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Sunday, November 23, 2014 Vol. 78 No. 7


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Merchandising: Simple, Yet Effective
| John Bray
  
>> Published Date: 4/25/2013
 
Merchandise rarely sells itself—at least not in the volumes you need to keep moving forward. Soft goods, hard goods or live goods: everything requires finesse. In its simplest form, this finesse comes from three places: The people, the quality of the merchandise and merchandising techniques.

It’s not always easy to achieve innovative displays that catch the eye of your customers and keep your sales floor looking fresh. But before we can begin to discuss innovative displays, you need to understand innovation can be any change, regardless of size, that helps your business or
customers.

Now, knowing that innovation doesn’t have to be completely earth-shattering, let’s looks at how a few simple innovations can set you and your merchandise apart. Embracing trends is perhaps the easiest way to make the most of your merchandising.
 
An Eye for Color
Color blocking isn’t necessarily new, but it’s great because it allows you to not only make things eye-catching for your customers, it also keeps things organized for your staff. At Chalet in Wilmette, Illinois, annuals are separated first into two categories based on sun and shade and then color blocked within these two categories. To take this organization a step further, everything in each block is alphabetized. Simple, organized and beautifully presented. A solid, innovative display.

Color blocking hard goods and live goods is just one way of catching the consumer’s eye in an easy, yet dynamic, way.

Embracing Organization
Edibles continue to trend, but it’s easy to stand out from the crowd by embracing the knowledge that “edible” doesn’t just mean tomatoes and peppers. It’s important to show people that “it’s more than just a little vegetable garden,” notes John Hoerst, a buyer and merchandising manager at Chalet. For John, that means pulling in berry bushes and fruit trees, along with large, grafted tomatoes to encourage a larger edible spread. Combining tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas with raspberry bushes and apple trees may be the opposite of typical organization, but theming displays is a great way to help your customers make pairs they may not have considered.

This can apply in other areas, as well, like organic pest controls paired up with non-chemical pest management and composting materials for a solid “green” feature. Much of the retail world does a fantastic job of pairing merchandise—oftentimes making pairs consumers may not have immediately considered in order to boost sales—and the green movement offers a great opportunity for garden centers to do the same.

Make it Shoppable
This could easily be the mantra of nearly everything ever written or discussed regarding merchandising and the world of retail, but that doesn’t mean making your merchandise shoppable has to be boring. In fact, with shopability being such a necessity, this is perhaps the easiest area for some simple innovation. Rows and rows of plants are okay and even necessary, but a simple twist could be garden displays. At Chalet, that means endcap gardens that feature a variety of plants to give the customer the illusion of a garden. The benefit? Everything can be easily removed for purchase and the gardens change regularly so that nothing’s ever the same.

The Growing Place, with two locations in Illinois (Aurora and Naperville) uses a similar technique with what they refer to as Learning Gardens. “The goal of the gardens is to be able to show customers what plants look like in maturity,” explains Heather Prince, assistant marketing manager at The Growing Place. Heather notes the visual of an actual planted garden helps customers understand the growth of what they’re purchasing. Additionally, The Growing Place merchandises saleable pots next to the Learning Gardens for consumers to easily buy what they see growing.

Make it Easy
Both endcap gardens and Learning Gardens make things easier for the customer and ease is critical. The easier something is to understand or buy, the more likely customers are to buy it. That's a pretty straightforward idea, but considerable challenges exist when merchandising heavy bags of mulch, soil, fertilizer and the like. Wheeled carts and available employees are helpful, but sometimes not as convenient as a customer would like. An alternative solution is simple: Tag it.

Target and Toys ’R Us already use a tag system for larger items, and home-retail giant Ikea uses a similar system for pickup from its self-service warehouse. Although no two systems are identical, they all aim to make things easier on the consumer.

Chalet embraced this idea with a reusable hangtag system for heavy items. While merchandise is still stocked, John explains that tags allow the customer to purchase desired items without having to physically move them throughout the store. This tag is scanned at the register and an employee is sent for the items. This system can allow for lower stock on the floor, saving space for other merchandise, as employees can retrieve items from other areas. Or save your floor even more room by eliminating the stock all together and creating a wall of tags, complete with product descriptions.

The takeaway from all of this is that innovation is two things: simple and relative. A change, regardless of how simple it may seem, is innovative if it makes a difference to your business or your customers; however, the retail world is varied, meaning one innovation will not work for all markets. But innovation is always possible and, with the right changes, may just make your customers turn left. GP


John Bray is a freelance writer based in St. Charles, Illinois. He can be reached at johnbray.bray@gmail.com.



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