What's on the Outside Counts
Laura Van Zeyl

I attended the NY NOW show over the weekend, which is a rebrand of the New York Intl. Gift Fair, now taglined The Market for Gift + Lifestyle. The new floor plan organization was appreciated by all of the buyers I met, and I can say myself that it's much easier to find the incredible home resources that exhibit there, including some standout lighting and a surprising amount of LED for a non-lighting event.

Another highlight for me this time was a seminar sponsored by ART - The Creative Home Furnishings Network featuring merchandising guru Paul Thompson of Paul Thompson Signature. I knew it would be good -- Thompson has designed many creative and inspiring presentations for market centers and vendors (and he helped judge our first Showroom of the Year Awards) — but he took a surprising angle, devoting a solid half of his talk to sprucing up the exterior of your store.

"Exterior branding," as he called it, is an important way to grow your business, creating that all-important first impression for new customers as well as enticing repeat traffic. Therefore any renovation you do should really start from the outside and go in. He acknowledged limitations in some areas regarding community standards, codes, architectural realities and budgets that restrict how much can be done.

But he also stressed how important it was to make the investment to do whatever you can to maximize your impact and ensure an accurate representation of what your store is about. Signage is a key part of this. Your main signage is your identity to new clients. If it incorporates your logo, start by making sure your logo is up-to-date regarding how you want to be perceived. Even fonts used for signage paint a picture about you --do they capture your likeness in that portrait?

If you are blessed with windows, those should also be used to their best advantage. Open-back window displays, where you can peer into the store behind them, are best in areas with pedestrian traffic. Otherwise, partial or completely closed backs make the displays easier to "read" at 35 MPH (or more). And Thompson recommends changing window displays (or at least in significant portions) at least once a month.

Speaking to an audience of home décor retailers, Thompson also emphasized the importance of exterior lighting to enhance the elements adorning your storefront. Does it go without saying that we already should excel here, at the very least? Thompson had oodles of other great tips that we will address in a future issue of Residential Lighting. In the meantime, I did want to share a little of what I learned "live from New York."

About this author

Laura Van Zeyl

Laura Van Zeyl is the Publisher/Editorial Director of Residential Lighting and Home Fashion Forecast magazines, and has been covering the lighting and home furnishings industries since 1993. In 2014, she was named one of "100 Women of Inspiration" by Today's Chicago Woman magazine.

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