Basic Tips for Better Visual Merchandising

Great store presentation and product merchandising is like a good book. It's got an alluring cover to entice, an interesting first chapter to tell the reader they've made the right choice, and a satisfying conclusion to get the audience to want more. The tools used to achieve these attributes are based on creating the most satisfying experience for the shopper, turning browsers into buyers.

Storefront Identity and First Impressions

Let's start at the beginning. An important element in any store design is the look of the storefront. Accomplished successfully, the entrance reflects the personality of the store and gives a glimpse of the merchandise available inside.

Design a distinctive store logo that communicates your mission. Not only will you use this as a storefront sign, but it could also be painted or applied with special graphics film on the floor as a welcome mat or maybe on the wall behind the cashwrap. And you'll want it printed on merchandise, hangtags, and point of sale signage.

The way merchandise is displayed in show windows also has a lot to do with enticing the guests into the store. Whether you have a store in the mall or on the street, the customer has only a few seconds to view and be attracted by your displays. Your visual philosophy should replicate a billboard: make it bold, colorful, and simple. Baby shops often put one of everything into the window . . . and customer miss it all because they can't focus.

Store Layout

In developing an effective store design, a most critical element is how the store is organized for a logical unfolding or discovery of merchandise by the browser. Is your store easy to shop?

There are several approaches to retail store organization and merchandise display. The first and most common is to display similar merchandise all in the same area. If your store presents merchandise in this way, you'll probably have a stroller wall, a book section, fixtures for toys and novelties, and special cases for smaller or secured merchandise.

You might, however, want to consider as an alternate presentation method, Lifestyle Merchandising. With this method, diverse products like apparel, books, lamps, furniture, etc., which all reflect the same theme, are displayed together in a room setting. Having spent my formative years in the furniture business, it became evident early on that helping customers to visualize how merchandise would look in their homes was a major contributing factor in affecting a sale.

As a more thematic interpretation of ‘cross merchandising', presenting products in this manner can also increase the perceived value of items that normally would seem unconnected with any other merchandise. Hence a simple "Star" motif decorative pillow is elevated to a desirable collectible as it completes a total look for a celestial themed baby room.

Finally, you may find that a combination of the two merchandising styles may best be suited to your market area or target customer. Similar to the new wave of home furnishings stores that have divided their stores into lifestyles sections of the home, i.e., The Living Room, The Dining Room, Outdoor Living, these stores also have departments in which products are presented en mase (e.g., glassware, cookware, home electronics, etc.). The same is true for apparel retailers like the Gap, Banana Republic, or Old Navy. While they give you dressing suggestions with coordinated look mannequin presentations, you can also find your favorite fit from their large selection of jeans on the denim walls.

Creating room settings in highly visible focal areas of your store and positioning commodity products in convenient locations that make it easy for the customer to stock up achieve the best of both methods of display.

Organizing the store in either way presents a logical arrangement that helps the guest to browse, look through the merchandise offering, and determine which items would help complete the mind-picture they have for their or the baby's lifestyle.

Once the store is set, don't think you're done, however. Walk your store on a daily basis, reviewing the merchandise presentation and display as the prospective customer would. Face merchandise toward the main traffic aisle, reorganize those lifestyle settings, and make sure all signs are in good condition. "If I were shopping in this store, would I be enticed to buy?"

Promotional Activity

"What is my marketing plan?" The business press is filled with articles on major retailers' recent new focus on child and baby furnishings for the home. Crate & Barrel, Pier 1 Imports, Bombay, Co., and Williams-Sonoma have plans to enter or expand into the market. These retailers will probably offer national branded products and be very competitively priced in order to make their presence known to shoppers.

How will the independent Baby Shop retailer compete? Once again, good visual merchandising and store planning will play an important part. Maintaining a store presentation of desirable products that are clean, orderly, easy to find, and easy to buy will provide a great service to the parent or grandparent looking for something special. Good in-store signage is the important final element of store presentation and promotions. Category signage that helps to guide the customer through your store is essential. In addition, creating a professional looking graphics package that displays price and features and benefits messages clearly communicates the value of your offer.

It may be difficult to compete with the larger national chains' prices, but displaying current, fashionable merchandise, sold by knowledgeable sales personnel and priced within a consistent value range will establish your business as a viable alternative to those stores.

Conclusion

While all the suggestions contained here can be accomplished by anyone who is reasonably handy and creative, I suggest you consider retaining experienced display assistance at least once. Include in the price a hands-on training effort through which you can learn some of the basics of good display from a pro. Then you can freshen the displays and set up new ones with confidence.

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