Residential Lighting: What makes for good visual merchandising?
Paul Thompson: A vision. An understanding of what you want to be. Are you all things to everybody, or do you carry only certain items? Do you have expertise in a certain category or style of lighting? You must know your niche. Find out what sells and identify your customer base. It’s all about service. How do you service customers? How do you capture their attention? How do you take away distractions?
RL: Okay. But from a practical standpoint, where should showrooms begin?
PT: Start by renovating the front entrance. You want a first impression that says the store is well-lit, well-designed, well-categorized. Use showcase windows to tell customers what you have and who you are. Just be sure to change those areas at least once or twice a year.
RL: How should they group merchandise?
PT: Help customers figure out what they like by size, color and style. Make it easy for them. Take carriage lights, for example. Say there are four sizes, four colors and four wattages. That’s four times four times four—a lot of lights. Just show one of each size, one of each color and maybe two of the four wattages. You will have all the finishes right there, so people will figure out what a smaller size looks like in a green patina. You don’t have to have every finish, size and wattage.
RL: Do you recommend grouping in every category?
PT: I’m not saying all the chandeliers have to be together. But I think you have to pick some endcaps to do some stories, such as a crystal chandelier with some accessories to create a room setting that people can relate to. You’re giving people ideas and pushing them up in price. If you have some great trophy pieces, put them where you can highlight them—where they make a statement on what is to come in the rest of the showroom. The chandeliers behind that endcap can be displayed one after another, but at least you will have made a statement.
RL: So, having accessories on display is important.
PT: Yes, because I think people say, “Oh, I love that chandelier, but I don’t know if it will go with my furniture.” Well, if they see it with furniture—whether they relate to the pieces or not—they will understand how it can fit into their home. People like to live casually and comfortably. So, show them how they can have casual furniture together with sophisticated lighting. Think of your store as a page in a magazine. Pick any home magazine you love, tear out a page from it and recreate the scene in your showroom. It doesn’t have to be the exact same pieces of furniture—just a vignette reflecting it. It’s a way to get expert advice for free.
RL: What is the best and quickest way to raise the perceived value of stores?
PT: Perception is everything, and the biggest perception issue we have is the cleanliness of our stores. Most customers won’t buy product that’s “out of the box.” Well, does your store look like it’s “out of the box”? Nobody can be perfect, but maybe you should reach a little further.
Thompson’s Visual Merchandising Basics
• Keep the store clean and tidy.
• Create a compelling front entrance.
• Use vignettes and endcaps to showcase high-end fixtures.
• Reconstruct room settings that appear in the pages of popular home magazines.
Paul Thompson is Vice President, Visual Merchandising & Trends for OneCoast, a multiline sales representation firm. Prior to joining OneCoast, Thompson headed the visual merchandising efforts at The Pfaltzgraff Co. and at Department 56.