From maintaining and moving inventory to managing employees to mastering social media and, of course, making a profit, merchandising is one “m” that can feel like an afterthought.
“Big mistake,” says Linda Cahan, a visual merchandising expert and one of the judges of the 2014 Showroom of the Year Awards. “I tell retailers that no matter where they are in the world, engaging in smart visual merchandising is one of the absolute best things you can do for the health of your business.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to jump on the right merchandising track. After you’ve gone through your showroom to make sure each and every light can be switched on, go to work on your windows.
“It can be fun and eye-catching to do something really creative, but a really successful window display will tell a story that customers can relate to,” Cahan says. “Furniture and accessories help you build those narratives. If you sell those items, great; if not, scour your attic or shop on Craigslist for inexpensive pieces that help you put that picture together for your customers, whether it’s an intimate dining room with a beautiful chandelier or a reading nook with a comfy chair and great task lamp.”
Adding a pop of color is also a great way to add interest to a window display. Cahan suggests incorporating a pretty throw or a length of fabric or, if you’re feeling adventurous, painting a focal wall. Customers might not end up walking out with a colorful lamp or fixture, but color is inspiring nonetheless.
“Pantone will tell you the color of the year is Radiant Orchid, but the truth is every color makes people feel and act differently,” Cahan says. “Orangey yellows induce happiness while green calms and may even make customers shop for longer. Just whatever you choose to do in your window display, change it out every couple of months to keep it fresh and inviting.”
While you’re mastering your window displays, look for ways to create stories inside your showroom, as well. One of Cahan’s favorite techniques is to use partial walls or even full walls to break up wide, open spaces and provide opportunities for focal areas that showrooms can change out every four to five months.
“For starters, look around the room and pinpoint the first five focal areas,” Cahan says. “Then, come up with a story and build out each of the focal areas with a different message with your product as the star. One of the most memorable things from my Showroom of the Year judging experience was seeing a picture of one of these focal areas that a retailer had created. They put together a room scene with a beautiful mural on the back wall and displayed some chandeliers against it. It was gorgeous.”
Another thing that many showrooms are doing right, according to Cahan, is designating an area where customers can see firsthand what different light sources can really do.
”If you’re going to sell LEDs, people need to see the differences in color,” Cahan says. “One of the showrooms that I judged constructed a wall with three sections, each with a little setting lit with a different light bulb. It didn’t take up a lot of space. You could do something similar in the hallway next to the bathroom.”
Such displays that explain new concepts to customers are a win-win.
“They look good and add visual interest while providing valuable information about the product itself,” Cahan says.