SEMA Member News—March/April 2013
Better Merchandising Leads toBetter Sales...and Profits
By Wayne Williams
I couldn’t help but notice how nicely merchandised the Starbucks Coffee Shops were this past holiday season. Again this year, my wife and I did the Christmas shopping together, and because my wife is a happier shopper when she has a Starbucks coffee in her hand, we visited a number of locations.
As a marketing and former retail store guy, my attention was drawn to the merchandising—especially the Starbucks coffee mugs. I watched customer after customer pick up a mug while standing in line to order coffee. I thought we had enough mugs, but I guess not. I started my usual math analysis: If Starbucks has 20,000 stores and sells five mugs each week, that’s more than five million coffee mugs annually. Certainly half of all the mugs the chain sells are impulse purchases as a result of properly planned and executed merchandising.
One of the most successful custom wheel and performance tire retailers over the last several decades is located in Anaheim, California. Wheel Warehouse does a lot of things right, and one thing it does better than most is merchandising. The showroom is loaded with wheels—hundreds and hundreds of wheels—but not just on display: merchandised. Some are on wheel racks and some in the standard industry fashion of four boxes stacked with the top wheel on display. Interspersed are a handful of custom racks provided by wheel vendors, adding to an overall professional look that screams: “We do wheels, and we get it.”
The wheels are segmented by vehicle type: German and Asian performance sedans, off-road trucks and SUVs along with sport compact tuner applications. The showroom merchandises products from approximately 25 wheel vendors, giving the brands an honest representation.
The high ceiling with stacked products lining the walls gives the showroom a strong visual impact. The merchandise in the center floor area is spaced properly; though full, it’s not crowded. The wheels are always clean, and the showroom is properly maintained daily. Of course, music is playing, and when customers start arriving, there is a hum in the air—energy that helps create an atmosphere for selling and servicing the clientele.
Sometimes it gets loud in the sales floor/showroom area, so the team has created a smaller, separate area, a showroom within the showroom to consult with certain clientele who require undivided attention. According to Mark Singer, director of operations: “Some of our customers prefer very attentive, uninterrupted and customized service.”
To accommodate such customers, this smaller area adjacent to the showroom is divided by a concrete wall that provides both soundproofing and a “nice respite,” according to Singer. The showroom suite is also merchandised with some of the finest, high-end wheels available today. The lighting is such that the feeling is more calm, laid-back and comfortable.
The area is laid out in a minimalist design, with a black-and-chrome desk at one end and corresponding chairs. On the desk is a black monitor and keyboard for the sales staff to present and walk customers through the wheel-selection process. Everything in this area—the layout, the lighting, the seating, the Internet cafe, the charging station for cell phones, laptops and tablets—says, “We did this for you. You’re special.”
Wheel Warehouse partners Mike Yablonka and Chris Granger agree. “The initial response has been 100% positive,” they said.
It’s important to note that the store’s overall layout also permits a natural barrier and a separate waiting area. The concept has been well thought-out and well executed. The next planned addition is a small, black refrigerator that is stocked with waters, beverages, energy drinks and chocolates.
What Wheel Warehouse has done is take advantage of its facility and re-merchandised a portion of the store to meet the needs of certain customers.
Just a few weeks before the holidays, I visited a tire dealer with a small showroom, probably about the size of the Wheel Warehouse showroom suite. I noticed that only two of the four chairs in the waiting area matched; the table was a different color; and magazines were tossed in a cardboard box sporting cobwebs and dust balls. Undoubtedly, the floor gets swept once a week, whether it needs it or not.
Merchandising is about sales, customer service and convenience, or merchandising is about convenience, customer service and sales. No matter how you look at it, a well-merchandised store has an advantage in the marketplace.