Merchandising Tour: Get creative so hard-to-sell items grab consumer attention

Wouldn’t it be great if everything in the store sold like hotcakes? There are always those items with less hanger appeal, less display appeal and less excitement. So how do you turn those products into winners? Get ideas and tips from our Merchandising Tour expert, Sharon Leicham.

What does the term “added value” mean to you? Add-on sales? Better customer service? Increased margins? For those in visual merchandising, it means the sell-through that is achieved through the art of display. Well-conceived product presentations sell merchandise. It’s a fact. And one of the best places to get visual merchandising ideas is at trade shows.

This year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market featured a series of visual merchandising tours of exhibitor booths, sponsored by Outdoor Retailer, pointing out the product displays that could easily be translated in the retail store. In this series of Merchandising Tour columns, we discuss the best ideas found during the tours, why they captured our attention, and how to adapt them to the retail environment. The ideas apply to a broad range of products, companies, brands and segments, too.

There’s also something in this for you, our readers. We want to know how you applied tips and suggestions from our Merchandising Tour article series in your own store. Send SNEWS® your images and a paragraph or two explaining what you did, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win free lodging at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010.

Wouldn’t it be great if everything in the store sold like hotcakes? The truth of the matter is that there are always winning and near winning (I prefer that term to losers!) products. There are always those items with less hanger appeal, less display appeal and less excitement. So how do you turn those products into winners?

Nothing could be harder to sell than web-based selling tools especially when a company is competing with hundreds of hot and eye-catching outdoor products at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. Along comes Hotcakes, a company new to Summer Market and a winner of the SNEWS® BOB Fun Booth award.

The company’s tagline, “A sweeter way to sell,” described its ballroom-located booth — a ’50s soda shop style with catchy eye appeal, minimal fixturing and open space. The black-and-white checkered tile floor, the orange reception table and stools, and jukebox (given away at the end of the show) were fresh ways to merchandise an online product that is a challenge to present.

Trade show booths are different animals from store environments, but they present ideas that can be implemented by savvy retailers. The key is to recognize the elements that are transferable, create a “story” around products and have some fun doing it. It is part of selling the experience.

So what’s the take-away from the Hotcakes booth? The checkered flooring is one of the first things one noticed about the booth. Floor tiles are easy to use and can be placed over carpeting, wood or existing tile temporarily so find a space in the store or in a display window where you can create a display using different flooring. An area rug would serve the same purpose. The space inside the front entrance and to the right is the perfect spot for a small display area.

Create a theme and choose hard-to-merchandise products that fit the theme. Travel comes to mind with the holidays approaching, so choose luggage, stuff bags and travel accessories. Find display props that will help you create an interesting space. The orange stools in the Hotcakes booth were in keeping with the soda fountain theme, provided height variation (an important display technique) and added jolts of color.

Borrow an old, comfortable chair and use it to support the accessories and tell the story of packing to go to Grandma’s house. Place an open piece of luggage next to it on the floor that is filled with clothing in stuff bags, accessories and topped with a “To Do” list to serve as a visual enhancement and a way to describe the products included. Put additional items on the chair and bring in a side table and lamp to provide mood. Choose items that will add color to the arrangement.

Last but not least, add lighting. Lighting brings displays to life and makes all the difference in the effectiveness of your efforts.

If you want all your products to sell like hotcakes, then take a tip from Hotcakes: Create displays that tell a story, attract attention and sell those items that are less glam.

Join Sharon Leicham, author of “Merchandising Your Way to Success” and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010 for the second Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program, co-sponsored by Outdoor Retailer and SNEWS. These hour-long merchandising tours of select exhibitor booths and displays give retailers an unprecedented opportunity to tap into Leicham’s 40 years of experience in merchandising with manufacturers such as Specialized Bicycle Components and Sierra Designs. Email to put your name on a contact list for more information and priority scheduling for the Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tours, Winter Market 2010 — spaces are limited.