image

GS Pets Winter 2020
Visual Merchandising for Pawsh Pets By Susan Johnston Taylor

For pet owners with a disposable income, eye-catching displays can help inspire higher transaction values and repeat visits to your store. Strong visual merchandising also improves the customer experience, giving people a reason to buy pet supplies in a brick-and-mortar store instead of ordering online.

Phillip Emigh, co-owner of Tails in the City in Chicago, said its displays can change as often as every day, depending on what new products arrive. Window and table displays typically change weekly and often follow a color theme.

One display technique used by Tails in the City is the tie display. “We just keep getting more ties and a different assortment of ties,” Emigh said. “It’s a quick, easy and fun thing that a client can do with their dog if they go to a party with him or they’re the greeter at a party.”

Tails in the City merchandise display of bow ties
Tails in the City’s tie display offers shoppers an assortment of options to dress up their dog for any occasion.

Mannequin dogs model bowties and neck ties along with t-shirts, which are available adjacent to the tie shop. In cooler weather, “We put our down jackets on the dogs and have the bowties sticking out for a Ralph Lauren feel,” Emigh added.

Other areas of the store offer themed shops that change according to current trends. “We have carriers, raincoats and matching leashes and collars,” Emigh said.

Tails in the City product display image
Fresh clean displays highlight products for customers.

Polkadog Bakery, which has six locations in Massachusetts, frequently changes displays. “It makes people feel like they’re discovering something new every time they go into a retail store,” said owner Rob Van Sickle. He added that he likes to create “surprise moments” for customers and may leave with a few extra impulse buys.

Polkadog employees are empowered to put their own twist on displays so merchandising strategies vary from store to store. “Everybody who works with us has a different viewpoint,” Van Sickle said. “One person’s imagination and creativity can open up a door to other opportunities.” Displays strive to tell a story, whether it’s through color, texture or functionality.

Polkadog Bakery
Polkadog makes its displays appear full and groups similar items together.

Polkadog also has an unusual merchandising challenge in that the shop carries its own branded products as well as products from other vendors. “Telling that story cohesively while simultaneously being mindful of the difference between Polkadog the retail store and Polkadog the brand dictates a lot of our thinking and strategy,” Van Sickle said. “As our retail business has grown and matured, we’ve grown and matured with how we’re merchandising things and how we’re thinking about branding.”

Polkadog Bakery interior store image
Polkadog’s Seaport location displays branded Polkadog shelves to showcase its own manufactured products.

Several locations use branded crates to differentiate Polkadog products, but Polkadog’s newest retail location in Boston’s Seaport neighborhood tackles this challenge with wooden and steel shelves that carry Polkadog branding. “It allows us to showcase our own manufactured products in a clean, organized and attractive way,” Van Sickle said.

However, one unifying strategy is that Polkadog employees try to make displays look overflowing and full but not messy, often grouping like items together. “Imagine a product display at a really nice grocery store,” Van Sickle said. “It looks bountiful but it’s streamlined.”

Susan Johnston Taylor

Susan Johnston Taylor is a full-time freelance writer whose work allows her to apply her childlike curiosity and love of language on a daily basis. Her writings appear in national newspapers, magazines, blogs, company websites, and consumer magazines.





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