Customizing your store for the people shopping
One of the biggest lessons I learned as a Visual Merchandiser in the fashion retail world was that merchandising (design) is very subjective. One person could walk the store and hate this or that. Then a different person can walk the store and love those very things. Sometimes, even, the same person that hated that thing will have a different opinion by the time they get to the end of the walkthrough. It’s a roller-coaster ride!
Merchandising is one area of business that is subjective to the person seeing it and everyone sees things differently – Everyone interrupts things differently and everyone has their own, personal, preferences. And although the Executives might have their own preferences, as a good Visual Merchandiser, you have to know your market; You have to know your customer. Afterall, they are the ones keeping you in business.
So how do you merchandise for your customer? Although every market is a little bit different, I can share with you some things to look for when making merchandising decisions.
Wardrobe vs Commodity Merchandising
When placing product, think about how your customer shops. For example, in Canada, most men shop the look – a mannequin is dress in a shirt, blazer and jeans, this shopper buys all three items. This customer shops well in a store that is merchandised by wardrobe.
If this is your customer, pay attention to the items you place on display – make sure you have items in stock and that you have multiple garments on display to increase your sale (items/transaction or dollars/transition goals). You’ll also want to merchandise your store by wardrobe for this customer.
On the other hand, although women shoppers also thrive in a wardrobe merchandised store, in general, they do better in a store that is merchandised by commodity. For the most part, women can put together an outfit without the help of a mannequin. But when a woman finds an item they like, they will often buy it in multiple colours. In this case, merchandising by commodity for this customer will help increase sales by making other colour choices easily found.
Of course, these rules aren’t restricted to gender. For example, in high fashion stores where it might be hard to see how a garment is supposed to be worn, merchandising by wardrobe could be the better option for this shopper – that extra bit of inspiration.
Showcase Items that Speak to your Customer Today
You might not have the luxury of buying the merchandise you receive in store, but you can control what real estate it gets. Corporate might buy and send you winter jackets in August but unless you are in the artic, chances are, your customer isn’t going to buy them…yet.
Choose items in high profile locations (real estate) that reignites with your customer, today. If it’s 30 degrees outside today, showcase the cropped summer tops on your tables, faceouts and mannequins. If tomorrow it’s 17 degrees, switch out that summer top for a sweater. If it’s raining, bring those raincoats out to the front of the store. If your customer walks into your store and doesn’t see what is relevant to them, what they are feeling today, they aren’t going to buy. They might not even shop. And this won’t be the same country to country, province to province or even city to city.
Use Fixtures that Resonates with your Customer
The type of floor fixtures you use in your store or even in certain areas of your store can have an impact on your customers shopping experience. Even as basic as the style of fixture. Again, if the style of the store resonates with your customer, they are more likely to shop.
If your customer is a deal shopper, they might be more comfortable in a store that is setup with rows and rows of rails (think Winners). That’s not to say your whole store has to be setup that way to appeal to that customer but I bet you see them hanging around a sale section that is set this way.
If your customer is a shopper with purpose (here for something specific), they will be more likely to shop a store that has more faceouts and presentations than the above. You’ll want to use fixtures and wall setups that face outward your merchandise – showcasing it.
The design of the fixtures being used is also something to consider. Does your customer shop tables or do they avoid them and stick to the hung racks? Does a matte black finish resonate with your customer or are they drawn to a high gloss, shiny, finish? This might be a more out of your control from a decision standpoint but if you can make an impact, think about your customer.
Shopping Height and Access
The last area I’m going to touch on (for now) is something so basic but something that is often overlooked – height and access. If your customer can’t access the merchandise – feel, touch, see – then how can they buy it? And depending on your customer, they might not be willing to find a sale associate to help them get a size or garment down.
For the most part, when it’s adults merchandising for adults, access to merchandise happens naturally. When an adult is setting up a store for other adults, the height is accessible to other adults. Generally speaking. That said, if you are merchandising 10-12ft above the floor, you might want to relook at your plans. Unless you are staffed to be able to help customers exclusively or your customer isn’t the type to ask for help, putting merchandise that high up the wall is leaving money on the table. If you can’t reach it, you can’t buy it.
Where height and access often gets overlooked is in kids departments/stores. Although it might be the adults at the cash register, the true customer is the kid. Kids now have a lot more say in what they wear and will gravitate to things that the parent or grandparent might not. If a child is able to pickup an item, there is a higher chance that they will leave with it. So make it easy for them to be involved in the shopping experience. Try these easy, and still impactful, ways to lower the merchandise in a kids department:
- Use a shelf on upper area of the wall with some mannequins. This naturally lowers the merchandising area while still having interest on the wall, that is seen from across the store.
- Use waterfall faceouts when possible to showcase outfits or matching items. Allowing space for the waterfall also naturally brings down the height of the merchandise.
- Place “parent friendly” garments higher on the wall and “fun-er” garments where kids can reach. Things like basic jeans, tee’s or sweater are things a parent will grab and gravitate toward when shopping. When you merchandise some of the fun pieces, at kid level, with the parents must –have pieces, you increase the chances of a child picking up a piece the parent might not and adding it to their sale.
- Use size appropriate floor fixtures. Pretty straightforward.
- Have fun with design! kids like bright colours and fun characters. Try to incorporate these items into your design.
Visual Merchandising is without question an art. Not only do you have to have sound design (and style) sense but you have to be able to layer that with business sense. You need to be able to make yourself impartial and look at your store from the viewpoint of you customer. Then make changes to better your customer, no matter what your preference would be. It is a critical role in any retail business.
If you have questions on how to apply this to your store, contact us through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through Reddit.