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Small Business Center

16 Ways to Set Your Retail Sales Floor to Sell

September 22, 2021

By Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender, Kizer & Bender Speaking

Your sales floor is a living, breathing entity that needs to change — frequently — in order to flourish, and it’s your job to make that happen. If your store is filled with the latest product but your sales are in a rut, your customers could be bored. They come to your store not just to buy but for ideas and inspiration. They also come to be entertained. Even when they don’t buy anything, it’s the experience that brings them back.

Think about the last time you shopped at a Target store. Even if you went in to buy a bottle of glass cleaner, chances are you spent at least $50 on things you hadn’t planned on purchasing. We call this “The Target Syndrome” because it doesn’t happen in other big-box stores. Target stores are neutral boxes that allow the merchandise to pop. The sales floor serves as a backdrop for powerful signing and creative displays that encourage you to fill your cart with things you didn’t realize you needed. The layout moves you easily through the store.

When doing store makeovers, we observe how people shop the sales floor: Where do they go? Where do they linger? Which areas do they avoid or miss altogether? Afterward, we take a hard look at three things:

  • Enablers: These are the important but often overlooked things that allow customers to shop comfortably. Enablers make shoppers feel welcome: Think displays and signage that attract attention; carts and baskets that do the heavy lifting; clear, easy-to-navigate aisles; and strong displays that make shoppers excited to interact with the merchandise and buy.
  • Inhibitors: These are the potholes that disrupt the buying experience, such as empty fixtures, messy or unorganized displays, product that’s stacked too high and displays that are packed too tightly.
  • Impression points: These start outside the store’s front door, sometimes even in the parking lot if the store is freestanding or in a strip center, and continue throughout the sales floor. Impression points create the perceptions customers carry with them as they shop and that they share with friends afterward. Impression points create customer moments of truth, both good and bad.

Setting your sales floor to sell

Before you make changes, take photos of your sales floor. The camera will see things the human eye misses, and you’ll have a clearer view of what your sales floor actually looks like to a shopper. Next, mount a blueprint of your sales floor to a piece of foam board and add a vellum overlay so you can note planned moves; it’s easier to play on paper before dismantling displays.

1. Windows

Customers should be able to take in your window displays in eight seconds or less. Your displays should capture the eye and hold attention long enough for the passerby to absorb what’s being shown and entice that person to come in.

Intricate displays with lots of little parts are hard to set, and shoppers often miss the details. Instead, create displays using props and larger products that can’t be missed in those critical eight seconds. Add vinyl lettering to the display that highlights what you sell, and when the window size is small or the shape is less than ideal, consider filling the space with vibrant photos instead.

2. First-10-seconds impression

Stand just inside the front door and look around. In the first 10 seconds, shoppers make value judgements about what they see, thinking, “Should I grab what I need here or head to another store to browse at my leisure?” View your sales floor from just inside the door each day, ensuring you are giving shoppers the impression you intended.

3. Store decor

The colors and textures you choose for your decor matter. Do all the design elements work together? Does the paint color on the walls work well with the flooring? Does your signing incorporate your colors, and is your brand well represented on the sales floor? Color affects people in different ways; some colors cause people to linger, others to leave. We use color in two ways in store decor: neutrals and secondary, bold accent colors. Neutral colors are used in 80 percent of a store’s decor to create a relaxed atmosphere and to make the merchandise stand out.  Accent colors are used in 20 percent of the decor to make it pop.

4. Sight line

While you’re still at the front of your store, check its sight line. You want shoppers to be able to see into and through the sales floor. Get rid of tall fixtures near or at the front that block product housed behind them. Make more displays visible by placing shorter fixtures near the front and taller fixtures toward the rear. The more a shopper sees, the more they’ll buy.

5. Decompression zone

Every store has an area just inside the front door known as the decompression zone. Its size depends on your store’s square footage. This space gives shoppers a chance to transition from whatever they were doing outside your store to shopping. Understand that this is a no man’s land and shoppers will walk right by anything you place there. It makes more sense to place things like floor signs, carts, baskets and product displays just beyond the decompression zone, where shoppers are more likely to see them.

6. Layout

It’s said that 50% of your sales floor is never seen by shoppers. But you can control how customers shop your store, and it’s important to exercise that control. You don’t do this by building walls; you do it by strategically placing fixtures. There are many layouts to choose from, but the following are most popular:

  • Grid: Grocery stores use a grid, in which fixtures run parallel to the walls. Shoppers have been trained to pick up carts at the front door and walk up and down every aisle. In a grid layout, end features are the stars.
  • Loop: Best Buy and Target rely on a loop layout to move shoppers through the store. Loop layouts utilize a clearly defined main aisle that circles through the store like a racetrack. Loops offer maximum product exposure because the perimeter walls and gondola valleys are just as important as the end features. Loop layouts work best in larger footprints.
  • Free flow: Boutique and specialty retailers benefit from a free-flow layout, in which customers shop the sales floor according to how and where you place the fixtures. Free-flow layouts are flexible and easy to change.

7. Desire paths

Have you ever skipped the sidewalk and cut across the grass because it was a quicker way to get where you were going? In doing so, you created a shortcut called a desire path. You have them on your sales floor, too. Check your carpeting for excess wear in certain areas, or spend time watching how customers shop the store. Once you identify the shortcuts they prefer, place displays in the middle of those spaces.

8. Fixtures

Fixtures should add to the ambience of your sales floor, but they should never be the focal point; good fixtures let the merchandise stand out. You need basic fixtures like wall units, gondolas and shelving to maximize dollars per square foot and specialty fixtures for feature displays like speed bumps (see below) and apparel displays. Note that the Americans with Disabilities Act requires a minimum of 36 inches between fixtures so all customers can shop comfortably.

9. Lakefront property

Parts of your sales floor are more important than others. We call these “lakefront property.” Use these spaces to feature new, important and high-margin product. Merchandise the basics toward the rear of the store so shoppers have to walk past fashion and seasonal merchandise to get to them. If your store has a center door, 90% of customers will look or turn to the right upon entering. Items here should be merchandised with particular care.

10. Speed bumps

Speed bumps are the first displays shoppers see when entering. Located center stage, they slow shoppers down and set the tone for what they can expect to find as they browse. We like to create a focal point using nesting tables that are cross-merchandised with groupings of irresistible product. Tell a story. Why just sell a handbag when you can add a wallet, a makeup bag, a keychain and a scarf? Change your speed bump displays at least once a week, whether they need it or not, or more often if you have repeat customers or the displays sell down or become shopworn.

11. Merchandise outposts

Say you visit the grocery store a few days before Thanksgiving. As you round the corner toward the turkeys, you pass displays of other things you need to complete your holiday meal. These displays, called merchandise outposts, allow you to cross-merchandise throughout your sales floor. They encourage impulse purchases and are especially effective during the holidays to highlight gifts.

12. Display heights

Displays work best when they incorporate height and depth, so add props and risers to table displays to add interest. Vary the arm heights on apparel fixtures, gondola shelving and wall units. When everything is the same height, nothing stands out.

13. Power of 3

The human brain is wired to seek out the asymmetrical. That’s why we are drawn to displays that feature products grouped in odd numbers, especially groups of three. These groupings force the eye to move around, causing the shopper to see more of the items on display. The power of three also benefits from the pyramid principle, in which the tallest item sits in the center, flanked by smaller items. The eye seeks the tallest item first before scanning the smaller items at its side, creating a pyramid-like step down. Again, shoppers see more of what’s on display.

14. Signage

A study by Brigham Young University found that displays with signs outperformed displays without signs by 20%. In the battle between sale and nonsale items, regularly priced merchandise that was signed outperformed sale merchandise that was not by 18%. Signing should be simple and easily understood at a glance. Think sentences, not paragraphs.

15. Checkout displays

Inside your store, customers should never stop thinking about merchandise, even in line to pay. Display small, high-profit, impulse items on and around the cash wrap. If you’re lucky enough to have a wall behind your counter, use it to tell a merchandise story or to showcase important product. If your store has checkout lanes, add a queue with displays of impulse items that shoppers have to pass through.

16. Walk-through of the entire store

If you’ve ever witnessed a store associate lead a shopper to a display and say, “I know it was right here yesterday,” adopt our 360 Degree Pass-By exercise: a quick walk through every inch of the sales floor. In the five minutes it takes, you’ll easily pick up on areas that need attention, product to restock, displays to straighten and signs to replace. Require every associate to do a daily 360 Degree Pass-By at the beginning of their shift. The goal? To create a layout that entices shoppers to walk your entire sales floor and to set irresistible displays that sell more products.

Store layout is an art, but it’s also a science. The techniques in this article aren’t new, but successful retailers use them for one, simple reason: They work.

This content originally appeared at www.retailadventuresblog.com/2019/11/store-displays-for-days.html.

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