Merchandising Know-How: Tips for fall merchandising

A recent article in Women's Wear Daily lauded this fall's outerwear, stating it is like never before because of the variety of fabrics, colors and silhouettes. A recent study by Cotton Inc. found that 57 percent of women it polled are planning to buy something new and different in outerwear. Of course, while stats are nice, it's actual sales that count. Meaning, it behooves specialty retailers to ensure their outerwear will capture the eye and pocketbooks of potential shoppers.
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A recent article in Women's Wear Daily lauded this fall's outerwear, stating it is like never before because of the variety of fabrics, colors and silhouettes. As a result, customers have more opportunities than ever before to buy something really new. Underscoring the adage that "timing is everything," a recent study by Cotton Inc. found that 57 percent of women it polled are planning to buy something new and different in outerwear. Forty percent are planning to replace an existing piece.

The research also found that quality slightly edges out price in women's opinions. Fifty-three percent of women stated that they would pay more for better quality, and 58 percent said they would rather buy clothing that is higher quality versus simply fashionable. All of which should make a specialty retailer smile.

Of course, while stats are nice, it's actual sales that count. Meaning, it behooves outdoor specialty retailers to ensure their outerwear will capture the eye and pocketbooks of those potential shoppers.

What each store has to offer is obviously key
Basics in terms of color and style will always be important and there are always the tried-and-true pieces that continue to sell each year. There are also the newer styles that are more risky as an unknown but serve to provide freshness to the outerwear assortment. They will attract a percentage of the women planning to buy something new and different (the key word). If the buyers have done their homework, they go to sales presentations knowing what styles and colors are looming (or not) on the fashion horizon.

Nothing will sell unless you merchandise it
Whether it's basic outerwear or new styles, when the fall outerwear arrives, merchandise it. That means, put it in front windows, in displays, cross merchandise and put it on the front of waterfall arms with layering pieces underneath. Don't stick it on a wall rod with last year's inventory. Here are some hints that might help your outerwear fly out the door:

Windows grab the eye -- Do something different in a window display. Try an all one-color approach. Pull outerwear styles from one color family, perhaps red. Vary the tones and use an odd number of pieces. If you're lucky enough to have mannequins, dress them in the jackets and have them holding additional pieces under each arm. Hang outerwear from the window ceiling on dowels at different levels and depths. Use mannequin torsos atop pedestals to display more jackets. Spread fall leaves on the window floor, and on the outside of the window, place vinyl lettering to announce new fall outerwear.

Make the entrance grand -- Create an outerwear display in the front of the store, 10 feet inside the front entrance in the center or to the right. This is a high visibility spot as customers begin their walk through the store. Cross merchandise two or three pieces of outerwear with luggage, travel books, maps and footwear on a table to suggest a fall trip. Layer the jackets, but also fold and display fleece and first layers beside them. Make sure the items on display are easy to find in the store. When placing a jacket on the end of a waterfall arm, pull in the waist and/or hem drawstrings to give the jacket attitude and form. Stuff the arms and chest with tissue or simply layer with fleece.

Make it accessible -- There's nothing more frustrating than a long row of jackets hanging shoulder out and high up on a wall. Customers can't reach them, none of the details are visible and, if hung by size, the colors are all mixed up. Since color is the first thing to attract the eye, hang jackets by color, then by size within each color. Wall rods should be in six-foot sections and interspersed with face-outs.

Try some new merchandising techniques to show your customers that you have outerwear that looks good, functions and is of high quality, so you can capture some of those outerwear dollars just waiting to be spent this fall.

Sharon Leicham is the author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and "How to Sell to Women" and is a regular columnist for SNEWS® and GearTrends® magazines 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.

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