Visual merchandising is becoming increasingly pivotal for retail success. As retail becomes more and more competitive, shoppers have more options than ever before. Shoppers aren’t just shopping for products, they’re buying experiences. The stores that put more effort into making an exciting, and emotional experience for customers, are the ones that will be successful.
In Canada, effective merchandising is becoming even more critical to retail success as retailers struggle to find staff. Not only is it hard to find qualified employees, it’s challenging to find anyone at all. This means that the people retailers employ will find their jobs more demanding as they work longer hours, and work harder with fewer team members to share the load. Employees will also be less skilled in serving customers.
I went shopping this week with a list of items to buy to wear to some upcoming events. I visited at least a dozen stores – buying in about half of them. Each store displayed prominent help -wanted signs. And in every store, not one sales associate tried to actively sell to me. No one suggested additional merchandise. No asked me what I was looking for. I was assisted with the fitting room, staff was knowledgeable when I asked questions, and they were all generally helpful and pleasant. But I had to approach them. In some stores, the sales people barely acknowledged me.
I was obviously spending money, as I was carrying a few shopping bags. Yet, for the most part, I had to navigate my way through the stores, and find what I needed on my own. All I had to rely on were the visual merchandising cues. To find what I was looking for, I had to depend on visual clues to tell me:
• Where is the new fall merchandise located?
• Where would I find pants?
• What is my size? Where is my size?
• What merchandise coordinates with these pants?
• Where are the sale items? Is there anything there worth looking at?
Most of the stores did a pretty good job of organizing their merchandise so that I could find my way around easily. In the ones that were confusing; I looked around and left. Maybe I could have stumbled across a great find, but it wasn’t even worth looking. The most frustrating experience was with the department store, which was disorganized, had empty shelves, and had few visual cues to direct me from one area to the next. The department store also had the fewest sales associates available for assistance. It’s no wonder department stores have struggled for survival. If retailers are going to survive in this competitive market, visual merchandising will become even more vital to their business. Store owners need to focus on visual merchandising strategies that sell their products. If they don’t, they won’t be around long.
Take a Strategic Approach
Unfortunately, the days of running a traditional “Mom and Pop” operation, lacking any real business sophistication, are long gone. A haphazard approach to store layout generates less than desired results. You must squeeze every ounce of potential out of your store to make it a winner. How you present your store is a very strategic part of your business. In order to position every item in its proper location, you must have a far more detailed plan than the usual “It was the only place left available, so that’s where it ended up!” Give your best-selling merchandise the most favorable display areas in your store.
A Plan-O-Gram is nothing more than a picture of how various fixtures, shelves and walls will present your merchandise. It is a relatively simple concept, but a very powerful one because it takes into consideration what is known about the psychology of consumer buying habits. Creating a plan-o-gram forces the retailer to carefully evaluate which products go where and how many will be displayed. By forcing yourself to plan the presentation of each department, you will become a more successful and proactive retailer.