Every so often it's a good idea to walk through the front door of your store and take a visual inventory. Too often, we get so absorbed in the everyday tasks of ordering, accounting, restocking, pricing, etc., that we lose sight of how our stores appear to our customers. If you're reading this and own a store, do a walk-through with one or two of your employees to get their perceptions of what needs to be changed, updated, deleted or left alone.
Develop a rating system for your evaluation along with the date and time of the inventory. You could use a point system with 10 meaning you are doing a superb job and 1 meaning a poor job or use the words themselves -- poor, fair, good, very good and excellent. Walk-throughs should be conducted every couple of months.
Start your visual inventory outside your store and look for the following:
- Cleanliness of the sidewalks, windows, doors -- Are the windows washed, sidewalks swept?
- Attractiveness of the exterior -- Does it need paint?
- Interest -- Does the entrance persuade people to walk through the door?
- Signage -- Is the store name visible to people approaching the store on foot and in an car?
- Window Displays -- Are they enticing? Too crowded? Well lit? Changed frequently enough?
Now, enter the store and look for:
- Cleanliness -- Is the floor clean and in good repair?
- Sight Lines -- Can customers see to the rear of the store easily?
- Display Areas -- Is there a display in the first 10 feet inside the entrance? In the middle of the store? At the rear?
- Product Visibility -- Can customers see what you carry from the entrance?
- Signage -- Are the departments clearly marked? Are you using rack-top signage?
- Lighting -- Is it varied? Brighter on the walls and dimmer on the aisles? Are displays well lit?
- Sound -- Is there ambient music in the background?
- Smell -- What do you smell and how does it make you feel about the store?
- Color -- Does the color of the walls show off the merchandise? Are garments hanging on wall rods organized by color? Is there a continuity of color throughout the store?
- Fixtures -- Are they in good repair? Are there too many or too few on the floor? Are you maximizing your wall space? Are you using a variety of floor fixtures from T-stands and 4-ways to gondolas and tables?
- Inventory levels -- Do you adjust your fixtures and their positioning to deal with fluctuating inventory levels?
- Traffic patterns -- Is it easy to move through the store? Are customers coming in contact with the majority of your merchandise as they browse?
- Innovation -- Is there something about your store that makes it different from other outdoor stores?
If you do this simple walk-through every one or two months, you'll begin to notice things that need to be changed, rearranged, cleaned up or discarded. It is an equally valuable exercise for store managers, buyers and department heads. Don't let the store become "invisible" because everyone is used to the way things are and not sensitive to the way they could be.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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