This year, make shoulder season an asset rather than a curse

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The in-between retail season, also known as shoulder season, is ‘real time,’ or the actual season stores are dealing with while simultaneously preparing for the next. Sometimes, you may be pushing shorts while the forecast calls for six inches of snow. Managing product flow can be problematic during this period, and stores can begin to look tired or uninteresting. As the coming season’s inventory dribbles in, many retail environments start to look like they are in the midst of an identity crisis.

Shoulder season is one of the most important retail seasons because it’s time to move the old to make room for the new. I worked as a visual specialist for REI for three years and well remember shoulder season challenges. It can be a struggle to give your space a new look without investing too much time. You have to conserve energy for the impending floorset change. But here are a few ways you can give your shop a mini-facelift, and get ready for next season at the same time.

  1. Have a plan and communicate it. How can your team carry out what's needed if they don't have a plan that sets them up for success? Determine what your protocol will be as fixtures begin to look picked over. Will you combine brands? How prominent do you want your mark downs to be? When will you put new merchandise on the floor? General guidelines, even a one-page list of bullets, that can be communicated to your team are powerful.
  2. Organize your clearance fixtures and make them accessible. 
    Clearance fixtures are your most valuable fixtures during shoulder season because you want to move that product in order for your new product to be spotlighted. Entice those impulse buys by organizing marked-down merchandise by size, color, end-use or silhouette. The longer a consumer remains in your store, the more they are likely to make a purchase. Unless you want your retail environment to feel like a tired warehouse, take note of items that haven’t moved and give them some more attention so your customers will, too.
  3. Update your color scheme toadd a fresh “coat of paint" in your store.
    Group articles of clothing with the same color on upper and lower racks (kind of like creating a rainbow), or set a table with risers and organize a blocked display of things like water bottles, camping accessories or boxes of colorful socks. Add colorful and seasonal props, like suitcases and flowers, to make certain areas of your store pop. Change up the colors of signs you have around the shop. Next time one of your regulars stops by, they’ll notice the difference.
  4. Revive your space withoutdoor elements like greenery, plants, moss, flowers, branches, even rocks. Weather permitting, for storefronts that open directly outside, add large colorful flowerpots and fill them with seasonal plants.
  5. Change displays as often as you possibly can to keep things fresh and consider a playful approach like hanging a blackboard around the neck of a mannequin that says “Two more weeks until the gloves are gone,” or “Get your ski socks now before the cycling socks take over.”
  6. Combine the “real” season with what you’re showcasing on your mannequins.
    Add layers that let consumers see the multi-use of products. Suggest seasonal versatility versus single season use.
  7. Add some whimsy, perhaps a bike wheel that has flowers woven through the spokes and resting on the wall, or a backpack display that has all the things one might need for the coming season poking out of different compartments.
  8. If you find your store with too much open space, add a small sitting area (colorful Adirondack chairs or yoga poufs) or an artistic feature like children’s art that is propped on the wall.
  9. Spring clean. It sounds obvious, but it’s easy to let these things fall off your radar. Shoulder season is a good time to get that carpet cleaned, replace old doormats, change failed light bulbs, dust all of your fixtures and shelves, clean your windows and add some new props.

Robin Enright is a writer, speaker and creativity coach who believes in magic and helps businesses and individuals channel their creative expression so they can be heard. She's a Storyteller Extraordinaire with Merchandising Matters and Permission to Leap, and an outdoor enthusiast who was awarded an Artist in Residence at Rocky Mountain National Park in 2012. She has worked as the travel editor for Women’s Adventure Magazine and was previously merchandising editor for SNEWS. She believes that inspiration is the key to just about anything and lives outside Boulder, Colo., with her fiancee, Rob. 

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