Merchandising Know-How: Art in retail

To succeed in today's competitive environment, retailers have to connect with their customers on an emotional and intellectual level. Competition is forcing them to differentiate. More and more, retailers need to communicate their values and their culture in new ways. Many are turning to their local arts community for inspiration.
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To succeed in today's competitive environment, retailers have to connect with their customers on an emotional and intellectual level. Competition is forcing them to differentiate. More and more, retailers need to communicate their values and their culture in new ways. Many are turning to their local arts community for inspiration.

Large retailers like Lexus, Diesel and Starbucks are adding "gallery space" to their stores. They are working with experts in the art community to install paintings, graphics, photography and multi-media art installations. Obviously, not everyone can do what the big boys do, but smaller retailers can become acquainted with what's going on in their local arts community and find someone who is willing to work with them to "curate" and plan an exhibition or collection in their store. Art encompasses many disciplines -- painting, sculpture, graphics, drawings, photography, etc. That's what makes it interesting.

If this strikes a note with you, how do you find out what's available? You can always go to art openings at galleries in your city. Ask a lot of questions and try to find a knowledgeable person to help you decide what to install. Find art that focuses on the outdoors -- landscapes, paddling or skiing photos -- whatever relates to the outdoor experience. You'll have plenty to choose from.

Talk with gallery owners or artists who will loan you their art on a temporary basis. Stage an exhibition, invite customers and friends, and make a party out of it. Put information about your art exhibition on your website and send media releases. Because this is something unexpected for an outdoor store, it will attract interest from the media and differentiate you in the minds of your customers.

I can hear the objections starting to build: "That's crazy. I don't have room for art! What does art have to do with outdoor sports?" Find art and artists that use the outdoors as their subjects. Choose art that is related to what you sell and that enhances the store environment. And if you don't have wall space to hang art, check out the inexpensive folding screens at your local import store. They make perfect backgrounds for hanging art. Place sculpture in your front windows and on surfaces throughout the store.

By reaching out to the arts community, you have the opportunity to support your local artisans, share your values with your customers and friends, increase your media exposure and broaden your customer base. Give it a try. What have you got to lose?

Sharon Leicham is the creator of The MerchandisingHUB, the author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and "How to Sell to Women" and is a regular columnist for SNEWS® writing on merchandising and marketing topics. You can access all of her columns by going to www.snewsnet.com/merchandising, where you will find tons of information targeted at the needs of the independent specialty retailer. You can email us with questions and comments at merchandising@snewsnet.com.

For more retail training support and know-how, be sure to check out the SNEWS® Business 101 tools and stories, including our 10-part Retail Merchandising Training series produced by SNEWS®, including a useful online calculator for performing the most common retail merchandising calculations -- free to All Access Subscribers.

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