What the Best Merchandising Pros Do (and You Should Too)

Retail Store
Most small businesses want to avoid falling into the “me-too” category. They want to do something different and be unique. And that’s understandable. But too many businesses take this sort of thinking so far. They reject things that the market has been doing for years because they work. And instead, they prefer to go their own way. The result is that they end up missing out on sales and profits.

Merchandising is one of those areas where you really don’t want to reinvent the wheel. Doing what the pros do is the best way to succeed and attract shoppers to your small business. And there are certain things that they swear by. Let’s take a look.

They Make Their Goods Unique

Most merchandise sold by small businesses is boring and generic. They sell the same trinkets that people can get at pretty much any small business store. And this is a big turn off for customers.

Customers want to come to your business and for it to be a one-of-a-kind experience. For instance, you could invest in custom printed items of clothing to sell your brand. Many companies, for example, put their logo on bandanas.

You can also use custom items as advertising. One cool idea is to hand out bandanas with your logo on them at festivals and concerts. This way you’re getting your brand out there. And it means you’re helping people protect themselves from the elements while you do it.

They Make the Connection to Their Brand Clear

It’s one thing having a distinct brand. It’s quite different to find merchandise that suits it. If you’re organizing a conference for academics, you might want to stick to putting your brand on pens and folders. If you’re a car garage, you could have your branding plastered all over key rings or car fresheners. There are always plenty of options to make the link between branding and your business’s purpose.

They Use It to Tell A Story

At it’s root, merchandising is all about helping businesses tell a story about themselves. No, the story doesn’t have characters or a climax. But it does have to say something about what’s going on in the wider world. Many companies build stories around big events in the calendar, like Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s day. And then they create displays that deal with these events. Thorntons chocolatiers, for instance, always make a point of presenting big Easter eggs at Easter. Why? It’s not because big Easter eggs sell very well. They don’t – and they’re too expensive. Rather it’s about displaying the company’s mastering of chocolate. And it’s about generating excitement. Big Easter eggs, especially when covered in gold leaf, are exciting.

They Use Layering

What the first difference you notice between walking into a department store, and a regular corner shop? It’s the quality of the displays, specifically, layering. Small businesses don’t tend to understand the importance of layering, whereas big companies have it down to a science. So what are they doing? Essentially, they’re creating displays that are three-dimensional in some way. One cool way is to place artwork and use mirrors to reflect merchandise back into the room. You can also use merchandise itself to build up a scene. Many small shops buy in a base level of hardwood furniture; like tables and shelving. And then they layer a mixture of decorative props and merchandise on top. Often this requires the touch of a skilled merchandising expert. But the overall effect can end up being quite stunning. It’s perfect for stores that are low-volume, but high value-added.

They Use the Triangle Principle

Whenever you’re trying to display your stock, you want to make it look as attractive as possible. And when it comes to attractiveness, there are some universal rules that all the pros follow. One such rule is called the triangle principle. The triangle principle originally came from the world of interior design. It was a way of framing room features within the three points of a triangle to make them stand out. But it’s one of those things that is now being applied to all parts of life where aesthetics matter. And that includes merchandising.

Pro merchandisers put the triangle principle to good use. For instance, they might take a bookshelf and decide that they want to use it to sell a particular good. They’ll fill the whole of the bottom shelf of the bookshelf with books, vases, and other decorative objects. And then they’ll keep layering upwards, making the display narrower each time. When they get to the top, only a small part of the shelf is filled with books and other items. This triangle shape within the bookshelf creates a frame to see whatever is in the middle.

They Use Big Art

It might sound silly, but it’s important to separate your merchandise from the props that advertise it. But often, the props themselves aren’t always clear – at least, to begin with. One way around this is to make your props oversized. Props are there to help you tell a story about your product. Your product will look its best when it’s in context (think about manikin). But you also want to make sure that they are seen as props and not products. One way to get the best of both worlds is to use big art. Oversized paintings are an excellent way to merchandise almost any product. They loom large, adding an extra dimension to your display.

Of course, you don’t just have to stick with paintings. Recently, we’ve seen a significant trend towards using baskets to break up the monotony of displays. And we’ve also seen more and more stores using gold. Gold vases are in fashion right now.

They Group Items

Supermarkets like to keep their displays straightforward and dull. There’s a reason for this: they want customers to be able to find what they want quickly. But if you’re a smaller store, you don’t have to copy the supermarket formula. You can create impressive displays that people can explore in their own time. One thing the pros do is group similar items but then add a twist. You could have a section dedicated to winter skiing and have it all arranged around a pair of ski manikins.

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