Merchandising is the process of presenting and promoting retail goods for sale and involves all of the non-verbal tactics retailers employ in-store to promote product sales. Retailers merchandise their stores to increase sales by creating an effective store layout, choosing the best products to sell, arranging those products attractively, and pricing them competitively.
Why Is Merchandising Important?
Merchandising is key for cultivating your brand, improving customer experience, and driving sales.
- Cultivating your brand: Merchandising creates visual consistency between multiple locations and your online presence, making your brand recognizable and retainable for customers.
- Enhancing customer experience: The experience that customers have when they are shopping and their overall impression of your business will be positively impacted by effective merchandising strategies, such as store layout and display techniques that promote customer interaction.
- Driving sales: Clear and effective merchandising can directly lead to increased sales through well-designed and well-stocked product displays, clear pricing, and creating an overall comfortable shopping experience.
Did you know? Sales and merchandising are very similar; however, they are not the same thing. Merchandising is a tactic used to encourage customer purchases in-store. Sales refers to the actual act of customers making a purchase.
Elements of Retail Merchandising
Retail merchandising includes different elements that are layered to create a complete merchandising picture in your storefront.
- Store design and layout: The layout of your store acts as a tour guide directing shoppers through all the products you have to offer.
- Product displays: Create temporary or permanent displays so that you can showcase key products to your customers.
- Product selection: To motivate shoppers to buy, retailers need to have attractive products and items that complement each other.
- Pricing strategy: Product pricing needs to be high enough to make a good profit, but competitive enough to appeal to shoppers. Retailers also offer promotions to strategically encourage spending.
- Ecommerce merchandising: Your business’s online store should also utilize merchandising strategies to create a compelling online presence.
- Loss prevention: Use smart product placement and theft prevention merchandising to avoid lost inventory.
- Store upkeep and cleanliness: Merchandising will require constant upkeep and rotation to keep your visuals fresh and your best products featured.
Benefits of Merchandising
One of the benefits of smart merchandising is increased foot traffic. Use effective merchandising in your window displays or outside of your store to catch the eyes of passersby and entice them to come inside.
For example, at my boutique, we had a folding sign that we put out front to let passersby know that we were there and open for business. On rainy or snowy days, however, we would pull the sign inside to avoid damage. In bad weather, a significantly higher percentage of people would walk by my shop without a second glance or would even knock on our unlocked door to see if we were open. Having effective merchandising outside my storefront significantly improved our foot traffic by indicating we were open and catching the eyes of people walking by.
You can also increase foot traffic by advertising events or community partnerships on your exterior signage. In a recent study from Mintel, it found that partnering with community groups and incorporating those partnerships into store branding will make your business more appealing to 73% of American consumers. Advertise those partnerships outside your store to increase foot traffic.
Additionally, promoting specials or sales will draw customers into your space by enticing them with the possibilities of deals. Promotional events create a sense of urgency amongst buyers, causing them to want to make immediate purchases to capitalize on limited-time deals.
Well-stocked shelves, clear pricing, and tidy displays promote more customer engagement and product visibility, which will help drive sales.
Utilizing a variety of display types is especially effective in increasing sales. In a study from the Statista Research Department, businesses reported that they saw a 19% increase in their sales from permanent displays and a 23.8% increase from temporary displays.
When products are easy to find, accessible to customers, displayed attractively, and priced well, they sell faster.
I cannot tell you how many times I would move a slow-selling item in my shop to its own display area or feature it in a more appropriate spot and it would be gone within the week. Making products visible and displaying them in an appealing manner increased the number of customers that saw them, and ultimately helped to get them sold.
Additionally, promotions and competitive pricing will make your products more appealing to customers and will help you turn over your stock faster. For example, in a study from The Journal of Marketing, it found that when retailers implemented a special “50% more free” promotion, they were able to sell 75% more product as customers perceived their purchases to be less of a risk and were more apt to make a sale.
Effective merchandising ensures that you are getting maximum utility from every square foot of your store and that no space is going unused. This will increase customer exposure to your products and will promote visual stimulation and product interaction throughout your store.
Say you were visiting a grocery store, and when you entered, many of the shelves were empty or minimally filled, and much of the floor space was vacant. This would be an example of a poorly merchandised store that did not effectively utilize its space, and thus became an unattractive grocery option for customers. Now imagine you visited the grocer next door, and their store was filled to the brim with merchandise and produce. This is a store that has been merchandised well and is utilizing its space effectively. Not to mention, you are more likely to stay and make a purchase.
There are a few ways that merchandising can increase customer return rates. First, changing up your retail display keeps the shopping experience exciting for customers. If your store is different every time they come in, they will visit more often to look for new items. Don’t worry, we will look at upkeep best practices further down in this article.
Second, if your merchandising is consistent and gives people a good sense of your brand, merchandising can help foster brand loyalty among customers. When customers know what to expect from you and feel like they have a sense of your brand, they will be more likely to form a bond with your business and be more incentivized to spend money with you as opposed to your competitors.
Finally, if you effectively merchandise your store around holidays or seasonal changes, customers will be more inclined to visit your store for time-sensitive shopping. For example, if a clothing boutique merchandises its store for springtime, customers will be more inclined to do their spring shopping there, and then return in the winter, when the space has taken on a more wintry feel.
Retail Merchandising Strategies
There are countless tactics retailers can use to promote products in-store. The biggest step is choosing an overall store layout that includes fitting rooms, permanent shelving, and the checkout counter. From there, retailers design temporary displays to entice customers and set promotional pricing to motivate customers to purchase.
Create an Effective Store Design and Layout
Planning an effective store layout is the first step in building a merchandising strategy to maximize sales in brick and mortar retail stores. Creating a deliberate store layout can strategically direct shoppers to high-priority products and drive impulse sales. A thoughtfully designed layout also creates an organized shopping space that is easy to navigate and provides an easy experience for the shopper.
Impulse purchase: Unlike a regular purchase, impulse buys are unplanned and often appeal to a sense of instant gratification. Effective pricing and display techniques are merchandising tools that incite impulse shopping.
Consider Your Customers
One aspect of creating an effective store design is considering the needs of your customers. For example, make sure aisles are spacious enough to accommodate wheelchairs and shopping carts. If you are an apparel store, make sure to have a comfortable fitting area. Many retailers also have seating areas for waiting family members. Some independent stores also cater to busy parents by having a dedicated children’s space.
Think about who your customers are and what they need. Consider the following:
- Children versus the elderly are going to have different needs that you want to accommodate such as space for strollers and ample walking space
- How are your customers shopping? Are people spending a lot of time browsing, or are they going in and out?
- Will people need somewhere to sit? Will they be waiting on people as part of their shopping experience?
- Will they be using shopping carts?
- How much traffic do you expect to see at your busiest times?
- You want to be sure you have left enough space for people to shop comfortably, even during peak shopping hours.
Choose a Store Layout Structure
Most retail stores fall under one of three basic store layout categories: grid, loop, and free-flow. The type best suited for your store depends on the type of products you sell, how much space you have, and the customer experience you seek to create.
Types of store layouts include:
Grid layouts typically utilize long aisles, with end-cap displays featuring impulse buy items and POP displays. Grid layouts are easy-to-navigate, use space effectively, and are typically found in retail locations with lots of product and abundant space. You will find grid layouts most commonly in convenience stores, big box stores, and groceries.
A loop store layout uses displays and shelving to create a loop pathway through your space. Typically, loop layouts prompt customers to go counterclockwise, as that is the direction that shoppers naturally move in. Loop designs are great for maximizing wall space, creating a guided customer experience, and exposing customers to your whole store. These layouts are found commonly in stores where you want to expose customers to your entire stock. Most commonly, jewelry, kitchen, electronic, and retail stores (such as Bed Bath and Beyond) will utilize this layout.
Free-flow store designs allow for maximum creativity and don’t follow a specific pattern. This makes them extremely popular for specialty stores and fashion retailers that benefit from many different display techniques. Free-flow layouts utilize a variety of different displays and product bundling to encourage shoppers to slow down and look around. They are also great for irregular spaces and allow maximum opportunity to change up your storefront.
Outfit Your Store With Displays and Fixtures
Once your basic store layout is designed and your permanent shelving has been lain, the space needs to be outfitted with displays and a checkout counter.
Place Your Checkout Counter
For most small stores, the best place for a checkout counter is the front left. Shoppers naturally drift to the right when they enter a store, loop around counterclockwise, and exit on the left side. A checkout at the front left of your store puts the final step in the shopping experience on your customers’ natural exit path.
Placing the checkout counter in the front right section takes away from valuable product space. Positioning the checkout at the back of the store can work for some retailers, but only if you had enough employees working at one time that you could keep someone positioned by the door to greet and assist customers. For most small stores with limited staff, placing the checkout counter at the rear of the store leaves the front unattended.
Once the layout and permanent store fixtures are set, you’ll need to design product displays. Think of your displays as pedestals for your best products. They should highlight best features, draw customers’ attention, and create visual interest in your store.
In addition to temporary displays, your store should also feature permanent displays that you can change up on a regular basis without disrupting your store layout.
Here we will look at nine key display types that you can incorporate into your store.
1. Decompression Zone
This is the area directly inside your retail store. When customers enter your store, they need to mentally shift from the world outside into your store environment. Decompression zones give customers time to pause, take in displays, get a sense of your brand, and make an initial judgment on your store.
The decompression zone should be clean, open, inviting, and void of clutter. The areas right outside this zone are also your most valuable promotional space and the first displays that customers will see. Use this section to showcase new products, holiday, and seasonal items such as back-to-school products, Halloween themed-items, or Valentine’s Day gifts. This is also the area of your store that should be changed over most regularly so that passersby are always seeing something fresh and enticing.
2. Speed Bumps
Speed bumps in retail merchandising refer to larger temporary displays that are placed along the store’s main traffic flow. Speed bumps slow customers down within your store and encourage them to examine the products within the display.
Speed bumps can look like anything from a cluster of mannequins to a small display table, and are another great area for showcasing seasonal products, specialty collections, or sale price stock. Speed bumps should be located away from the entrance so you are not impeding entry traffic, and it is recommended that you have one speed bump for every 100 square feet of retail space.
3. Window Displays
Window displays are the eyes into your retail store, and the first impression any customer will have of your business. Your window display will play a major role in bringing in foot traffic, so you should ensure that it is visually exciting enough to drive people inside. When making your window display, it is helpful to ask yourself whether it would entice you to enter if you were just passing by on the street.
Window displays should convey a specific message, build depth with levels and layers, and align with your store’s interior.
4. Focal Point Displays
Focal point displays are points of visual interest throughout your store that are designed to catch the eyes of customers and drive them to interact with your products. Generally, focal points are located to the front right of your store to create visual interest upon entry, and then additionally are scattered throughout to create visual interest points. Whereas speed bumps are directly in the flow of traffic, focal point displays can be alongside and at the end of aisles.
It is recommended that focal points displays play on height, as this will help to draw the eye. They should also have a cohesive theme and be orderly, not cluttered. Focal points can be a cluster of mannequins, to a sculptural element, to an inventive product display table. They do not necessarily have to be shoppable, but should always highlight products and promote interest in your merchandise.
5. Permanent POP Displays
Permanent POP displays, just like temporary counterparts, are display pieces that highlight and draw attention to key products. Permanent POP displays are great if you have a product that you are known for, and is a consistent bestseller or is a new brand partnership to highlight. It’s also ideal if you want to have a designated place to rotate in different key products.
POP displays are placed either throughout your shop as speed bumps, end caps, toward the front to draw customers into your space, or around the register to promote impulse buys. Permanent displays typically stay around for several months before they are rotated. But in some cases, like if you have an item that you are known for or is a consistent bestseller, your display will be a permanent, unchanging fixture of your space.
6. Seasonal Displays
Seasonal displays are displays that are in line with a holiday, season, or community happening. They connect your brand to the outside world of your customer, better integrating your business into the real lives of your shoppers.
Seasonal displays are a great way to advertise holiday discounts or deals, and to promote gift options. They are also a great tool for displaying and promoting seasonal items that only make sense during the time of year in question—think ornaments at Christmastime or tulip bulbs in the spring.
Seasonal displays should be located at the front of your store to catch the eyes of customers but should not exist in a vacuum. In other words, you do not want your display to be the only seasonal element in your store, and other seasonal decors should be incorporated throughout your space.
7. Digital Interactive Displays
Digital interactive displays are digital display pieces that feature key products and can be interacted with by customers, either offering a user experience sample or product information that they can explore themselves. These displays are great for promoting customer interaction, sharing lots of information in an interactive way and displaying product data efficiently and effectively.
Similar to POP displays, interactive digital displays should highlight key products, and should be located either toward the front of the store to draw customer attention, or throughout the space to act as speed bumps. They should also be rotated to feature new products regularly, and are best for products with lots of product features or information.
There is a lot of new interactive digital display technology coming out right now. Stay ahead of the merchandising curve by learning more about your interactive display options.
8. Counter Displays
Countertop displays are displays that sit on the checkout counters, and typically feature small, less expensive items that customers are likely to purchase impulsively. Think about any grocery store that you have been to. How many times have you grabbed a pack of gum or bag of chips from the checkout area as you are waiting to pay? The displays for those chips and packs of gum, those are counter displays.
9. Table Displays
Table displays are displays that are set up on, you guessed it, tables. Table displays utilize the tables that they are on to create focal points for specific products using either props/decor pieces or arranging products effectively without props. Table displays are great for creating diversity in presentation for clothing stores with lots of racks, and create speedbumps as customers are guided through your space.
Temporary displays stay in your store for a limited time, and are often constructed from materials from your supplier to create a pop-up display that can later be easily disposed of. Temporary displays tend to focus on seasonal, new, best-selling, and holiday products, and offer a powerful opportunity to draw attention to those products.
When placing your temporary displays, use these three guidelines as a general framework:
- Place traffic-driving products toward the back: Place your bestselling items or sales racks at the back of the store so customers need to walk through your entire space to and see all of your other merchandise.
- Display new and seasonal products at the entrance: Entice passersby with seasonal or holiday displays and trending products; keeping the front of your store fresh also gives regular shoppers something new to browse.
- Showcase impulse buys at the checkout: Stock small, low-cost items like candy, toys, makeup, or electronic accessories by the checkout counter so customers can add them to their basket while waiting to check out.
There are several different types of temporary displays that you can utilize, and you will likely want to implement a combination or all types:
A point-of-purchase, or POP display, is a type of display located around a specific product that uses signage or promotional materials to advertise said product. POP displays are the most common type of temporary displays, and you typically see them at cash registers or where customers queue up to make a purchase. POP displays can also be endcaps, shelf displays, cardboard signs, or other in-store signage and visual merchandising that guide customers to specific products or areas. POP displays can be permanent or semi-permanent, but typically are temporary.
For more on POP displays and how they can work for your business, read our POP article.
Display ready cases or “product displayed quickly” (PDQ) displays are temporary display pieces that are typically found within shelving and are used to maximize space while also creating a display that draws attention to products. PDQ displays act as cases for the items they are showcasing and can be fitted right into permanent shelving, making them great for smaller or shelf-heavy storefronts.
Sidekick displays, also known as power wing displays, are vertical shelving units that are used to display products in tight spaces. Typically, sidekick displays are placed close to the register, and are great for using space efficiently and stimulating impulse buys. Sidekick displays are often used for “toss in” items, or smaller merchandise that customers are more likely to absentmindedly throw in their cart.
Tip: When outfitting and merchandising your store, also consider loss prevention strategies. Tactics like placing your registers toward the front of your store, using mirrors throughout your layout, and locking up high-value items can help reduce theft. Read our guide on retail loss prevention for more information.
Build a Compelling Product Selection
Even the best store design in the world will not increase sales if you are not stocking your shelves with the right products. Building a great product selection is part research and part testing. Knowing your audience and researching competitor businesses will give you a good starting point for product purchasing. After that, it’s a matter of testing products in small batches and examining their performance.
Here’s how to build a compelling product selection in five steps:
1. Know Your Audience
The purpose of your retail store is to connect with your audience and convert them into paying customers. In order to do this, you need to clearly define who your audience is, whether it’s the people in a particular geographic area or people that have a specific specialty interest. Keeping your ideal buyer in mind will help you stay on track when purchasing products intended for them.
A few ways to gauge customer interest in products is to:
If you have an existing store, send out email surveys to your regular customers asking them to rank their interest in specific products, their satisfaction with their shopping experience, or blank surveys where customers can make their own requests.
In addition to providing feedback, a study from 2017 found that customers who took part in surveys spent more money than those who didn’t. Involving customers in running your business, and demonstrating your interest in their wants will help you boost sales and better understand your customer base.
Online tools can help you pick up on larger industry trends and anticipate decreasing demand.
For example, let’s say you are starting a beauty supply store, and you want to understand what the most popular beauty products are at the moment. You log on to Amazon and go to the beauty section of its best sellers page. There you find beauty items that have sold tens of thousands of times, and have raving customer reviews.
Taking time to look at industry trends will help you understand what is most popular in your industry, and can help you make smart buying decisions.
Now, say it’s been a few months, and you need to order some more supply for your store. You might just restock the mascara you had been selling through for the last few months, but you check the Amazon best sellers page again and see that the same mascara brand has come out with a new version of the mascara you already have, and it is moving up in the best seller charts. You decide to order the new mascara, placing you ahead of the curve, and ready for the next wave of demand.
Gather a small group of potential customers in your area to get feedback on different products and product categories in exchange for cash or a gift card compensation.
Consumer panels and focus groups are great for offering fast and actionable feedback at a relatively low cost. They also offer insights into longitudinal customer attitudes, as they tend to survey the same people several times over a long period of time. They will also give you more information than a survey, and you will be hearing directly from your customers unlike when looking at broader industry trends.
Consumer panels and focus groups offer different benefits and drawbacks. Take a look at this article comparing focus groups and consumer panels to help you determine which option will be better for you.
2. Research Competitors
Take a trip to competing stores to see what products they are stocking. Be sure to pay attention to what products seem popular, as well as what products are being marked down. Also visit retail websites to see what products they have available online. Read reviews to see what kinds of products customers are most satisfied with. Also check out social media sites to see which products other retailers are actively promoting.
3. Buy Outside of Personal Taste
A common mistake many retailers make is only purchasing products that they personally would wear or use. Stocking products based on measurable product feedback, trial and error, and industry trends will be far better indicators of good product selection than your own personal taste.
When I ran my boutique, we regularly stocked items that I did not like and would never wear myself. I quickly learned, however, that I cannot base customer taste on my own preferences as all those products I disliked flew off the shelves, and sometimes even demanded a restock.
4. Test in Small Batches
Even if you think a certain product is guaranteed to be a bestseller, don’t purchase 1,000 units of them upfront, even if you get a great discount. You truly never know exactly how a product will perform until it is in your store. Buy a smaller quantity first to test the waters.
The best way that you can get fast feedback about new, experimental products is by placing them front and center in your store or in their own display so customers can’t miss them. Smart product placement will maximize a product’s customer exposure, thus allowing you to see how that product is going to perform quickly, so you can determine whether you should order it in greater bulk, or if it was not a good fit for your business.
5. Use Retail Data Analytics
Constantly track how each product is performing in your store. Track how quickly each item is selling, but also look at profit margins, sell-through rates, and category sales to determine which products and general product categories are bringing in the most revenue.
You can keep track of these data points manually with a pen and paper system, or you can opt for an integrated POS system like Lightspeed to give you real time sales data.
Learn more about different retail data analytics and how to put them into practice.
Use Strategic Product Pricing
The way a product is priced also has a huge impact on a customer’s decision to purchase. Your pricing needs to be attractive and competitive enough to motivate shoppers to buy. However, it also needs to be high enough that you are making a decent profit margin.
Pricing strategies fall into two main groups: physiological and promotional. Here we will review a number of pricing strategies that motivate buyers to make purchases, while still maintaining those profit margins.
Psychological product pricing strategies give customers the impression that they are getting a deal or are saving money. The most common way that businesses do this is through the .99 cents strategy, or when you knock down your price by one penny so that the price tag reads $9.99 rather than $10.00, for example.
The .99 cent strategy is considered one of the best ways to maximize sales with the smallest price cut. The idea is that customers focus more on the first number on the price tag, so they feel like they are paying a much better price when in reality you have only decreased your margins by one cent.
Did you know?
By knocking down your price by just a penny and giving your products that .99 cents ending you can increase your sales by 10%.
Most retailers choose to mark all their goods with a .99 cents ending. Some, however, will reserve the power of psychological pricing for their sale pieces to try to incentivize a faster turnover of older merchandise.
Tip: You can learn more about pricing strategies and how you can devise one for your business through our Product Pricing Guide.
Promotional pricing is when a business temporarily drops its prices to quickly increase its sales. Promotional pricing creates a sense of urgency among buyers to capitalize on deals, inciting faster and larger purchases.
Promotional pricing is great for moving products at the end of a season, drawing customers in around a holiday or other special shopping occasion, attracting new customers, re-engaging old ones, and increasing sales volume.
Be sure to advertise promotions either outside or at the entry of your store, as sales will draw customers to your business when they might have just kept walking.
Here are common types of promotional pricing strategies:
The most common form of promotional pricing is percent discounts, a strategy utilized by 97% of retailers. Percent discount promotions typically run for a limited amount of time, or until the sale stock is completely sold out.
This strategy is relatively low risk and drives your sales volume. Plus, percent discounts can make customers feel good about their purchase with you, building brand loyalty and trust.
A similar type of promotional pricing is a flat-dollar amount discount. These types of sales are meant to drive up customers’ average transaction value by encouraging shoppers to spend more to get a better value.
Dollar-amount discounts are most often used for more expensive items as, psychologically, customers will have a more positive perception of a $50 off coupon than a 15% off coupon even if the actual dollar amount off from the 15% is greater.
For example, if you were selling televisions priced at $500 with a $50 off special, customers would be more inclined to buy the television with that coupon ($450 television) than they would be with a 15% off one ($425 television).
Gift with purchase (GWP) promotions involve giving the customer a free item with either a minimum dollar purchase or purchase of a specific (usually high-ticket) product.
Sometimes the gift with a GWP promotion is a retail product. However, another effective strategy is to offer a store gift card that can be used at a later date. Gift cards encourage shoppers to return and spend more at your store. In a recent survey, it was found that the average gift card user will spend an additional $38 when they redeem their gift card.
Using a POS system that has built-in gift card features makes running a GWP promotion easy to execute and track. Vend, for example, comes pre-set with gift card and customer management features that make running promotions a breeze.
Buy-one get-one (BOGO) promotions involve shoppers receiving a second product for free or at a deep discount with the purchase of one product.
This is an extremely compelling strategy, with 66% of consumers saying that BOGO promotions are the favorite type of sale model. BOGO promotions do, however, cut deeper into your profit margins than other types of promotional pricing, so they should be used sparingly.
Generally, retailers employ this strategy when they need to move older inventory, when they need immediate cash flow, or when they need to move perishable goods. Additionally, retailers tend to only run their BOGO sales for a very limited amount of time—24-hours or a weekend.
Bundle pricing is a promotional tool that lumps together multiple products to sell as a single unit. For example, insurance retailers will often bundle multiple insurance plans to keep the price down, but also get you to sign up for multiple services that you may have otherwise not purchased.
Retailers will often bundle an expensive but slow-moving item with a popular item at a discount, making the final package look like a great deal for shoppers, while also helping business owners move more products. Additionally, by discounting the less expensive item, profit margins are not too heavily impacted, and you are still able to move greater product volume.
Ecommerce Merchandising Strategies
Ecommerce merchandising is the practice of displaying and promoting products on your online store. All the basics of merchandising: layout, design, pricing, and displays all translate to your ecommerce website. And, just like with merchandising your storefront, your online presence should speak to your brand goals, and align with your products and customer base.
Here are some effective ecommerce merchandising strategies:
- Clear design: Just like the displays in your store should be thematic and uncluttered, your online presence should be streamlined with minimal sidebars, flashing text, or moving parts so that customers can just focus on the products.
- Simplified path to purchase: Having too many steps during the checkout process leads to abandoned carts, similar to how shoppers in-store might leave if the checkout line is too long; simplify this process as much as possible and have a status bar at the top indicating how many steps shoppers should expect during checkout.
- Easy navigation: Great in-store merchandising makes it easy for shoppers to find what they are looking for; online shoppers should also be able to find products easily with menu bars showing different product categories and a search function with the ability to sort and filter items.
- Powerful product descriptions: Instead of simply describing each product, your online product description should act as a virtual store associate and detail the benefits of every product.
- Integrated membership options: Allow customers to make an account with you to encourage their return, streamline with personal and purchase history, and maintain an ongoing line of communication.
- Homepage storytelling: Just like the window display in your storefront, your homepage will be where customers make their initial judgement about your business. Be sure your homepage is telling your brand story and enticing them to keep exploring your site.
Store Upkeep and Cleanliness
It may sound obvious, but keeping your store as neat and tidy as possible is important for encouraging sales. Being attentive to details like sparkling floors and clutter-free checkout counters shows customers that you take pride in your business, and also indicates that you will show them equal attention and respect. Whereas a scuffed floor and dusty corners show a lack of attention, and shoppers will assume that your level of service is equally inattentive.
The best way to maintain a clean store is to adopt a cleaning schedule. To do this, you will want to break your store into zones, and assign a different zone for cleaning each day. Keep in mind that some areas, like the entrance and exit as well as the bathrooms and checkout areas, will need to be cleaned more frequently than others. This resource from Dill Cleaning Service offers a comprehensive downloadable cleaning zone checklist.
In addition to keeping your store clean, updating your merchandising is another important part of store upkeep. But, how often should you be updating?
Here is a list of best practices and tips for updating your store merchandising:
- The six-month rule: As a general rule of thumb, redo your store’s space and category allocations every six months. This will encourage regular customers to re-explore your space, and be exposed to new products outside of their normal shopping path.
- Merchandise outside of store hours: Merchandising is a big project that often involves ladders and a messy take-down. You want to be sure your store is set up to go once you are open, so keep your merchandising projects to before or after your store is open.
- Window displays should be updated at least monthly: Your window displays are the most visible part of your store and should be changed up frequently to attract customers and keep your regular traffic interested.
- Remember the seasons: Most retail stores benefit from incorporating seasonal decor and merchandising into their storefront, so update your store with the seasons.
- Entrance displays should be rotated as much as possible: The displays right outside the decompression zones should be rotated frequently and feature your newest products so that even regular customers are hooked as soon as they step foot in your store.
- Weekly refresh: Update things like mannequins, table displays, rack organization, or shelving displays weekly to keep your store fresh. This is a great task to delegate to store associates during their shifts on slower days.
- Observational and analytical inputs: Use an integrated POS system like Lightspeed or observational data to determine what merchandising tactics are working best, so you can implement more effective tactics as you make your updates.
Merchandising Resources and Cost Considerations
The costs associated with merchandising vary widely, but you do not have to break the bank to create a beautifully merchandised storefront.
Before you begin merchandising, you will need to determine your budget. Start with a static budget, or the “goal number” that you would like to spend. To give you a little space to accommodate unforeseen issues or otherwise, also have a flexible budget, or the maximum you would spend.
Your budget will largely depend on how much revenue you bring in. The U.S. Small business Administration recommends spending 7-8% of your total revenue on all marketing initiatives, including merchandising.
Did you know? Merchandising is a type of marketing. Marketing refers to all promotional efforts inside and outside of a store, and merchandising refers to promotional efforts that happen within a retail store or website.
Here are a list of things you should consider and tips to help you stick to a budget:
- Consider your materials: You can often achieve the same look using different, more cost-effective materials such as cardboard or plastic. More often than not, if customers can see the look you were going for, they are not going to care whether you are using real mahogany or mahogany veneer.
- DIY it: Not everything has to be done by a professional. Use resources like Pinterest or the HGTV website to find DIY projects that will get your hands in the game while saving you money.
- Save your supplies: Keep track of your decor and fixtures, as you can often reuse them season after season without needing to invest in anything new.
- Order in bulk: Order things like lightbulbs, hardware, and cleaning supplies in bulk to save money and avoid paying shipping fees.
- Stay cohesive: If everything you use for merchandising is on brand and fits together, you can reuse products over and over again in new ways without having to invest in something new every time.
- Investment areas: Be considerate about where you are putting your money. You should spend the most money on the entrance and window displays as these areas will yield the greatest return. Whereas, the back of your store should have the most minimal merchandising, as it benefits the least from flashy displays and decor.
- Hire a professional merchandiser: If it fits in your budget, companies like Retail Merchandising Solutions are a great resource to help you find the most cost-effective supplies and teach you about economical merchandising solutions from a merchandising expert.
- Work with your suppliers: Reach out to your suppliers. They will often offer free temporary POP displays in exchange for you featuring their products.
Merchandising is a major part of starting your retail business and will determine how you use your space, your pricing strategies, and your display techniques. Making effective merchandising choices will also help you define your brand, customer experience, and drive sales. Learn more about merchandising your business by checking out our visual merchandising best practices guide.