Merchandising Your Store for Maximum Sales
With Holiday shopping well underway I know you’re probably filling and replenishing your store inventory more often than normal. This can be a stressful time trying to keep up with demand, keep the shop clean AND merchandised in a way that maximizes sales. So I’m going to give you my top tips for merchandising your inventory that will help your store look incredible, and help your customers leave happily with a quality purchase.
Merchandising, from my experience is largely misunderstood. Merchandising is especially misunderstood by small business owners who don’t have a background in retail or fashion prior to opening a shop. The general understanding shop owners have is the need to stylize your products for marketing purposes, but that isn’t merchandising’s ONLY responsibility. If you’re surprised, don’t worry. It’s not your fault. The moment you Google or look up merchandising displays on Pinterest, the results show the coolest most creative window and store displays. They’re artistic, thought provoking, and attention getting which is absolutely what you want your displays to do, BUT there’s more to merchandising than looking cool. So one of the first tips I have is to
Understand ALL the things merchandising can do.
One of the biggest objectives to merchandising well is making your store look full and impactful- well stocked with several options, neatly organized for easy browsing. This eliminates gaps on the sales floor where the customers attention could be pulled away from the products.
That means filling holes on your tables, shelves, and racks where product has sold out or sold down. Keeping everything full keeps people shopping. This means that merchandising, especially during the holidays, becomes a constant task. Displays that are usually “set it and forget it” are being updated daily based on sell through, and it can become a problem that snowballs if you don’t have enough inventory or a good understanding of how or why you should keep things replenished. It only takes a matter of hours for your store to go from looking styled, clean and cohesive to an absolute mess that doesn’t make any sense at all.
Merchandising also requires identifying when and where products sell well and where things aren’t performing as well as you’d like, then moving those items around to see if they’ll sell better somewhere else in the store. Maybe an area that gets better traffic, or can catch the eye differently. Maybe it would be a great complimentary item to something that sells well, or the perfect add on at the register. Survey your inventory as you clean and sell so that you can make adjustments as the day goes on.
The last responsibility that’s often overlooked with merchandising is knowing your customer, what they like, and where they like to shop from. Do they often shop the table before the rack as retail statistics often show? Do they pay better attention to the mannequins in the window or next to the fitting room? Weight your decision to place certain products in certain areas based on what actually moves the products out the door versus just catching attention because selling the item is obviously the end goal.
Maintaining inventory levels.
Now, as I mentioned all of this is hard to do if you don’t have the inventory to pack things out and make the sales floor look as full as you’d like! It can also mean missed sales opportunities if you don’t keep tabs on which sizes or colors are available on the floor. It’s easy to overlook pulling surplus stock from the back for sizes or colors that have sold through or sold down. That can be solved in a number of ways;
Make sure your back stock inventory is minimized through the holiday rush. You can represent several size, style or color runs in various places throughout the store. You might not start out with enough room for it all, but as things loosen up, pull out the remaining inventory to your sales floor. You can’t sell it if it’s sitting in your back room.
Keep track of what you’re selling, so you can replenish accordingly. This is also a great way to be aware of what is selling well and what isn’t, so you can make floor adjustments accordingly.
Order more product if you don’t have enough to stock the store well. I know that is easier said than done with buying seasons, trend forecasting, and projected sales, but there are always vendors and designers out there looking to work with stores who need more inventory. You might have to reach out to local makers or wholesalers that you haven’t worked with before. As long as you do your research on them, there’s no need to worry.
Eliminate some racks and tables to cluster more product together. Rearrange racks and wall displays to fill empty space without the need for more product. This should only happen if you do not have any remaining inventory to restock your sales floor. There are merchandising tricks that will give the appearance of fullness when product is selling out.
The best solution, however, is to be proactive and have the product. It’s much easier to keep a floor beautifully merchandised for maximum sales when you have lots of options to play with.
Placing product by price and shopping habits.
I already mentioned paying close attention to the shopping habits of your customers, but there’s a few more variables that can maximize sales and that’s why it’s important to always know what areas in your store sell the best.
First, it’s definitely advantageous to put items at a higher price point in the areas of your store that sell the best. There are statistics that support table displays sell the best. It doesn’t matter if you sell apparel or soap or crafts. Tables can sell it all. With that knowledge in hand corporate retailers have been making table displays a focal priority for years.
But it’s not enough to just slap your most expensive product on a few tables and call it a day. You’ll want to:
Maximize the full space on that table, so choose the products you want represented there carefully.
Be aware that tables are easy to shoplift from. Take extra precautions with security tags and table placement.
Add complimentary products in order to sell a collection of items that work well together. Example: I was recently looking at home interior store. They had a fabulous round table near the front of the store with some beautiful chairs pushed in around it. The table was filled with center pieces. Further back in the store there were plates, drinking glasses, and other decorative items. I thought there was a missed opportunity to set the table as it would appear in someone’s home. They had enough pieces to set a beautiful table, and certainly a set table with all the stylish details would sell much better together than a bunch of centerpieces? It was hard to see the potential the table had with it buried under all the centerpieces, and so customers weren’t even looking at it as a piece they could potentially purchase, and that is a loss to store.
This kind of thoughtful merchandising helps you build the sale without having to say a word. It showcases the items together and helps the customer see how well they work together. Which is a great for…
Maximizing sales by pairing complimentary items together.
The objective is to never sell a solo item, but to surround the feature item with complimentary items so that the customer wants to buy it all together. Using my example from earlier: would you rather sell a centerpiece or sell the table, chairs, and the entire dining set?
This works perfectly for clothing stores too. By layering displays with a top, a bottom, a jacket, and a handbag you suddenly have a whole outfit, not just one piece. The customer might not buy the display exactly how it’s represented, but it opens their mind to the versatility of each piece and how they can make their own outfits while shopping. And all of that simply means…
Creating an experience with displays that help the customer see your products in their life.
Visual tools such as the examples I’ve given above are incredibly useful in helping a customer make a quick decision. You’re helping them see themselves using or gifting that product, and. you’ve taken the time to make an entire atmosphere for them. It helps them piece together an enhanced version of the gift they were planning to purchase, and who doesn’t love when shopping takes less time than expected?
Ease of motion through your store is also worth mentioning. You want a merchandising plan that pulls your customers through an experience, that draws them into the store to look at all the items. I know I just said STOCK THE FLOOR FULL, and now I’m going to say do that without cramping your customers personal space. If the racks are so full customers can’t walk around without knocking things over, if it infringes on wheelchair and stroller accessibility, or if there’s product in the way of reaching other product then you’ve gotta rethink product placement. If the racks are so full that customers can’t look at a garment on the rack then it’s time to loosen things up. You’ll have to get creative, but there’s lots of options for moving product up and out so that you can fill in the floor with lots of inventory without interfering in the customers positive experience with your business.
To take this one step further we need to consider the one bottom line, make-it-or-break-it-variable; PRICE. You want to make pricing clear and straightforward. If you want to run a promotion, I strongly suggest a promotion that incentivizes and rewards customers for buying multiple items.
Most people statistically will not ask for a price if they cannot locate it quickly, or if they’re confused by a convoluted promotion/discount. The biggest merchandising tool in all the land can help with this and it’s called SIGNAGE. Clear and straightforward signage helps your customers understand discounts, and special offers, and if done well, helps the store look more brand consistent and full.
This can be done as tastefully and unobtrusively as you’d like. Window signs especially help with attracting new customers. They work as silent sellers, and it’s pretty cost effective way to market your holiday promotions without breaking the bank.
THERE YOU HAVE IT. Merchandising for the holidays can feel like a daunting task. Especially with so many sets, resets and updates, but I promise if you keep these rules in mind and combine them with a winning customer service experience you will sell more than you have ever sold.