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Here's Looking at You

Keys to visual merchandising

Let's take an afternoon trip through your community and examine the sales floor of your competitors; we want to see how they merchandise the goods and services they offer. Hopefully, with each retailer, we will find quality items, well displayed, and reasonably priced; these three being the essential components of how to sell merchandise. Because of the strong support given to dealers by the manufacturers, it would be a near impossibility to visit any retailer with expectations of not seeing manufacturer's displays.

Manufacturers have spent tremendous amounts of money creating displays that they expect will assist the customer in making the decision to buy, whether or not a salesperson is standing with the customer. With so many patterns, fabrics, and shades, not to mention styles and features, the manufacturer wants the customer exposed to the various components of their goods and services in an effort to get the customer to place an order.

This is the good news, for there are few retail industries in which the manufacturers do a quality job of creating point of purchase (POP) displays. With the efforts of the manufacturers in the drapery and window covering industry accomplishing what is necessary, we find too often dependence by dealers on these manufacturer's displays. Visiting numerous dealers while researching for this article, this writer frequently found sales floors that had become more a collection of manufacturer's displays than becoming a showroom for the goods and services offered. Let's take a look at a baker's dozen of ideas that will not only increase your chances of completing the sale, but will enhance your ability to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Let's first look at ideas one through four as they work together. The importance of the first one, having an attractive entrance, is shown by the research stating over 50% of customers get their strongest perception of your business by the exterior appearance. Mother was right when she told us you only get one chance to make a first impression. The second idea is to look at how merchandise is placed around your business. You want customers to immediately see the direction you want them to go as they enter your sales floor. The traffic flow you have created should take the customer through the store in a manner in which they are exposed to all of the product categories you carry (third idea).

The fourth idea is to place your drawing card merchandise in the back of the store. Think about a grocery store; where do they place the milk, bread, eggs, and meat? They are on exterior walls, far away from the front door. This is so the customer will see as much of the store as possible.

The next five ideas also work together as we are discussing how to maximize the displays you create and your making the manufacturer's display an important part of your efforts. The sales floor needs to not only address the current season, but also should tell the customers about the trends for the next season. Just visit a department store to see how winter coats are displayed in late summer. This plants a thought in the mind of the customer when they have a need for a coat as to where to shop.

The sixth idea is to suggest your store should appeal to as many of the five senses as possible. Recent research is showing customers are more likely to spend money when the store smells good, has pleasant music, as well as allowing them to see and feel the products.

While the manufacturer has already done a great job of colorizing their merchandise (the seventh idea), it is important you do so with related ideas near each other (the eighth idea), and having displays of add on sale items (idea number nine). If you sell curtain rods and drapery hardware, they should be near the drapery sample displays. After all, you should tell the customer a new drapery deserves a new drapery rod.

One of the best jobs of this we have seen is the business selling window coverings and carpeting. Next to a rack of carpet samples was a vacuum cleaner display and containers of carpet scent. The vacuum made for a great add on sale, while the carpet scent makes an attractive impulse purchase (idea number ten). While we are discussing our floor displays, if a display has an unattractive side it should be placed against a wall or backed up to another display. Merchandise needs to be seen from whichever direction a customer approaches (idea number eleven).

Completing our display discussion, the most important space in your business is the area at eye level. Using the walls to their maximum, you should display the high dollar items at eye level (the twelfth idea) and if you sell accessories to the whole goods you are selling, the whole goods should occupy the eye level space (idea number thirteen).

While we promised you a baker's dozen of ideas, there is one more. This is done intentionally because, just like in dealing with customers - you should give them what is expected. Idea number fourteen deals with signs. Signs have been shown to substantially increase sales. Today you can easily create signs with several computer software programs to introduce new products, explain the features and benefits, as well as tell your customers of the services you offer.

Today's customer has the advantage of being able to shop through a catalog, the Internet, a home service, or in your store. When they do come to your store, make sure your store gives the customer many reasons to do business with you and to return.

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179