January 5/12, 2015; Volume 28/Number 14
Product highlights, third-party opinions are helpful tips
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Whether a retailer is located in a small town in Ohio or owns three franchises throughout Florida, merchandising plays a major role in selling product. Although each dealer has his or her own style, all share one ultimate goal: making sales. In order to merchandise with the most efficiency, there are common techniques retailers employ to maximize sales.
Less is more
Barb Clements, vice president, Al’s Carpet Flooring & Design Service in Machesney Park, Ill., is a firm believer in the “less is more” philosophy. She recommends keeping it simple to avoid clutter and, consequently, to avoid overwhelming customers.
“You don’t have to display everything you have to prove your capability of selling,” she said, adding that when she first started she had “tons” of vinyl samples in her store. “After looking at my numbers, I realized if I’m not selling that much vinyl, why should I dedicate that much space to it?”
Olga Robertson, president of FCA Network, advises retailers to be aware of what she calls the “flea market effect,” which is essentially a lot of clutter. “If you have a 12,000-foot showroom you can put everything you want on the floor,” she confirmed. “But you don’t want to have everything out for no rhyme or reason.”
When it comes to signage, Clements noted that displaying emotional phrases is more effective than highlighting types of material. For example, Clements prefers to distinguish departments by “stain-free,” “worry-free” and “wear-free” vs. polyester or nylon. This helps the customer get what she wants and, in turn, helps sell more product.
To promote special sales, many retailers suggest having signs scattered throughout the store. At Al’s Carpet, Clements recycles large display boards and converts them to magnetic signage using paint, allowing her to write on them with chalk.
For some, successful merchandising isn’t just about what’s in the store. Nick Cinquepalmi, president of Landmark Flooring in Tinley Park, Ill., said his strategy actually begins with marketing through social media.
“Any new [product] corresponding with a new display is automatically sent out to every social media platform known to man,” he explained. “I market an entry-level piece ASAP. It attracts first-time shoppers to the store, and when they walk in they walk through the entire store to get to that piece.”
Bigger is better
Retailers maintain different opinions on whether “bigger is better” regarding sample size, however most agree it depends on the size of the store. Cinquepalmi said most of the customers he deals with regularly ask for bigger swatches, so if you have a big enough space, it’s worth displaying bigger samples.
Better products front and center
When considering layout, Robertson, like many other retailers, puts the most expensive products at the front of the store. This technique allows customers to experience the best products first, which often means they won’t want to settle for anything less. “It’s also a great tool to help salespeople gauge how much your customer is willing to spend. It gives you a starting point.”
‘We have it all’
Robertson encourages retailers to design a layout that creates the perception they have it all, which can be challenging with a smaller showroom. Bob Gaither, owner of Quality Carpet & Flooring in Akron, Ohio, can attest to the effectiveness of this strategy. “When people walk through your store you want them to immediately say, ‘Oh boy, they’ve got a huge selection. I don’t have to shop around to three or four other stores.’”
While some retailers change the displays in their stores surrounding sales and promotions, most agree that layouts should be planned based on the level of traffic passing through a space. Whether it is simply moving a few things around or switching up a featured product, it is smart to take a look at what sells and what doesn’t before making changes.
Barry White, owner of Carpeteria in Lancaster, Calif., said, “Retailers should ask themselves, ‘Is this the right time?’ when laying out merchandise. For example, 5-inch hand-scraped hardwood is the hottest thing in California right now—75% of the wood we sell is that product.”
One thing experienced retailers can all agree on is that getting a third-party opinion on a showroom is always exceptionally helpful. It’s imperative that customers can easily navigate the store, so it doesn’t hurt to ask a friend for an honest opinion. “Is this a good place to shop? What should I change? What is distracting to consumers? These are all good questions to ask,” White said. “It really opens your eyes.”