Could You Help Your Retail Sales and Image With a Facelift?

How long has it been since you’ve shaken up your store and injected it with some energy and class by investing in some new fixtures? Yes, I know we’ve been in a terrible recession. But think about this for a minute. The customers that shop your store on a regular basis have been coming into your store for quite a while now. They want to see new items. They want to be excited and surprised. They want to see a fresh new face on the same old, same old… New fixtures change the way merchandise is presented in your store. Different presentations help draw attention to things customers may have never noticed. Fixtures update your store and help keep it relevant. If you are not happy with the way things have been going in your store, what is going to change. Do you actually believe that the gradual comeback of the economy is going to suddenly kick your sales into high gear? Were your sales in high gear before the recession?

Some Good News

The good news for retailer’s, who want to truly step up their game and their profits for 2011 and 2012, is that store fixtures are surprisingly economical these days. World suppliers are amazing in their ability to put out a quality product at minimal costs. Better more efficient inventory management skills, along with new materials and self-assembly have dramatically cut costs, compared to years ago.

Why wouldn’t any storeowner want to add to their stores flexibility and more importantly, the impact of their merchandise display efforts, with a one-time investment that could pay off for years? The really great thing about ordering new fixtures is that this is your chance to step your store up by adding some visual excitement in your store. New fixtures inject customers and even staff with some new enthusiasm. Fixtures aren’t there just to hold “stuff”, they are there to highlight, excite and present an array of merchandise in the best light possible. And while you’re at it, they also make your store look more professional, less cluttered and even more spacious.

The variety of fixtures available is virtually endless and as a result you’ll at least need a rough idea of what you want and need. You also need to do a little homework prior to ordering anything. Talk to store customers and other shoppers about what they have enjoyed most about their visit to your store and others. Ask them what stores have made the greatest impression on them. Then talk to suppliers about what they feel has had the most impact on selling the merchandise you need to focus on to be more successful.

Do Some Homework First

One thing I would be doing prior to ordering new fixtures for an existing store would be to follow some important numbers in my store over a period of time. You’re going to want to know your average transaction per visit as well as your average price per item sold. You’re also going to want to know your sales per category or department. I would also want to know how many people have passing through my shop if at all possible. Why know these things? Because, with this information and a little thought, you’ll be able to identify opportunities for improving performance, and work on developing ways to enhance these areas.

For example, if you know your average sale per customer and your average price per item sold, it will help you figure out where you may be lacking in product type and average price point. Maybe you need to be bringing more or better merchandise in a particular product category or possible a higher average price point. Regardless, you need to assess why your numbers and averages are where they are. Your fixtures may be in the way of helping you merchandise and showcase the products you want and need to sell. You may not have enough fixture space to highlight specific merchandise. If you think about it, I’m sure there have been a number of times when putting product out in your store that you wish you had a _______ or some extra _______’s. I would be keeping track of these little revelations over time to help you avoid clutter and confusion. If you’ve been getting out to other retailers, you may have even run into some shops that look a bit confusing and cluttered, because they have too wide of a range of mismatched merchandise that has been crammed into the wrong shelves and fixtures.

Without a specific vision of what you want, the best way to formulate a plan is to do a little research with regards to stores that you like. Try to visit a number of retail stores that are similar to the market you’re in. Or at least find a store with a look that you feel confident will work for your business. Take a close look at the specific fixtures that make up the store and try to snap some discreet photos on your phone if possible. A good distributor may be invaluable at helping you find the fixture look and function that you need and want. You probably don’t want to copy other stores exactly, and probably won’t be able to copy them exactly anyway. However, your fixture supplier should be able to help you get the look and the function you are looking for. Regardless of what you do, if you’re on a minimal budget, be sure to at least get the most important fixtures that are essential to your business.

A great place to start is with a floor plan that helps move customers around and through your store easily while minimizing dead spots, dark spots and dead ends. No matter what you are selling you will want to have some sort of central help or informational counter area. Keep in mind that cash registers are becoming less and less important in the whole process. Apple’s stores have totally removed the counter as a means of completing a purchase transaction. Check them out before you spend a small fortune on sales counters. Regardless, it is an area for some thought and consideration as you look to the future. If you still want a register area, do you want it to double as a display area or do you simply want a solid counter? Think about shoplifting and avoidance of opportunities for shoplifters. This can also be a major factor in determining where your checkout area will be.

Obviously the type of merchandise you sell, will go a long way in determining whether you need gondola shelving, garment racks, display cases, slatwall or some other combination of fixtures. Try to use display cases and fixtures that will be versatile in displaying all of your merchandise and will update the look of your store for years to come.

Don’t forget about adding some interest to walls, ceilings and fixtures with some graphics, fabric and props. It’s absolutely amazing what some colorful fabric stretched over some frames and hung from the ceiling or on walls will do to inject some color and spark into a store. These types of things will add minimal cost, while doing a lot to give your store more interest, ambiance and atmosphere, or maybe some pop. If your store is loaded with the typical fluorescent lights, ask an electrician what it might cost to lose some of these lights and convert some to incandescent or LED spot lights.

Buy For Your Target Market

Just as quality is important to the customers you sell to, the quality and appearance of your fixtures, go a long way in determining the image and brand of your store. For example, you’ll have a much harder selling top quality products to a more affluent clientele with a discount store or “mom and pop” store look. You don’t see jewelry stores placing their jewelry on cheap looking fixtures, because no one would buy from them. Match your fixtures to the target customer you are going after. Keep in mind that retailers are beginning to transform to a more entertaining, engaging and stylistic retail experience with the goal to keep customers comfortable and in the store as long as possible. The home decor stores are among the best at taking all different types of merchandise from napkins, vases, dishes, candleholders, flowers etc. and grouping them to spark customers into visualizing a new look for their homes. The candles aren’t just in one section of the store while the vases are stacked up in another part of the store.

Even the jewelry stores have fallen behind the eight ball here. If you think about all the jewelry stores out there, especially the family jewelry stores, they are essentially a museum from the past in terms of their approach with fixtures and displays. A jewelry store in 2011 looks pretty much like the way they looked in the 50’s and 60’s. Why is that? Look at getting yourself and your employees from behind the counters and out with your customers. The days of the large long lines of glass counters where the employee is barricaded behind the counter and the customer is isolated in the center of a large band of counters is disappearing. More and more, hotels, eyeglass stores, banks hotels and retailers are reducing the counters they stand behind in isolation. Even at trade shows there has been a major movement to eliminate the big table or barricade between the booth hosts and the visitors. Many boutique retailers are taking the approach of getting out with the customer and from behind the counters even though it means unlocking a case and walking around to the customer. It’s all about making it easier to connect and interact. That means seriously considering a change in the way you setup your store.

Insure Customers See What You Have

Jewelry stores as well as other retailers may want to follow the lead of more stores today that are combining different types of products into effective displays which help present more variety and themed ideas to the customer rather than rigid categorization, i.e. watches in this case, necklaces in that case. Today’s best retailers, merchandise multiple items in a way that creates a picture or a theme. The idea is to allow the customer to see other possibilities and product choices that may supplement their choice. Why would a gift store or a bookstore or any other type of store want to take a customer to one or two fixtures and say this is what we have to look at here? If you think about it, you really do want your customers to look at the whole store, don’t you? You want them to run into something that surprises them and catches their eye?

As long as you’re shaking things up, why not use a manikin to help create the bejeweled fashion picture in a jewelry store, or dress a manikin up to help draw attention and create a sporting goods, cooking or vacation theme?

I bring all of this up because things are changing, even if some haven’t noticed or caught on. Again, give some careful consideration as to what the leading trendsetters in your field are doing with store design, fixtures and now even flat screen televisions to add movement, color and create interest. Don’t spend money to look like a newer repeat of the same old store.

Not only is themed merchandising and working to create the picture important, the overall atmosphere that is conducive to the selling of your particular products has become more and more important. A brighter, fresher look with more space has also become more important. Regardless, it’s all about becoming more appealing to YOUR target customer; consequently fixtures and store atmosphere are not a place you want to compromise too much. They are a critically important investment in the image and future of your store.

For some storeowners, I’m sure I’m going to hear that any expense is too much and it may well be. But if your customer service, location and your product niche is where you feel it needs to be, and customer interest is lagging, then maybe the one thing you need is a shot of visual excitement in the form of new fixtures, new color and new graphics. If you truly can’t afford a substantial makeover, take one area or category of your store and update it with some new fixtures and a new look.

Again, you can’t do nothing and expect that things will just make a dramatic turnaround. 2011 may be your time to ask yourself some hard questions. You just may find some of the answers in a new and exciting fixture update.

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