Merchandising Know-How: Making an entrance

Too often retailers neglect the front of their stores in favor of giving attention to the interiors. That's a big mistake as the storefront is the retailer's first message to customers. An attractive storefront communicates the store brand and seduces them into entering and experiencing what's inside. It's almost like a billboard that can be viewed even when the store is closed and it's your first chance to make an impression.
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Too often retailers neglect the front of their stores in favor of giving attention to the interiors. That's a big mistake as the storefront is the retailer's first message to customers. An attractive storefront communicates the store brand and seduces them into entering and experiencing what's inside. It's almost like a billboard that can be viewed even when the store is closed and it's your first chance to make an impression.

The storefront is the physical building's façade. You may not have the ability to change it dramatically unless you own the building but, with the help of your landlord, you can make it as appealing as possible and attract customers by adding a coat of paint, a new front door, awnings or planters -- small fixes that can make a big difference.

Your front display windows have the power to extend the sales reach of the products within the store. They are the aspect of the storefront that you can and should change frequently. Sadly, they are too often treated as a space in which to show as much merchandise as possible. Realistically, most storefronts these days are approached not by people strolling by but by cars driving by, giving passersby little time to see what's in the front windows.

Consequently, the trend in window "dressing" is to convey an image rather than a sea of products. Graphics as backdrops and text messages on window glass have become most useful in grabbing attention and highlighting what merchandise is on display. Simplicity and impact are the guiding principles in today's window design. Given the fact that most shoppers will give a window about three seconds of their time, it pays to cut down on products shown and punch up color and visual elements like photographs and signage.

A tip: Strong colors like red and yellow catch attention and are good to use in display windows. Use odd numbers of items placed asymmetrically or unevenly in window displays as they are more interesting than more symmetrical or balanced arrangements.

Lighting is a key element in the effectiveness of window displays and can also be added to the building façade to enhance its architecture. Low voltage lighting is preferred in window displays as it is intense and will not change the color of the merchandise.

A tip: Sometimes equalizing the light between the ambient light from outside the window with the light inside will cut down on those troublesome reflections on front windows. Awnings and non-reflective glass help too.

Window displays should be re-merchandised on average once a month. Every two weeks is better, but let's get real. It takes time to re-do windows and, unless you have a rabid merchandiser on staff, it won't happen that frequently. But keep in mind, that a change in the products shown in front windows can imply a change in the merchandise inside even if there isn't one. It's one of those crazy perception things.



So, what it comes down to is that neat, tidy and attractive storefronts with interesting and easy-to-view display windows and good lighting will get shoppers inside the store where they can see and touch the merchandise and walk out the front door with a bag full of purchases.

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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