Merchandising Tour: Tips you can use to showcase customers and community

This year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market featured a series of visual merchandising tours of exhibitor booths, sponsored by Outdoor Retailer, pointing out the product displays that could easily be translated in the retail store. In the next few months, we'll discuss the best ideas found during the tours, why they captured our attention, and how to adapt them to the retail environment. The ideas apply to a broad range of products, companies, brands and segments, too. There's also something in this for you, our readers. We want to know how you applied tips and suggestions from our Merchandising Tour article series in your own store. Send SNEWS® your images and a paragraph or two explaining what you did, and you'll be entered in a contest to win free lodging at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010.
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What does the term "added value" mean to you? Add-on sales? Better customer service? Increased margins? For those in visual merchandising, it means the sell-through that is achieved through the art of display. Well-conceived product presentations sell merchandise. It's a fact. And one of the best places to get visual merchandising ideas is at trade shows.

This year's Outdoor Retailer Summer Market featured a series of visual merchandising tours of exhibitor booths, sponsored by Outdoor Retailer, pointing out the product displays that could easily be translated in the retail store. In the next few months, we'll discuss the best ideas found during the tours, why they captured our attention, and how to adapt them to the retail environment. The ideas apply to a broad range of products, companies, brands and segments, too.

There's also something in this for you, our readers. We want to know how you applied tips and suggestions from our Merchandising Tour article series in your own store. Send SNEWS® your images and a paragraph or two explaining what you did, and you'll be entered in a contest to win free lodging at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010.

Keen has won numerous SNEWS BOB Awards in the past for its creative booth design, which you can see by clicking here. At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009, however, the company took a new approach with an emphasis on connecting with the community. The company philosophy statement states: "Create, Play & Care. It's a way of life. We call it Hybridlife." That statement boldly headed an entire booth wall facing a main aisle.

Keen09_Hybrid-Think-Board.jpg

The wall featured large photographs of real people who are activists in their communities. Rough-hewn wood slats framed the photos and small chalkboards attached to the frames held personal quotes. The seemingly random arrangement of the graphics gave a casual feel to the display and made it more approachable.

So what's the takeaway from this display? First, get involved as a company in your community. Take stock of how you are involved. And, if you are not, find some way to participate in community efforts that mean something to you. Talk to your customers and find out how they are giving back. Showcase their efforts by devoting a portion of a store wall to telling their stories (and yours). It doesn't have to be fancy. Make it your own. Use recycled materials and add some props.

One of the coolest things Keen did in the booth was to utilize chalkboards as category headers around the booth in addition to using them on the wall display. And to make the chalkboard signage stand out, the company used colored chalk and an artistic person to add designs. As signage, chalkboards make a lot of sense as they are reusable and easy to create in-house. If you haven't already discovered chalkboard paint, go to your local Target or paint store and check it out.

Keen09_Hybrid-Photo-Destina.jpg

You can use almost any substrate on which to use the paint -- wood, plastic, glass, Masonite or gatorboard. Cut it to the size you want, purchase some chalk, and you're ready to go. Here's an idea: Create a metal chalkboard to hang on your community wall and let customers add their thoughts on small notes to attach with small magnets. Or invite customers to add their messages using chalk. Who doesn't remember loving to write on the school blackboard?

Let this idea stimulate more ways to strengthen your relationship with your customers and community. It's all about values. Show yours.

--Sharon Leicham

Keen09_Hybrid_ProductWall.jpg

Join Sharon Leicham, author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010 for the second Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program. These hour-long merchandising tours of select exhibitor booths and displays give retailers an unprecedented opportunity to tap into Leicham's 40 years of experience in merchandising with manufacturers such as Specialized Bicycle Components and Sierra Designs. Email merchandisingtour@snewsnet.com to put your name on a contact list for more information and priority scheduling for the Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tours, Winter Market 2010 -- spaces are limited.

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