We love TV makeover shows, especially the ones about retail makeovers. Each show is loaded with plenty of angst and drama – the shops are in various stages of disarray, the employees are snarky and the owners are generally clueless about the state of their business. But through the magic of television (and deep pockets), the stores are brought back from the brink of disaster in 60 minutes or less.
We know that reality shows are edited to make things look worse then they actually are, but we are always just a little surprised at how the business owners react to the makeover team. There are a lot of “Yes, buts” flying around, meaning the owners really have no idea how they got into the predicament they are currently in, let alone how to remedy their situation.
We also know how they got there; they suffer from “Retail Tunnel Vision”, a state of mind that kicks in when we become so focused on our daily “to do” lists that we lose sight of the big picture. These retailers didn’t open their doors that first day of business thinking they would wind up on a television show, having their retail challenges on display for the entire world to see. And critique. We’re sure they believed that their bright and shiny new stores would attract all kinds of customers and business would thrive. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, that just doesn’t happen.
We do many retail makeovers throughout the year. We’re not as blunt as the TV hosts, we don’t work with big TV budgets, and we don’t transform shabby businesses into showplaces in less than an hour, but we do impact them for the better. Retail perfection takes time. When we do a one-day Mini-Store Makeover, we change as much of the sales floor as humanly possible. It helps when the store owner is aggressive and really wants to see positive change.
Not too long ago we did one-day mini-makeovers on four independently owned and operated stores. Two of the stores needed more than a one-day makeover, so in addition to immediate merchandising changes, we created a step-by-step plan to overhaul the stores. The third store needed just a visual merchandising tweak (it’s amazing what just a few changes can do to a sales floor!), and the fourth was, well, just a whole lot of fun.
Store # 4 was opened for business over 25 years ago by a sharp female entrepreneur; today it’s run by that same woman and her two daughters. Gifts, pottery, fine jewelry, crystal, apparel and gourmet foods are displayed in the many rooms of a historic home. It’s a fun store with ambiance to spare, but parts of it had remained the same since the day it opened – it was definitely time for change.
One of the first things we did was move the heavily shopped food items from the right front Power Wall to the back of the store. There is a reason grocer’s place necessary items such as milk and bread at the rear of the store: they want shoppers to walk through aisles of impulse items before they reach their destination product. This store needed to do this as well, so we relocated the food to the back of the shop, creating a wonderful nook for food and related items. The right front Power Wall was re-merchandised to feature beautiful hand-made pottery.
We completely tossed the room that housed the shop’s library. Before the mini-makeover, book racks had been placed to partly conceal two of the shop’s large front windows. We re-set the room to create a warm place to peruse the books, plus window displays that were appealing from both inside and outside of the store.
The fine jewelry cases were reset, adding jewelry forms to create depth, add romance and to highlight product groupings. One of our suggestions was to get rid of the old and out-of-date gold jewelry – it sold for almost $10,000!
The shop’s owners really go into it – together we changed display after display after display. We re-merchandised the sales floor and packed old product to be sold at festivals, auctioned on e-Bay, or donated to charity. By the time we left, that shop had a whole new look. But the best part was how the shop’s owners rose to the occasion – they are still they making positive changes! Customers like the changes and business is brisk.
Perhaps it’s time to do a mini-makeover in your own store? When was the last time you objectively viewed your store through your customers’ eyes? Last month? Last year? Never? If you think it’s time for a change, begin with this exercise. You’ll need a pen, paper, a digital camera, and lots of objectivity.
q First up: the V & Vista exercise: Stand inside your front door just beyond the Decompression Zone (about 5’ inside the store) and spread your arms out at shoulder height with your index fingers extended. What’s inside the V your arms make is called is the
Vista – the
area that builds a shopper’s first impression of your store. The space inside the Vista
needs to be clean, uncluttered and full of not-to-be-missed product. You need a Speed Bump display to stop shoppers inside the Vista.
Choose a small fixture or better yet stacking tables that can hold an
assortment of cross-merchandised product, and are low enough for customers to
see through the store. Change your Speed Bump display(s) weekly.
The V will help you find your store’s Power Walls. Follow your nose down your right arm to the tip of your right index finger – the wall you are looking at is your front right Power Wall; the most important selling wall in your store. That’s because 90 percent of shoppers will enter your store and look or turn to the right. Use this wall (and the sales floor at the front right) to feature new, hot and happening product.
Now, follow your nose down your left arm to the tip of your left index finger. This left front Power Wall is also important – display it with as much thought and care as your right front Power Wall. Like your Speed Bump displays, Power Walls need to be changed frequently. At least once a month.
q Now, walk through your entire store wearing your customers’ eyes. Write down everything that needs to be changed, moved, updated, closed out, tossed or given away. Make a list of things to do. Note what needs to be changed ASAP and what can be fixed over time. By the way, if you do this exercise and only find two or three things to do, you are not being objective. Open your eyes and do it again.
q After completing this exercise take photos with your digital camera. A camera has no personal investment in what it sees – it only sees what is in front of it. That’s why you sometimes look at photos of your store and think, “It doesn’t look that bad!” Yes, it does – the camera doesn’t lie. Digital cameras are great because you can instantly compare your perception with what is actually there. Keep a reference book of before and after photos, it will come in handy year after year when you need display ideas.
Look at big picture things as well:
q Do your walls need a fresh coat of paint? Does your choice of interior decor colors flatter your product? Do you have large display props that take away from the ambiance of your store? Perhaps that thatched canopy over the checkout counter or the mural painted on your front wall looked better on paper than they actually are – make the merchandise the star, not the fixtures!
q Do your walls need additional attention? We’ve been in many stores that have the walls lined with slatwall, but that slatwall stops about 5’ from the ceiling, leaving a lot of empty space above the fixture line. This area needs attention: empty space above the fixture line causes shoppers eyes to wander, you need something to refocus them on the product below. You can add additional slatwall, paint favorite quotations, or a clean design, around the perimeter of the store, or add display boards to showcase product.
q Are your fixtures helping to sell product? Fixtures are meant to disappear and let the merchandise shine. One of the things we recommended in the store # 4 makeover was the elimination of tall wooden hutches located at the front of the store. Although they did a good job of housing product, they formed a barrier that limited the shopper’s view throughout the store. We recommended these fixtures be replaced with a glass cube system that would show off the product and the store.
q Your store signing plays a key role in your store decor. Unless you have killer handwriting and specific rules as to how your signs should look, handwritten signs are a big no-no. So are cutesy signs, like “Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy.” Even if kids are driving you crazy, don’t do it. These signs just irritate customers and make your store look bad.
Signs need to be professionally made and displayed in sign holders. Insignia Systems offers easy-to-use signing systems that operate with the ease of a typewriter.
q Set your cash wrap counter to sell. Unless your store’s foot print prohibits it, the cash wrap counter should never be placed at the front right of your store. This is prime selling real estate, and besides, you don’t want shoppers thinking about paying before they’ve even had a chance to shop. The cash wrap works much better on the left side of your store, or in the center, set back about 15 - 20’.
The area behind the cash wrap is prime selling space, but this area in three of our four mini-makeovers had become cluttered and unworkable.
In each store, we rewrote policy signing to make it sound more positive: “We will gladly refund your money within 30 days. Your receipt guarantees it.” We cleaned up the area so customers could comfortably pay for their purchases. We stocked often forgotten items under the cash wrap, and sprinkled impulse items on the top counter to increase add-on sales. Then we created irresistible displays behind each cash wrap so that customers would never stop thinking about merchandise.
In the end, the success of any store makeover relies on the commitment of the store owner. We’ve worked with retailers who took our advice to heart and enjoyed big benefits. We’ve also worked with retailers who did nothing more after we left the store. Big mistake.
Your sales floor is your store’s biggest marketing piece – it’s on stage each and every day. It must be carefully merchandised, signed and ready to sell. Drop us an e-mail if you’d like a free telephone consultation!
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