By Nicole Leinbach
The start of a new year gives retailers the opportunity to reflect on what is ahead, what has already happened, and on what their hopes for business growth are in the coming year.
This often includes looking at budgets and spending — and how to be more efficient in those efforts. A common goal for retailers is to improve their merchandising. So, when combining these efforts, there is no better approach than to plan for savvy merchandising … on a dime.
Bring visibility, consumer engagement, inventory spotlights, and more to your store in 2024 — without breaking your budget or struggling for new merchandising ideas — by considering the five ideas below.
Make Your Store a Classroom Experience
Experiences welcome selling opportunities, but not all experiences need to be full-blown events. Instead, turn your store into a classroom by incorporating signage that educates your customers.
You can do so in a variety of ways. One idea is using signage to teach customers what they may not know about inventory sold in your store. Some items, such as technology, arts and crafts, and home goods, may welcome signage to explain their purpose or how to use them more easily.
Other parts of your inventory may demand more creativity. Either way, consider how strategic signage can teach customers about the products sold in your store and encourage customer engagement and inventory sell-through. Do this with:
- How-to tips that offer explanations about inventory.
- Product visual demonstrations that use pictures, combined with words.
- Step-by-step guides that give consumers explanations.
- Action-oriented signs like “Pick Me Up” or “Stop and Smell.”
- Informative signs that provide insight and education, such as sustainability facts or sourcing information about where a product is from.
And then take this one step further by encouraging store associates to ask customers if they have engaged with products you
incorporated into these merchandising hacks. Combining these efforts helps make your merchandising efforts more effective, leading to more sales.
Incorporate Your Community in Window Displays
Whether on a local Main Street, in a bustling mall, on a random street corner, or sitting by your lonesome self, your store’s storefront can introduce inventory to customers through its window and more so, window displays. Make 2024 the year your window displays become the talk of the town by leaning into what is going on in your community in combination with your inventory to create dynamic displays.
From your local high school’s Homecoming to an annual event only your hometown has to an event that honors local veterans and war heroes, look ahead into 2024 to see what you can do within your window display schedule that also supports your community.
Being proactive with your planning gives you the opportunity to reach out to community groups, non-competitive businesses, and other local associations that may want to contribute to your window display planning. An example is asking your local high school to have an entrepreneurship class create a display for you or a local charity to donate marketing resources you can incorporate into a display.
Taking the initiative to collaborate with community leaders and organizations helps you welcome fresh eyes into your business. They will not only want to support the finished display but also tell their friends and family, too. Do not forget that incorporating your own inventory into these displays is essential. Being creative is key.
Added tip? Update your local media about each new window display you create with an external community partner.
Ask Vendors for Displays, Signage
Have you ever heard the expression, “You won’t know until you try?” This tried-and-true lesson in life is the perfect example of why you should ask vendors how they can better support your store’s merchandising efforts.
As you dive into the new year, email vendors with the simple request of boosting inventory sell-through for their specific products with branded displays and signage from them in your store. If there is a specific area you want to support, such as your cash wrap area or wall slats, let them know.
Also keep in mind they have their own budgets and strategies in the year ahead, so be flexible with what they can provide. As you move into the year and seek additional vendor partnerships, consider asking for merchandising support upfront.
Incorporate All the Senses
Merchandising always appeals to a consumer’s sight. But do not let visual appeal alone drive your strategy. Consider how smell, sound, touch, and even taste can boost your store’s merchandising. Ways to do this are:
Scent – Identify a scent you can always have in the store. Whether a signature candle you already sell or fresh greens you replace weekly, incorporate it in your store’s experience, as well as in the displays. Over time, frequent customers begin to identify this scent with your store — no matter where they smell it. It also contributes to customers’ entire experiences when they visit your store.
Sound – As consumers experience your store visually, elevate their senses with sounds that complement your store’s environment. Whether it is music, audio of a podcast or show, or demos that make noise in your store space, be aware of sounds customers experience. Also think about the sounds your customers do not experience and what may replace those moments, too. For most retailers, this strategy has a low cost or no cost at all, so keep it top of mind as you approach 2024’s merchandising goals.
Touch – When your merchandise choices are effective, consumers feel comfortable engaging with the inventory. Through signage, displays, music, customer support, and the store’s footprint, customers should feel welcome to touch products on their paths to purchase. Signage that encourages this — “Try me on” or “Look in the mirror with these shades” — entices consumers to touch inventory, resulting in sales and a more interactive shopping experience.
Taste – Not every store sells food or drinks customers can taste. The simple addition of a staple candy excites customers. Be mindful of where you offer tasting experiences in your store — whether it is complimentary water, fresh mints, or muffins every Saturday morning — so customers feel appreciated in those moments. As always, do not overlook signage and other merchandising strategies to help elevate these experiences in your store.
Declutter, Clean Your Store
Here is the harsh truth about many retail spaces … they need a refresh every now and then to help boost the merchandising experience they offer.
As you approach the new year, take a hard, strategic look at your store from every angle. From your exterior and from every corner of your interior, what do you need to refresh?
Consider moving displays and fixtures to different spots to create what feels like a new space. Identify new areas of your store to help boost customer engagement.
This could be a sale rack, a kiddie corner, a last-one-left shelf, or all the above. Challenge yourself to be creative while also getting your store cleaner than it has ever been!
Finally, take a deep breath. A new year is just beginning. While the idea of merchandising may feel overwhelming, it is also the perfect restart button for stores — large and small alike. Enjoy the process and more so, enjoy the return of your efforts without having to spend much more than a dime.
Nicole Leinbach is the founder of RetailMinded.com, a well-respected retail industry resource that has been recognized worldwide for its leading business insight since 2007. Her work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, the UK’s Telegraph, CNN, the Today show, and countless other industry resources. Additionally, she has supported American Express’s Small Business Saturday as a spokesperson and is the author of the book Retail 101: The Guide to Managing and Marketing Your Retail Business, published by McGraw-Hill. With a core concentration on small businesses and independent retailers, Leinbach welcomes you to connect via Instagram at @RetailMindedWorld and Twitter via @RetailMinded.