Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Here's Looking at You

Keys to visual merchandising

Let's take a trip and examine the sales floors of your competitors; we want to see how they merchandise the goods and services they offer. Hopefully, at each business, we will find quality items, well displayed and reasonably priced-these three being the essential components of selling merchandise.

To make this happen, manufacturers have spent tremendous amounts of money creating displays that will assist the customer in making the decision to buy, whether or not a salesperson is with the customer. It is also true that the manufacturer wants to be sure that the customer purchases its merchandise-even if it is not from the store they are currently in.

Too often we find dependence by dealers on manufacturers' displays. Many times a sales floor becomes a collection of manufacturers' displays rather than a showroom for the goods and services offered by the business. Let's take a look at a baker's dozen of ideas that will not only increase your chances of completing the sale, but also will enhance your ability to distinguish yourself from the competition.

Let's first look at ideas 1 through 4, as they work together. Research has shown the importance of the first-having an attractive entrance. Over 50 percent 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 (usually to the right) as they enter your sales floor. The traffic flow you have created should take the customer through the store in a manner by which they are exposed to all the product categories you carry (idea 3).

Idea 4 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 in maximizing the displays you create and making the manufacturer's display an important part of your efforts. The sales floor needs not only to 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 of where to shop when he or she has a need for a winter coat.

Idea 6 is that your store should appeal to as many of the five senses as possible. Research shows that customers are more likely to spend money when the store smells good, has pleasant music, and allows them to see and feel the products. Give the customer something to nibble on-and you cover all five senses!

Grouping merchandise by colors is the idea 7. Just look at how hand tools in a hardware store are available in day-glow colors. It is also important to place related items near one another (idea 8), and have displays of add-on sale items (idea 9). For example, 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.

Having impulse purchases is idea 10. Look again at the checkout aisle in a grocery store, and you will see masters of getting customers to add just one more thing to their purchases. While we are discussing 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 11).

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 (idea 12); and if you sell accessories to the whole goods you are selling, the whole goods should occupy the eye-level space (idea 13).

While we promised you a baker's dozen of ideas, there is one more. This is done intentionally because, just as in dealing with customers, you should give them more than what is expected. Idea 14 deals with signs. Signs have been shown to substantially increase sales. With today's computer-software programs, you can easily create signs to introduce new products, explain their features and benefits, and tell your customers the services you offer.

Today's customers have the advantage of being able to shop through a catalog, the Internet, or in your store. When they do come to your store, make sure your store gives them many reasons not only to do business with you but also to return.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

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St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
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