What Makes Retail Merchandising So Important To Your Brand?
Author: Bob Phipps
What is retail merchandising?
Retail merchandising is the organization of merchandise in an appealing way to get shoppers who come to a brick and mortar retail store to be engaged and inspired to purchase more product than they initially thought they would.
A lot of retailers would be hard-pressed to answer the question, what is retail merchandising? Retail merchandising covers everything from how you visually arrange your merchandise to the traffic patterns in your store, how you display items to promote add-on sales, to signage, and for apparel retailers - the power of the fitting room.
Visual merchandiser also analyze all behind the scenes data that proves what is effective and what isn't. This post serves as a tactical primer for retailers looking for visual merchandising strategies and product merchandising ideas.
Retail merchandising, when done right, removes confusion of what to buy from shoppers, encourages a customer to shop in your store rather than in another, and most importantly, converts more shoppers into customers.
It's a coordinated effort that keeps you from carrying a ton of SKUs, slapping them on a wall or table, and expecting them to sell. Too many choices make shoppers feel overwhelmed.
Why should merchandising matter to retail management? The quicker you can cut down on a shopper's choices, the quicker you can make them relax and consider purchasing your merchandise. The less time you devote to how you arrange your store and display your products, the more overwhelmed your shoppers will feel when trying to know what to look at. And an overwhelmed shopper never becomes a customer - they just leave.
You can attract as many new bodies to your shop as you want, but if they discover a hodgepodge of merchandise that takes too much to figure out, if they meet with too much frustration trying to find what they were looking for, or if they encounter only flat or uninteresting displays, your merchandise will sit. Merchandise that sits for too long is like spoiled milk; it starts to smell and loses all value until it is thrown out.
Your shoppers shouldn't notice great in-store merchandising, but it should focus their eyes on a display. The lighting should draw them toward a fixture; the signage should pique their curiosity, and together make them want to buy more.
In order to implement a strong retail merchandising plan, you have to have someone who understands the science of which colors are in fashion, what trends they can tie into, the cause and effect of fast-moving or dead products, as well as someone who has the creativity to create the excitement of serendipity when shopping in your brick and mortar store.
At its most basic an in-store merchandising plan should include:
An overall store layout plan of how traffic will move through your store.
A department plan that changes in-store displays with the seasons and holidays.
A budget for store fixtures, props, lighting, and signage.
A merchandise planning system which will help maximize turn, limit out-of-stocks, increase margins, and minimize markdowns.
An open-to-buy system and predictive analytics to determine the variety of merchandise available to shoppers.
The time needed to merchandise a store will vary due to a variety of circumstances including the total number of SKUS, the size of your window displays, special requirements for individual displays, especially those needing security, as well as your ability to move your fixtures easily. Large stores have entire teams devoted to the four separate areas of retail merchandising while single-operator locations struggle to do something more than just get the merchandise out and priced.
The thing to remember is that there is no merchandise in your store that a customer can't purchase online.
Therefore, when they do drive to your store, they expect to get something more than they can glean off a website. That’s where the art and science of retail merchandising gives brick and mortar retailers an advantage over their online competitors.
To begin merchandising your store, always start with the front doors, for this is the first chance your customer has to understand the alien planet that is your store.
Newcomers hate to have to ask where something is. Is your directional signage easy to understand and well-placed so shoppers can navigate your store layout?
People like to shop in bright energetic spaces. Is there adequate lighting to achieve this?
With shoppers wanting to proceed counter-clockwise through a store, is the counter location causing friction between those browsing and those queuing up to pay?
There should be visual barriers between departments to make a large store seem more intimate. Are those backdrops or barriers interesting enough to draw shoppers to them?
Displays are your silent salespeople because they can show an entire system or series of add-ons to lift average ticket. Are the relationships in your displays obvious?
Well-placed, well-worded signs help intrigue, answer questions, and entice shoppers to look, touch or hold. Do yours?
Apparel stores best chance at converting lookers to buyers is with bright, air-conditioned and clean fitting rooms. Are yours up to the challenge?
You’re always working on three things with your plan: the current promotion or event, the one upcoming, and a review of the one just passed. That’s why it’s always best to set up a full year calendar as part of your retail merchandising plan noting holidays, seasons, local events, and promotions.
If you’re looking to really master retail merchandising program, there are several degree programs where you can go to deepen your knowledge, critical thinking, and skills. We also have a whole course on in-store merchandising in my online retail sales training program SalesRX.com.