Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

6 minutes reading time (1203 words)

Exceptional merchandising

Five simple rules for exceptional merchandising

I believe that when it comes to running a successful business, customer service is hands-down the most important aspect. You can advertise, drop your prices, distribute flyers, and stock the place from floor to ceiling with every product on the market. But if customers come into your store and they are not satisfied with the way they are treated, or with the information they receive, they will most likely not return. I know I wouldn't return.

I believe that when it comes to running a successful business, customer service is hands-down the most important aspect. You can advertise, drop your prices, distribute flyers, and stock the place from floor to ceiling with every product on the market. But if customers come into your store and they are not satisfied with the way they are treated, or with the information they receive, they will most likely not return. I know I wouldn't return.

If your staff is trained to go above and beyond for customers, then I believe that the next most crucial step is merchandising. I have heard time and time again of stores that people refuse to shop in simply because the merchandise is disorganized, isn't regularly faced or re-stocked and because the store overall appears "junky." For this reason, I've made a list of what I believe are five simple rules or guidelines which we can all follow in order to make our store stand out from the crowd.

#1 Keep the shelves stocked and properly faced

This is probably the simplest, yet most time-consuming thing to do in a health food store, considering the average shop has 5,000+ skus on the shelves. I believe that this is the most critical step in merchandising your inventory. I personally find that the easiest way to keep the shelves in tip top shape is to tidy as the day goes by. Every time you have a lull between customers, take five to 10 minutes to quickly re-face anything that may have been sold. Alternatively, you can stay after closing, or come in before opening, and allow yourself a good hour to re-vamp the place. I quite often think of a clothing store for motivation. If you went shopping for clothes first thing when a store opened and the sizes weren't properly organized, items were unfolded and just laying around from the last person who tried it on, you probably wouldn't be too impressed. We should bring the same mentality to a health food store. We want our merchandise to be neatly displayed so that it's the best it can be for every person who comes in the door.

#2 Clear the clutter

Sometimes clutter is unavoidable. When it's the week after CHFA and you have all your show orders arriving at once and there's no room to store them until you can unpack them, clutter will probably be an issue. However, do the best you can to make it manageable and as organized as possible. Also, do not let boxes and papers and random bottles sit around indefinitely. Find them a home, or create a space (preferably out of sight) that can be your waiting area for things that you can't get to that day. Just don't let that pile get too big or sit around for too long.

#3 Less is more

I am a big fan of this concept. Similar to my note above about clutter, less quite often is much more effective and appealing than more. I mean several things when I say this. First of all, when creating a display, you do not need to put one of every item you sell in the display. In fact, quite often, the lower the amount of skus you present, the more effective the display will be.

Secondly, when deciding to add non-permanent display units, such as cardboard displays, to the front of your store, having too many will probably result in that junky look, especially since they tend to deteriorate over time, not to mention we often forget to re-fill them as the items sell through.

Lastly, I am talking about posters, sandwich boards, shelf talkers, brochures, booklets, you name it. Any marketing material that we are provided from our suppliers that can be displayed or used around the store for information is usually fantastic. However, do not go overboard! Consider getting a poster board to keep all your posters in one organized area. If you want to use a sandwich board or pop up banner, make sure you keep the amount minimal and that you change it up. You're only boring the customers by keeping the same tired looking sign or banner up for six months, and you've most likely maximized that one tool's potential, so you're only cheating yourself by not switching it to something new on a regular basis. I would say ideally it should be changed once a month.

#4 Maximize the counter area/point of sale

I do not mean put every little counter top display, case of protein bars or box of lip gloss right at your front counter. What I mean is at your counter, you have a captive audience. They have already made the decision to purchase something from your store. Of course, we want to display some last minute impulse items. We also want to take a step back and look at the area behind the cash register. This is prime selling space! You should not use this area to store paperwork, special orders or reference books. It should be all sale-able items, and preferably items that are large enough for the customer to read from where they're standing. This would be a great area for some nicely appointed shelf-talkers.

#5 Keep it clean!

There's no denying it, malls are dusty. If you're not in a mall, then you've got dirt and dust coming directly in through the front door. I know it's not a fun job, and it takes up a lot of time, but cleaning and dusting your shelves and merchandise is an absolute must. This is the same for glass windows and fridge doors, as well as counter tops. They all need to be cleaned of hand prints on a regular basis. Think of your store the way you do your home when you have guests coming for dinner. I know I'm not the only person who wants my home to be presentable for guests. In a way, your store is similar, and your customers are your guests. Keep in mind; the bottles in your store are items that they are going to purchase. If they pick it up and it's dusty, they will naturally wonder how long the item has been sitting around your store. It instantly makes the product seem stale and unattractive. If you find keeping your store clean to be an impossible task to complete, consider hiring a part-time employee whose sole responsibility is to dust and tidy.

These are my pointers for successful merchandising. Once again, it's all about having fun and making your business thrive with an appearance that is the best it can possibly be, in order to give our customers an experience that's worth repeating. •

 

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