Merchandising Tour: Building community one booth at a time

A movement is popping up among various trade show exhibitors -- the trend of promoting community. In our second column from the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 Merchandising Tour series, merchandising expert Sharon Leicham looks at the trend and how to incorporate it into your own store.

A movement is popping up among various trade show exhibitors that I find interesting and heartening — the trend of promoting community. An early pioneer was Keen, which asked retailers to name the places they would most like to visit. Keen staff snapped photos of those who participated and attached them to a corkboard in its booth for the last couple shows for all to see. Keen also told the stories of real people who shared the company’s values and highlighted them on booth walls. (Click here to read a Sept. 16, 2009, SNEWS story.)

At Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010, community was showcased in new and compelling ways in booths by Clif Bar and Hi-Tec.

The back wall of the Clif Bar booth was a collage of quotes from company employees under the heading, “Food that moves you.” One staff member offered up this unique statement, “…amps me up and gets my leg twitchin’.” While the community Clif Bar was honoring was its own company culture, the “Food that moves you…” statement was completed by company people who chose unique ways to express their support of the company and its larger work.

Hi-Tec teamed up with the National Parks Conservation Association to draw attention to the organization’s mission of protecting and conserving National Parks for future generations. Hi-Tec created a promotion for the show called, “Art for Parks.” Show-goers were given a card that asked, “What inspires you?” Once completed, many of the responses became beautiful drawings compliments of artists at their easels, stationed at the booth entrance. It was fun to participate and see one’s inspiration turned into art. Completed artwork was hung along the sides of the booth during the show.

Building and honoring community is important. If you’re a retailer, I hope you have a cause or causes about which you feel passionate, either globally, nationally or locally. Let your customers know how you feel about what’s going on and what you are doing to help — people like to do business with people who share their values and concerns.

Hang a blackboard behind your cash/wrap area and keep it updated with information about what you are supporting — be it local trails or fighting obesity in your community. Find a spot in your store to hang a corkboard and invite your customers to post answers to questions you pose: What inspires you? How do you stay fit? Where would you most like to travel? What’s your favorite spot to climb, walk, hike, workout, bike…and why? Encourage them to submit photos of their favorite places. Get them involved. You might be surprised by the breadth and depth of interests and concerns your customers possess. In knowing, that might help focus your attention on issues that need your support.

Get involved and let your customers know about it. Take a tip from Clif Bar and Hi-Tec and do the right thing. Any way you look at it, drawing attention to things that matter beyond the next best-selling boot or elliptical machine will bring you rewards way beyond profits.

–Sharon Leicham

Would you like to join Sharon Leicham, author of “Merchandising Your Way to Success” and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 for the fourth Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program, co-sponsored by Outdoor Retailer and SNEWS? Currently, we are planning one hour-long merchandising tour of select exhibitor booths and displays designed for retailers and one hour-long merchandising tour focused on the needs of exhibitors. Email to put your name on a contact list for more information and to ensure your name is on the registration list for the next Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour Program, Winter Market 2011 — spaces are limited.