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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

Utilizing fixtures

The business starts out like any other business; a building of several thousand square feet with four bare walls. As witnessed by the thousands of nursery and garden centers around the country, there is a wide variety with regard to the results business owners and managers have achieved from an empty building.

Surely, all the readers of this column have heard that when a customer comes into your business, the longer they stay the more likely it is that they will buy, as well as the more they will buy. Other than how your staff speaks to and treats the customer, the design of your store is probably one of the most important long term decisions you can make. We invite you to join us as we look at putting your best foot forward with regard to three areas of concern: store design, fixtures and merchandising.

How important is the layout of the aisles and walkways of your business? In a word, crucial. Imagine as a customer walks any aisle of your business, you will want them to have at least two options when they reach the end. If their only option is to turn around and return the way they came, you will see that aisle become less and less traveled as it becomes too congested.

Looking at the end of the aisle, imagine the customer turning their head to determine where they want to go next. You want the customer to see the options as attractive alternatives to where they are currently standing, with the end of each aisle they visit inviting them to turn the corner and visit another.

As you visualize this layout, think about a grocery store and then work to create something different. While the layout of a grocery store can work, remember that grocery shoppers visit that store much more frequently than customers visit your store. And as they walk the grocery store aisles, they see very few of the products on the shelves. The customer is actually going from product to product as they pick up their predetermined items. Grocery stores, and their manufacturers work very hard trying to get the customer to stop and consider picking up just one impulse selection.

If you have less square footage than you need, you will likely have to more closely follow the grocery store format as you place your shelves and counters to maximize square footage. However, if your case is that you do not have sufficient inventory to fill the facilities, then using a more "free form" for your layout will aid you in making the place look fuller.

One format that works well in this situation is referred to as a chevron. Instead of having counters that are all parallel or perpendicular to the walls throughout the store, counters in the four corners are placed at a 45 degree angle to the rest of the layout. This chevron layout will allow customers to see all the way into the corners of the store and thus eliminate the "dead corner" appearance that many businesses have.

As you create a chevron area, you will probably find aisles that are much larger than necessary at one end or another. This is an excellent location for a table or pallet display. Fill the display with garden hoses, bags of fertilizer or other bulky inexpensive items, and your sales floor gives a much fuller impression.

Before we move onto other areas of concern, let's look at other ways of maximizing the shelving and aisles. As a customer wanders an aisle, the aisle needs to be wide enough to accommodate people passing each other without bumping into each other. If you utilize shopping carts, make sure the aisle is wide enough for two carts to pass.

When you merchandise the counters, remember that the ideal placement of inventory is in the space from knee height up to six feet. In this knee to six foot area, the closer you get to eye level, the more desirable the product should be. In this "ground zero" area, you will want to place whole goods as compared to accessories. And most definitely, you should place your more profitable items in this area.

In the last ten years, fixtures have continued to gain height. While wall fixtures have remained constant at 8 feet in height, aisle fixtures are now commonly six and seven feet tall. Of course, if you are still using fixtures that are five feet tall, you can rearrange shelves so that the top shelf holds the tallest products - such as pump up sprayers and garden hoses standing on their side.

As we cover the building from top to bottom, there are two areas we have not yet covered; literally the top (lighting) and the bottom (flooring). Working our way from top to bottom, soft mood lighting may look appropriate in a restaurant, but it has no place in your business.

How much lighting is enough? Because of the variations that would occur in each store due to ceiling height, color of the ceiling, floors, and wall, width of the aisle and height of the fixtures, it would be impossible to give you a desired number.

Instead, let us suggest that you take light measurements in various stores, utilizing a photographer's light meter. As you see which stores and which displays attract you, you can take measurements and see what amount of light appears best for you. Of course, there is a cost to having brighter lighting, both lighting fixture and power wise, but a dark store is a turnoff for customers.

Finishing at the bottom, at a minimum you want a clean floor that reflects a good portion of the light that hits it. A bare concrete floor may work well for the big box stores, but unless that is the image you are wanting to convey, you will want to at least consider painting the concrete. If your budget allows, a commercial grade tile will give you many years of service. Again from the experience of this writer, well cared for tile can last in excess of 40 years. No doubt you have seen businesses that have utilized carpeting, synthetic grass, and even tile that has a pattern to it.

Each of these can add to the appearance of the business, but do have their added expense. Carpeting and synthetic grass do not wear as well as a tile, and require additional maintenance to maintain their appearance. With a pattern in the tile, you can use this to distinguish departments as well as to accent your major aisles. As long as you do not change the placement of departments and aisles, the distinguishing tiles can add to the attractiveness of your business.

Does a more attractive facility help your business? Think as a comparison, the restaurant or service station that you have remembered because of their dirty rest rooms; the same thought process will be used with your business if you are not putting your best foot forward.

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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