Retail Solutions: Do you have creative solutions for a retailer with less budget than time?

I have a store full of rounders and waterfall racks with walls covered in slatwall. No matter what I do, my store looks cluttered. Do you have any creative merchandising tips for a retailer with little extra time and even less budget?

All industries can interact and communicate to help out each other – ours are no different. The Retail Solutions column in our new Expert Network section is designed to be your personal retail advisory sounding-board with retail owners, managers, buyers and merchandisers from our retail advisory partner, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, available to answer your questions. The format for this as with other Expert Network sections will not be unlike a “Dear Abby” for business. Together with our panel of experts SNEWS® will offer a forum for readers to discuss a topic, chime in with their own ideas, and suggest different recommendations to a variety of business concerns or issues. Fire off a question about any topic specific to the retail business by email to Our experts are standing by.

Q. I have a store full of rounders and waterfall racks with walls covered in slatwall. No matter what I do, my store looks cluttered. Do you have any creative merchandising tips for a retailer with little extra time and even less budget?

A. Customers will spend more money if they perceive that the products you are selling are worth more. And a lot of that has to do with what your retail environment looks like to them. You have to spend money to make money. Just do it wisely and in phases as your budget will allow.

Certainly, slatwall is very difficult to work with, but we understand budget and time constraints. First, try to visualize your available wall space in three-foot-wide columns, with at least three columns to a wall. Your goal always is to create a visually appealing display that engages your customer and attracts them to investigate. Essentially, with apparel, you can display clothing three ways; face out, shoulder out, and folded on a shelf. Act as if what you are working with is art, and mix these three methods on your wall and then sprinkle in additional visuals such as an action poster, or a vase with flowers, some travel luggage, a pair of shoes, or other non-clothing items that will allow you to present a very visually but relevant textured wall. Be sure when you are hanging apparel on your wall you put light-colored product toward the top and darker colored products toward the bottom. Remember always that the space between waist and eye level for your customer is best selling space – keep that in mind if you have a 7-foot tall NBA recruit merchandising your wall.

Now on to your rack challenges: If your racks are still old-school chrome, let’s dress those up immediately since chrome rounders and waterfall racks give any store a bargain basement appearance. We would suggest a slow investment in new wooden racks (a mix of 2-ways, 4-ways and gondolas and NO rounders) to add some visual texture to your mix. Stay away from waterfall racks for the most part as they are not as efficient as straight racking. To spruce up your existing chrome racks, see if anyone in your area does powder coating and then take your racks to be power-coated black – but do get a quote first as you might be surprised to find it could be cheaper to buy new racks.

On the floor, if you must use rounders they must be positioned with enough room around them and evenly spaced or grouped in two’s or three’s etc. They need to be very clean, making a simple statement. Grouping similar fabrication, style and color will give you simple stories. Your rounders all need to be at the same height. If applicable, you can place marketing images on top reflecting products displayed on the rack. Cross merchandise in your retail space where you can to add interest and create add-on sales. Put a glass shelf on a rounder or two and put a bust mannequin on top, dressing it with the collection found on that rounder. You might need to swap the whole floor if you are hanging by style and not vendor. The key is to change the outfits once a week… that helps make your displays and as a result your product and store look fresh and different.

While your waterfalls should probably be phased out as your budget allows, these types of racks can be a good silent salesperson IF you display correctly on them. Only hang two to three styles on the waterfall. A style would be one color of one style. The idea is to make it easy to shop and pleasant to the eye. If your waterfall becomes crowded, you end up with a display that your customers will ignore. By just make your waterfall display simple, colorful and not crowded, it will give the customer an idea of what items will work together.

As a final suggestion, vendors are also a fantastic resource for merchandising tips, especially if they have in-house merchandisers you can email or call.

Click here to view diagrams and tips prepared for SNEWS by the Trailblazer merchandising team, a Grassroots Outdoor Alliance member retailer.

About Grassroots Outdoor Alliance

Grassroots Outdoor Alliance unites independent outdoor retailers as a strong voice to protect and promote the experience of outdoor enthusiasts across the United States. We enable access to best business practices for our retail members, to the best equipment and apparel brands for the public, and to the backcountry for all.


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