Keeping Retail Alive and Well

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Happy New Year! The holiday season has come and gone and we are looking forward to a big year. Recently, I’ve been working closely with a fixture manufacturing team as we expand our brands, particularly Bella Taylor handbags. My wife, Julie, and I took a trip a couple of weeks ago to spend a day or so with the team working out a lot of details and we are excited to launch this new phase of our business.

We also had lengthy talks to free-associate a lot of ideas about store sets, merchandising and the selling environment in general. Below are a few thoughts from those discussions, in no special order.

• Behind every great store environment is a person or team committed to excellence in the physical store environment. Lighting, fronting displays, arranging merchandise for strong visual focus are all daily, indeed hourly, endeavors and tasks.

• Plan for success and be willing to take some risk to get there; but assess frequently along the way and experiment at will if something is not going according to plan. Don’t vary or put on a shelf the overall Plan to Succeed, however. Expect some smart bumps.

• Looks are everything. Does it look sloppy? Does it look skimpy? Does it look hasty? Guess what – it is. Conversely, does it look fabulous, does it look inviting, does it look fresh? Guess what – it is.

• When you have a merchandise category as a company or as a store or website, give it the proper scale and space or get out of it. Meager investment will yield meager returns and your expectations become self-fulfilling.

• Sometimes you have to incubate a plan for a while before you can really run with it. Be patient, don’t expect everything to happen overnight.

• Retail is alive and well, and people like to shop. They like to browse, they like to shop with friends, with spouses, and to see what’s new and interesting. The web is great, but it’s nowhere near the same level of experience and never will be. Make the experience in your store(s) the best it can possibly be on all levels, and buyers will find you again and again.

Cheers to the New Year, and happy selling!

Ken Kline is CEO and co-owner of VHC, Inc., a multi-brand wholesale textile design, import and distribution business based in Branson, Missouri, that serves independent, gift, catalog and e-commerce retailers. Major brands include Bella Taylor handbags designed by Ken’s wife, Julie; Nancy’s Nook kitchen, window and seasonal (named after company founder Nancy Kline, Ken’s mother); and Lasting Impressions bedding, throws and accessories. New products and lines launch every six months via web and catalog. Visit www.victorianheart.com to learn more.


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