See me, feel me

For retail guru Mike Still, product display is arguably the most powerful weapon a retailer possesses. It?s a shame then, he says, that so many garden centres are happy to get it wrong.

Getting the customer to purchase is what retail is all about, and in reality it?s pretty easy. Set a product on a shelf, table, or indeed whatever you like, put a price against it and someone will buy.

So why do many garden centres make it so hard on themselves? Why do so many just cram their stock in, often using a store layout that has developed ?over the years? to become not much more than just a muddle?

Of course, some garden centres turn over millions of pounds a year, possibly even following this approach. But dig a little deeper into customer numbers and average basket spend, and you?ll see that there?s always an opportunity to drive more business. (Just think, for instance, how much extra money would go in the till if everyone just spent one pound more.)

Maximising sales

Retailers have much in their armory to help them build a successful business. Yet, the one weapon that is arguably the most powerful, visual merchandising, is often overlooked, and much misunderstood.

According to the dictionary, visual merchandising is: ?The activity and profession of developing floor plans and three-dimensional displays in order to maximise sales, in an environment that supports both goods and services to highlight their features and benefits.?

Or to put it another way, visual merchandising is everything that the customer sees, both inside and outside of the store. It?s more than just display, it?s about how you communicate with your customer, through the environment, layout, landscape, fixtures, buying, and point of sale. Visual merchandising can and will define what and who you are as a retailer.

Laying the foundations

In my article last month discussing the customer journey, we talked about creating the foundations of visual merchandising via a layout that is easy to navigate and puts in place a framework on which to build your offer. In this feature, I explore display in its various forms and how to overlay the product onto this plan.

Display has a job to do ? a job that clearly is about positioning, sorting and of course, selling the product. However, it also has to communicate to the customer the various messages that you as a retailer are trying to put forward, ranging from ?Look at me, I?m over here? to ?What a great price?.

Understanding what each display is doing will help to decide how to showcase the product, and techniques have to be appropriate for what is trying to be achieved. There is very little point in creating something that looks like a piece of art if the customer feels they cannot pick the item up.

Visual sorting

One fundamental technique is to use different fixture types, in order to help the customer visually sort the displays which you?re presenting them with. The key here is to use a limited number of different types appropriate to the category. In many instances, standard retail shelving should form the basis for core merchandise, while gondola ends are great for promotion and focal points. Tables, dressers and bookcases are great for lifestyle display, meanwhile.

Keeping it simple is, as always, the right approach. And thinking about the product you are selling, and the amount you want to sell, will help decide how you display it.

As mentioned, core merchandise should be displayed upon ?standard? retail shelving. An authoritative display is achieved when we pre-sort the product to allow the customer to find what they want. The segmentation here will very much depend upon how the customer buys then product and what they need to know, usually sorting and vertically blocking by product type, brand, size and colour.

Volume and aspiration

When trying to sell volume, the display has to be simple, communicating belief, as well as price and obviously value. This is achieved through simple blocks of the same product, usually deployed on plinths, pallet stacks, promotional end shelving and sometimes on tables. These are often set with a single price message.

Another area to consider is aspirational display, which is used when trying to sell an idea, a theme or a collection. These will often be pulled together through seasonality, colour, trend and so on.

Regarding this kind of selling, try to find an iconic or large product that creates the focus and communicates the idea. Then, apply the colour, texture or form of the different products to help segment the space.

Do not over complicate this kind of display, as the customer?s eye has to be able to see the product rather than just the ?idea?. If you?re not careful, aspirational displays can easily be too contrived, and become creative masterpieces that in reality no one will want to touch.

Getting the balance right

Getting the best from your display effort, as with most things in life, is a matter of balance. This includes picking the correct display styles that help the customer focus and see everything you are selling. Also important is knowing when and where to use the different display styles in order to help them see your total offer.

Let your displays work well together and use the different techniques outlined above to create stand outs. Remember if there are too many aspirational displays (or indeed, too much of anything), confusion will be created. When products have to fight for attention, you will quite simply sell less of them

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