SEMA News - September 2009

By Steve Campbell

Tips, Tricks and Fixtures That Will Make Any Store Stand Out

Top products and experienced salespeople are half the battle in retail sales. The other half—possibly the most difficult half—is merchandising a store so that the quality of its products stand out and the sales force has the opportunity to service customers properly. Setting up displays, arranging counters and fixtures, designing floor space and layout are all crucial to the success of a retail operation.

Those ingredients are too often left to chance or are determined as an afterthought when a business begins operations. As the economy rebounds, now is the time to ensure that consumers who are finding the confidence to spend again can also find the products they want at your store.

Experts say that those who adjust to market conditions will survive the downturn, which calls for a careful re-examination of your business and reacting to problem areas. Keeping a positive attitude is crucial, but some of the best sources for help are the manufacturers who create your products and the warehouse distributors who deliver them. They are obviously more than happy to work with retail outlets on the introduction of new products as well as continuing to service existing lines.

“You can also work with these ‘partners’ to adjust stock that isn’t moving,” advised Brion Coyne, president of Aftermarket Advantage Inc., a store design and marketing company. “Check with your suppliers to exchange poor movers for items with a good sales history. If there was ever a time to work closely with suppliers on stock adjustments and new-product promotion, it is now.”

Most retailers can also benefit enormously by seeking advice from professional merchandisers and experienced display fixture professionals. They’ve studied what works and what doesn’t, and they can provide insight tailored specifically for your store.

“Too many dealers search the web for merchandising solutions,” said Mike Staples, president of Naythons Display, a display fixture and retail merchandising distributor. “The Internet may be a good source for finding the lowest price, but it’s not a good way to find the solutions needed to effectively merchandise a particular product or category. For example, an expert can give advice as to what finish should be used. Black display fixtures are great for aftermarket displays, but they need more ambient light than white or chrome store fixtures. You won’t find a website with that kind of information.”

In some cases, a local college or university may offer a visual merchandising or fashion design course. A jobber/retailer may be able to receive free help with interior visual merchandising by offering the store as a teaching environment for students. Instructors are often on the lookout for real-world laboratories where students can learn by doing.

In the accompanying photos and captions, Coyne and Staples offer myriad ideas, tricks and tips for sprucing up a retail store without taking on a bailout-size loan.


Aftermarket Advantage Inc.

Naythons Display

SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “Your own energy and interest in the goods you sell doesn’t cost you anything but time,” advised Aftermarket Advantage President Brion Coyne. “As a much younger guy working in a mass-merchant store, I was required to build creative displays of goods with existing fixtures only. There were no instructions or additional point-of-purchase devices. There were only hooks, shelves and products. We have a lot more to work with these days, but if your display material is limited, use your enthusiasm! Here is an example of a well-designed display that doesn’t count on anything but basic fixtures and some creativity.” (Photo courtesy of Aftermarket Advantage) 
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “The three worst mistakes a retailer can make in this economy are buying used fixtures, under-stocking display racks and retaining inattentive salespeople,” said Mike Staples, president of Naythons Display. “As stores go out of business, the market is flooded with used fixtures. Most of them are not stock commodity fixtures but have been custom designed for a particular brand of apparel or hard goods. They may have looked great for their intended purpose, but they could really be a deal breaker when used in a different retail environment. The display shown above is known as a Pinwheel Rack. It is four sided and allows the customer to easily walk around it. It can be merchandised with hooks, shelves, baskets or any other display fixture. All Slatgrid Racks are available with casters for easy repositioning and promotional signs. Gondola and Pinwheel racks are also popular with warehouse distributors who provide display programs. Racks can be furnished in ‘kits’ with a unique array of fixtures carefully chosen to best display a proprietary product.” (Photo courtesy of Naythons Display)  
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING   “The same Slatgrid Panels used on a floor rack can also be purchased in longer lengths or heights and used on the wall,” Staples said. “This type of display is especially effective for heavier items or items that need to be cable-tied for a secure fit. The panels can also be configured as freestanding towers or around columns. The Slatgrid Panels are 24 inches high, are available in black, chrome and white, and are 24 inches wide. Panels 72 inches high or less ship via UPS.” (Photo courtesy of Naythons Display)
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “Without good lighting, even the most expensive display fixture becomes useless,” Staples counseled. “Ambient lighting provides general lighting for the interior of the store. Most retail spaces utilize fluorenscent lighting, but many retailers don’t realize that—unlike incandescent lights that burn out suddenly and trigger the need to be changed—fluorenscent bulbs burn out slowly over time. This slow process generally goes unnoticed by the dealer, and the store becomes under-lighted. These bulbs must be changed before they become ineffective and harm the merchandising. This shot shows a well lit Corner-Connector. The slatwall panels snap together, creating free-standing walls, angular wall systems, custom-shaped floor racks and other creative merchandising solutions. They’re also ideal for breaking up flat wall displays and creating inexpensive product categories.” (Photo courtesy of Naythons Display)  
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “Never look like you’re ‘going out of business,’” Coyne said. “I was in a new-car dealership last month, and they had no cars on the sales floor. Zero. Not one. They were open and had new inventory outside, but the floor was empty. They might as well have put up a sign saying “Gone Fishing.” Do your best every day to spruce up and re-stock your sales floor like this one is. It sends a strong message.” (Photo courtesy of Aftermarket Advantage
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “A dealer can buy an inexpensive premanufactured counter like this one and then spruce it up with step plate, cart guards or other details to give it the perception of a more stylized counter at a low cost,” Staples said. “And store fixtures can be leased. As a matter of fact, unlike other sources of lending, many leasing companies are doing just fine and are highly capitalized right now. Leases, unlike loans, are collateralized by the equipment leased, not other assets like real estate.” (Photo courtesy of Naythons Display)  
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “When a tight budget is a critical factor in purchasing any fixed asset for a retail store, the key word is ‘sub-optimization,’” Coyne said. “That may sound a bit negative, but it really isn’t when you add your own initiative to the recipe. In the case of display fixtures, your own imagination combined with less-expensive fixtures can create unique, one-of-a-kind displays that are attractive and functional.” (Photo courtesy of Aftermarket Advantage)  
SEMA NEWS-SEPTEMBER 2009-BUSINESS MERCHANDISING  “Lighting always makes a difference,” Coyne said. “Shoppers will avoid ‘dead zones’ on your showroom floor where the lighting is dim. If it’s in the budget to purchase high-end auxiliary lighting to supplement your existing fixed system, it’s well worth it. Even if you can’t make that investment, many low-cost alternatives are available and will make a dramatic and positive change to your selling atmosphere.” (Photo courtesy of Aftermarket Advantage)  

Top 10 Merchandising Tips

1. Group products together. Ensure that tie-in accessories are near the higher-ticket items. The add-ons can increase sales significantly.

2. Arrange similar products by price point, lowest to highest. That makes it easier for a salesperson to upsell the customer by comparing features.

3. Utilize name brands. Brands reinforce the customer’s trust in the products you sell. Never underestimate the power of name recognition.

4. Stay organized. Clean, orderly and artful displays reflect pride in your products and increase their perceived value.

5. Use the right fixture. Never try to repurpose a fixture for something it wasn’t intended to do. Always check for weight capacity and structural integrity, especially with freestanding merchandisers.

6. Be consistent when merchandising quantities of shelved or carded goods. Smaller item to the left, larger on the right, small on top, larger on the bottom and so on. High-profit items should be at eye level. Don’t make your customers struggle to find what they’re looking for.

7. Be sure that categories are clearly indicated. Signage is your best friend and a free salesperson, but handwritten signs can send the wrong message. Professional signage is always a good idea.

8. Be sure lighting is bright enough. Nothing makes people happier than being able to see.

9. Place new or high-profit products where your customers can’t miss them. Find your store’s hot spot and change displays frequently there to encourage sales.

10. Be innovative. Seek out new products, new display methods and new ideas. Always be planning your next sale. Get into your customer’s head and anticipate their needs.

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