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Written by Michelle Amster   
Wednesday, 04 November 2015 04:48 PM America/New_York

Adopt these principles of merchandising—and watch your store sales grow

MultipleBlessings-CarolineSimasYou can learn to merchandise. I cannot even begin to tell you how many store owners and managers have said to me, “I just don’t know how to merchandise product in my store” or “I don’t have time to merchandise every time new gifts arrive.” I respectfully disagree!

Yes, there are people who are born with “the gift,” but most retailers simply must learn how to correctly merchandise product to make it sell. After all, that is the whole reason why merchandising is so important.

Motives in Merchandising

There are three key reasons to properly merchandise your store. First, and probably the most important, is that proper merchandising helps shoppers be productive in the time they shop at your physical location. Shoppers are pulled in so many different directions that the time spent at your store is probably precious time taken from something else that is also high on their priority list, so your job is to make every shopper feel that you respect their time by making it easy for them to find what they need.

Let’s say a shopper comes in on her lunch hour to get a gift for her daughter’s teacher. When we merchandise correctly, all related items should be located together so that the shopper can see all of her choices at one time. Does this mean that every item there should actually say the word “teacher”? Of course not, but you should merchandise each section or theme with some gift products that also would be appropriate for a teacher gift. It is also a good idea to add a few items for others that this type of shopper may need, perhaps a gift for the principal or school bus driver. Placing these items in the same area may increase the shopper’s purchase because you put something in front of her that she didn’t even realize she may want.

The second reason proper merchandising is important is so that you can offer excellent customer service. If your store’s gift department looks like a sea of products, most likely your employees will not be able to help customers find what they need. Merchandising each section by theme will help your employees learn where product is located and, therefore, assist them in serving your busy customers. You may have the same product in several different sections of the store, but this makes sense when you merchandise by theme, season and holiday.

Finally, proper merchandising increases sales. When a customer feels comfortable in your store, she is more likely to stay longer and purchase items that are not in her original plan. Proper merchandising works to help customers shop, whereas improper merchandising creates chaos and the feeling that you don’t care enough to do the job correctly.

Meaning in Merchandising

There are some important principles to remember as you create displays in your store. As you adhere to these principles, you will find that creating great displays becomes easier and soon might be second nature. In fact, when you shop other stores, you will find yourself critiquing their displays. I’ve actually shopped in stores where I found myself fixing their displays, but my efforts were not always appreciated! Put these principles into practice:

1. Pick a theme. Let’s say you want to create a large Christmas display. Ideally, large displays should be done before or after store hours. This is not always possible, but it will help keep the aisles free of boxes and traffic flow intact.

After laying out all the product to be placed in the display, your first question should be, “Will all of this product fit comfortably on this display or shelf?” If not, create two displays. You could make one display center on Christ’s birth and the other around the family aspects of Christmas.

Once you have the product ready to be put into the display, decide which item should be the focal point. This is normally the largest item in the grouping, but sometimes it can be the one that has the most significance to the display. Place the item on the tallest level of a floor display or at eye level on a wall display. This is the item that will be the first to stand out to shoppers as they browse the area.

2. Decide on your first item, then build from there. Once your first item is placed, build out the display from there. Display merchandising takes trial and error, so don’t worry about the time it takes to create a display. I may move an item five or six times as I work on a particular display. Merchandising is about fitting as much product into a display as looks good while making every product touchable and movable.

3. Don’t overmerchandise. As I shop across the country, I visit stores that are overmerchandised. These stores have displays that are not approachable. With some examples, it looks like the product could fall at any moment. As the creator of the display, you may know that you used Velcro or tape to secure an item at a 30-degree angle, but the shopper does not. Your customer need not fear that if she touches an item, the display might come tumbling down like the walls of Jericho.

4. Don’t make your display “too perfect.” Have you ever seen a display that you think is so beautiful that you don’t want to mess it up? I have, and normally I leave that store with nothing purchased. They haven’t sold anything, but their display still looks great!EnidChristianBookstore-JewelryDisplay

5. Keep plenty of tools on hand. You need to have an overabundance of tools, including risers, to help with your displays. Find risers that vary in size from small to extra large. This will help you build the levels of your display so that every product can be seen, which is impossible if all of the product is at the same level.

Having enough risers for your store does not have to be an expensive venture. There are many items you can use as risers that cost next to nothing. A few examples would be a brick, a gift-wrapped box or even extra boxed inventory of the product in the display.

Use a variety of easels as well to ensure visibility. If you have a large number of small items, you also will need baskets or containers to prevent a messy look.

Once you have the product in place, step back and double-check that all of the items can be seen and then picked up and placed back without anything falling apart.

6. Use props that enhance but don’t distract. Determine if the display needs any props. Props should only be used if they enhance and do not distract from the product for sale. If the props overpower the product, you will be disappointed in your sales.

For props, you can use fabric that doesn’t wrinkle, floral pieces or household items to bring attention to the product for sale. Remember that you are not trying to sell props—unless someone offers you triple what you paid for it!

7. Work multiple pieces of the same product into the display. When you do this and an item is purchased, the display remains full. If you are displaying a boxed item, use the items as risers so your customer can grab the boxed item and leave the open product on the display. If he does not see one of the items that is boxed or if the boxed item is under the display or in back room stock, train your employee to go and get the boxed item and put the open item back on the display. This may take more time now, but it will save even more time later. It will also keep you from thinking that an item is gone only to find that there are 11 more under the display, but since an employee sold the open one, no one knew to open another one and add it to the display.

8. Think like a shopper. How do you know which product and themes to put where? You always want to put items for the same type of shopper in the same area. And this is where we use psychology in retail to keep pulling a customer farther into the store. Intrigue your customer about items on the next display so she can discover what’s new and maybe even be reminded of another event she needs a gift for or see an item she feels she cannot live without.

There is one overriding thing to remember about merchandising: Proper product merchandising is always worth the time and effort because you will see the results in increased sales.