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Does Your Store Need A Facelift?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Does Your Store Need A Facelift?(GIFTBEAT)Take a deep breath—it's almost time to roll out those fourth-quarter displays that will get your store register cha-ching-ing! Before you do, retail consultant and visual merchandising specialist Donna Kent provides tips for budget-friendly store facelifts, finding props "on the cheap," visual merchandising do's and don'ts, and seasonal color and display themes.

Q. In your opinion, should retailers give their stores a facelift before the busy fourth quarter begins?

A. If you are in a market where your business slows down in September, why waste any downtime? This is the best time to do major housekeeping, organize the back room, refurbish [existing] props and order new ones for the floor. Have a game plan for fourth quarter for floor merchandising, special focal areas and holiday themes. Then, you can hit the ground running in the fourth quarter when you need to be on your toes.

Q. Which areas should stores target for a facelift? How much might it cost?

A. When retailers assess their stores prior to a facelift, they should consider their available budget, as well as ways to stay competitive, target a new market and link in with other marketing opportunities. [In-store] considerations include traffic flow, tired-looking décor, lack of lighting and more. Placement, color and finishing touches are important because they establish identity or create an updated one, help customers focus on a theme or product, create a statement and result in more professional presentations. Paint, area carpet, consigned or borrowed furniture, architectural details, skirted tables and focused lighting are some of the techniques used in "budget-friendly" store makeovers. Depending on the size and scope of a facelift project, $300 to $500 should be a comfortable amount to spend.

Q. How can store owners find props that will give their stores a facelift on a budget?

A. Keep your eyes open for a shop that's closing or going through renovations and needs to sell excess props. Online sites like craigslist.com also have fixturing for sale.

Ask neighborhood consignment shops or antique dealers to consign pieces to you like furniture or mirrors. [These pieces] can lift the whole look of your shop and give it some pizzazz. There's no cost to you as the retailer, and it gives double exposure to other shop owners in the area. Be sure to do signage that gives credit to consignees and place [their] business cards at the front register. If a customer falls in love with a consigned item, set a timeframe for when the item can come out of your shop [after the display is taken down].

Shop IKEA and Target. They often have inexpensive but nicely designed easels and plate stands that can be less expensive than those at display houses. Target and Wal-Mart sometimes have interesting big display pieces that are cheaper than at prop shops.

An employee, friend or businessperson may have a great mantel or other piece that may add flavor to a display. These items can be borrowed [but] make the person aware that the item will be touched when in the store. Use a discreet sign that makes it clear when a prop is not for sale. If you have access to local, naturalized dried [materials] like cornstalks or pussy willows, they can add a little softness to the shop, add to the look of displays and mirror the season. Plus, they can be collected at zero cost.

Q. Can you suggest an assortment of seasonal themes for the fourth quarter?

A. For fall, use colors like brown, orange, green, burgundy, eggplant and gold. Use baskets, oversized leaves and natural materials like corn and dried flowers for displays. Cut birch poles to hang vertically and create an indoor "woods." Or place a weathered ladder in the store window for displaying hand-woven throws and add hay bales and chrysanthemums.

Color Halloween displays with orange, black and brown. Re-create a pumpkin-decorating contest in the store window. For Thanksgiving, use Halloween's colors and add highlights of brass, silver, red or other colors that can move into your Christmas theme. Collect a variety of old picture frames in various shapes and sizes. Spray-paint them a Thanksgiving theme color and hang them, [placing a piece of product inside] each frame. Design a lifestyle-themed display in the store window using a table set with warm, inviting and bounty-looking product.

At Christmastime, create a traditional display using red, green and gold; a fun display with hot pink and chartreuse; or an updated display with a mix of silver, blue and black. Make displays celebratory and special by including oversized display items like big snowflakes or a large, wire-shaped star covered with twinkle lights. Place a brightly painted front door in the store window and include all the trimmings—snow, wrapped packages, lights and a wreath.

Q. Can you offer our readers some of your top display/visual merchandising tips?

A. Since everyone is so price conscious theses days, try a more European way of merchandising store windows. Place a small, subtle sign that lists prices [of the featured items] in the lower corner of the window. [Passersby may think] they can't afford your product. If it's a good value, why not merchandise it in this tasteful way? Make sure every product is priced and clearly marked. Customers may hesitate to ask the price...or just move on. Also, look carefully at vendor display signage. Although signage is sometimes free, it can overwhelm product and start detracting from your store or the merchandising standards you've set.

Q. How can employees help a store's merchandising plan succeed?

A. A lot of times your staff is hired from bigger stores. Pick the brains of your people to see how those stores managed store or merchandising standards. If an employee has a flair for display, groom that person toward being dedicated to doing merchandising. Sometimes there are so many hands in the display "pot" that customers can tell that [displays have dissimilar styles]. Communicate with your staff about your merchandising game plan [for fourth quarter]. Be sure that your full- and part-time staff know about "floor moves," or where everything is placed on the floor.

Note: You can reach Kent at donnakent@cox.net.

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