Display Basics

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Display Basics

According to country singer Tim McGraw some things never change. And he's right. When it comes to retailing there are basic display techniques that apply whether you are selling records or rowboats, bats and balls or gift items and collectibles. When you're in a bind about what to do next in your store, consult the basics and they'll provide a road map for guiding changes.

The best place to start discussing basics is at the beginning and, in a retail store that means the exterior of the store - the front entrance and display windows. It's one of the most important areas of the store as it presents the store image and the promise of what's inside.

The doors to your store should be free of all signs except the one informing customers of store opening and closing days and times. Credit card stickers are also allowable. Above all, make sure your entrance doors are clean and polished regularly.

At best, store windows get about three seconds of a person's attention. In that length of time, it's impossible to see everything if it's crowded with merchandise. Keep them simple by showing a select number of products. Vary the depth and height of the products in your window displays. Place some objects toward the front and others a little higher toward the rear. Choose either symmetrical or asymmetrical arrangements. Symmetrical arrangements utilize even numbers of objects in even distribution. These are easy to construct and pleasing to the eye. Asymmetrical arrangements utilize uneven numbers of items placed off-center forming interesting, provocative displays.

Install track lighting above the display area using a combination of spots and floods to highlight your products.

The first 10 feet inside the entrance is often called the decompression zone. When customers enter a store they pause (sometimes imperceptibly) to peruse the interior and decide whether to continue. This space needs to be clear of merchandise so customers don't feel crowded or blocked from going forward.

When “decompressing” customers will scan from left to right. When their eyes light on the right hand side of the store, they should see an interesting display that coaxes them to discover further. The fact is, most people will move to the right naturally.

That right-hand area is called the flex area. Set up a display of your newly arrived merchandise or seasonal items in that space and change it frequently.

Move customers in a zigzag pattern through the store. Place your fixtures - tables, chairs, cases, etc. - on a diagonal to the front door. The diagonal arrangement moves customers from wall to wall ensuring that they will come in contact with the greatest majority of your merchandise as they travel to the wall and back. Avoid a long central aisle because it has been shown that customers don't like to walk more than four feet toward the wall from a central aisle.

Divide your store into three grids, front, center and rear. The front grid should contain the least amount of product because it houses the decompression zone. The middle section of the grid should contain the highest density of products and the rear a medium density. This density variation makes the store more interesting.

Avoid crowding customers in your high-density middle section. Research has shown that shoppers - women especially, don't like to be brushed from behind when they shop a fixture or display. If things are too tight, they'll move away from merchandise they're interested in and avoid it. There goes a potential sale.

Vary the height of your fixtures for more interest. Fixtures of all one height are typical for discount stores and yours is anything but off-price.

The cash/wrap or checkout counter belongs in the middle area of the store. If the store is long and narrow place it against the right or left wall in the center to give the store a “waist”. If the store is rectangular, the counter is most effective in the middle and center of the store.

The area surrounding the counter is one of the most important and profitable in the store. It's an area of high product density and one where impulse rules. Take advantage of it by creating interesting displays on the counter and adjacent to it.

Move products around in the store at least every two weeks. Nobody knows why some products “die” in one place and sell in another. You might think you have a loser when, in fact, it may become more salable if moved.

Lighting is a complicated subject but, if you keep these few techniques in mind, you can master it. Light levels must be varied to capture customer interest. People are attracted to bright light so keep the lighting on your aisles and walkways dimmer than the lights focused on your walls and fixtures. People will move from areas of low light to those of high light.

One of the most perplexing problems small retailers face is the use of space. There's never enough of it. You can increase your display space by building alcoves and pigeonholes and by creating freestanding islands. You can also increase your space by utilizing more of your walls, ceilings and floors.

Be aware of optimum display heights. On average, customers first notice products when they stand four feet away from a fixture or wall display. It has been shown that the best viewing angle is 15 percent below the horizontal. Consequently, the best average eye height is 51 to 53 inches from the floor. This is the most effective space in which to stock and display products and is referred to as the “impact zone.”

The impact zone contains the average eye height and is 3.5 feet to 6.5 feet from the floor. Place items in this zone that you want to be noticed first. The area above the impact zone is called the “top zone” and is 6.5 feet and higher. Products in this space will not be noticed as readily, but, after customers view what's below, they will move to this zone. It's a good place to stock extras of what's stocked below or related products.

The “bottom zone” is 3.5 feet or lower and is usually the last area customer's notice. It's a good place to show items in bulk and back stock goods you placed on the wall and adjacent fixtures.

Use signs to direct customers to your most important products. Signs that list the name of the product, its features and benefits and price are the most effective in persuading customers to buy.

This was a quick look at some of the basic merchandising techniques and rules-of-thumb. While you're not required to strictly observe all these rules, they are designed to help you make the most of your product presentation and increase your sales. After all, that's what merchandising is all about.

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