Retail merchandising, when done right, removes shoppers’ confusion of what to buy, encourages a customer to shop in your store rather than another and, most importantly, converts more shoppers into customers.
It’s a coordinated effort that keeps you from carrying a ton of SKUs, slapping them on a wall or table, and expecting them to sell. Too many choices make shoppers feel overwhelmed.
Why should merchandising matter to you? The quicker you can cut down on a shopper’s choices, the quicker you can make them relax and consider purchasing your merchandise. The less time you devote to how you arrange your store and display your products, the more overwhelmed your shoppers will feel when trying to know what to look at. And an overwhelmed shopper never becomes a customer — they just leave.
You can attract as many new bodies to your shop as you want, but if they discover a hodgepodge of merchandise that takes too much effort to figure out, if they’re met with too much frustration trying to find what they were looking for or if they encounter only flat or uninteresting displays, your merchandise will sit. Merchandise that sits for too long is like spoiled milk; it starts to smell and loses all value until it is thrown out.
Your shoppers shouldn’t notice great merchandising, but it should focus their eyes on a display. The lighting should draw them toward a fixture; the signage should pique their curiosity, and together make them want to buy more.
7 Tips and Tricks
Here are seven tips and tricks for visual merchandising your brick and mortar store:
1. Great merchandising invites shoppers into a store, so avoid putting a display table perpendicular just inside your entrance.
2. Moving a product from its regular shelf location to a featured end cap has been proven to lead to an average sales increase of 25%, so regularly move your products around.
3. Digital displays can help tell a fuller, specific product story but can also detract customers from the products they are near, so make sure your digital displays are supporting, but are not the main show. If conversion doesn’t improve, change messaging or location.
4. Look through your whole store for distractions. Are there too many messages to “try this” or “do that” or “buy this or “look here”? Streamline a shopper’s experience so they linger, not bolt for the door.
5. Select fixtures with wheels so you have unlimited opportunities to change your entire store around quickly and efficiently.
6. Feature your best merchandise at the front of the store as shopper interest wanes the further in they go.
7. Put sale items in the back so thrifty consumers have to move through your store to get to them.
The Merchandising Plan
In order to implement a strong retail merchandising plan, you need someone who understands the science of which colors are in fashion, what trends they can tie into and the cause and effect of fast-moving or dead products, as well as someone who has the creativity to develop the excitement of serendipity when shopping in your brick-and-mortar store.
At its most basic, a retail merchandising plan should include:
– An overall plan of how traffic will move through your store;
– A department plan that changes with the seasons and holidays;
– A budget for store fixtures, props, lighting and signage;
– A merchandise planning system which will help maximize turn, limit out-of-stocks, increase margins and minimize markdowns; and
– An open-to-buy system and predictive analytics to determine the variety of merchandise available to shoppers.
The time needed to merchandise a store will vary due to a variety of circumstances, including the total number of SKUs, special requirements for individual displays (especially those needing security), as well as your ability to move your fixtures easily.
To begin merchandising your store, always start with the front doors; this is the first chance your shoppers have to understand the alien planet that is your store.
Newcomers hate to have to ask where something is. Is your directional signage easy to understand and well-placed?
People like to shop in bright, energetic spaces. Is there adequate lighting to achieve this?
With shoppers wanting to proceed counter-clockwise through a store, is the counter location causing friction between those browsing and those queuing up to pay?
There should be visual barriers between departments to make a large store seem more intimate. Are those backdrops or barriers interesting enough to draw shoppers to them?
Displays are your silent salespeople because they can show an entire system or series of add-ons to lift the average ticket. Are the relationships in your displays obvious?
Well-placed, well-worded signs help intrigue, answer questions and entice shoppers to look, touch or hold. Do yours?
You’re always working on three things with your plan: the current promotion or event, the one upcoming and a review of the one just passed. That’s why it’s always best to set up a full year calendar as part of your retail merchandising plan, noting holidays, seasons, local events and promotions.
If you’re looking to really master retail merchandising, there are several degree programs where you can go to deepen your knowledge and skills.
Visual merchandising is everything a shopper sees at your store that hopefully leads to a remarkable shopping experience. It is the unspoken language retailers use to communicate with their customers. In the advent of omnichannel retailing, it also connects to the online brand experience to provide a seamless, consistent look and feel between your website and the physical store.
It’s easy to confuse the broader retail merchandising plan with visual merchandising. But visual merchandising is only that part of the retail merchandising plan that includes rearranging merchandise, shelving and fixtures to maximize sales as well as maintaining the cleanliness and functionality of the store fixtures, signage and lights.
Visual merchandising is not the same as displays. Visual merchandising is more of a high-level view that includes eye-catching visual displays but continues to lead the customer through the entire store. Specific product displays focus on just one department or brand.
One thing many retailers miss is that visual merchandising is a team effort; you must train all store associates about visual display standards and maintenance.
A visual merchandiser is responsible for creating an environment that sells, one that allows shoppers to relax and consider all your store has to offer by crafting areas of discovery. The best visual merchandisers creatively design displays, create planograms for window displays, create both display and directional signage, buy fixtures and generally decide what goes where, why and for how long.
In the end, they must be both business savvy and creative in constructing an environment that stimulates a consumer’s desire to buy what they came in for, as well as the add-ons they didn’t know they needed — and all at full price.
Bob Phibbs is known as one of the world’s leading experts on brick-and-mortar retail. He is an internationally recognized business strategist, customer service expert, sales coach, marketing mentor, author of three books and motivational business speaker. He started The Retail Doctor in 1994 and his client list includes Bernina, Brother, Caesars Palace, Hunter Douglas, Lego, Omega, Hearts on Fire, Husqvarna, Vera Bradley and Yamaha. Phibbs will be the keynote speaker at Marijuana Venture’s third Retail and Dispensary (RAD) Expo this October in Portland, Oregon.