Visual Merchandising

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the power of intention and positive thinking in creating the life they want, and as retailers, we have the opportunity to share products that help our customers maintain focus on positive thoughts and affirmations.

Refreshing Displays

Refreshing Displays

As indie shop owners and buyers, it’s part of your unwritten job description to bring creativity, inspiration, and innovation to your corner of the world. If customers didn’t want your unique offerings and lovely ambiance, they’d be hoofing it to the mall with the rest of the herd, or stockpiling double-wide shopping carts in a big-box store, or—dare I say—pointing and clicking to their heart’s content from their favorite armchair.

Sign Language

Sign Language

The holiday buying frenzy is nearly upon us. Some shoppers are already checking gifts off their lists, but what about those who have only a vague notion of what their loved ones want? They’re the ones wandering aimlessly around your store with panicked looks on their faces. Even in a small store, it’s easy to become preoccupied helping one customer, leaving the rest adrift in a sea of choices. Give them a shopping lifeline with store signage that helps them discover—and purchase—the great gifts you carry.

Making Spirits Bright

Making Spirits Bright

The all-important fourth quarter is not quite here, but most shoppers have already begun to look for holiday gifts and décor. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly one fifth of consumers begin their holiday shopping before October! Even if your store is proudly known as the antidote to commercialization and the last place you’d expect a deluge of red and green, you can still highlight your store as the destination to find truly unique and meaningful gifts for all the winter holidays and decorate in a way that highlights the festive energy of the season.

Romancing the Stones

Romancing the Stones

Customers often come into my store, The Crystal Garden, asking for a gemstone or piece of jewelry that will attract wealth, heal their body and emotions, draw in their soul mate, or deflect negativity. Helping your customers adorn themselves with gemstone jewelry to consciously achieve their goals and intentions dovetails perfectly with the popularity of the Law of Attraction, and it makes for a more fun and rewarding shopping experience, too.

In the Cross Hairs

In the Cross Hairs

Tabatha Coffey (Tabatha’s Salon Takeover), Gordon Ramsay (Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares), and Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue) are hard-as-nails business experts who make entertaining reality television. The swearing, frustration, and scripted drama all play into our need to compare our efforts with those of other business owners ... and to be reassured we’re doing better than those poor suckers. We love the sense of becoming an instant expert at the end of each show and going into restaurants, bars, and salons thinking our newly acquired eye of the tiger can spot trouble like a pro.

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: My business partner thinks we can increase our total sales 25 percent by doubling our jewelry area. How can I tell if this is true? To give you some numbers: Our overall sales this past year were $480,000, and jewelry sales were $146,800. We have 1,400 square feet of sales space, and the eight display cases in the jewelry area take up 400 square feet.

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Do you sell statuary in your store? how do you train your staff to talk intelligently about Hindu and Buddhist deities? There are so many! We carry Buddha, Ganesh, Shiva, Kuan Yin, and Green Tara, but even those are challenging for new sales people. Truth is, I would like to order a larger variety, but I don’t really understand them all myself. Any suggestions?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: This may be an odd question, but there is an area of my store customers just seem to ignore. We stock some home goods, such as vases, candles and candleholders, lamps, wall clocks, and fountains. Beautiful tapestries are hung on the walls too. I just can’t figure out why customers ignore the area. Any ideas?

Clever Combinations

Clever Combinations

You see it all the time at the grocery store: instead of a simple floral display for Valentine’s Day, boxes of chocolate are placed in and around the bouquets, creating a need for both. If the chocolates are shelved only in the candy section, they might be overlooked or forgotten. Or you might see shampoo and conditioner displayed with combs and hairbrushes, or boxes of artisan crackers presented with a variety of imported cheese. The idea is classic cross-merchandising: motivating the customer to “cross over” and purchase related products.

How May I Help You?

How May I Help You?

This simple, courteous phrase opens the door to long-term customer relationships and sales when offered with true sincerity. Shoppers welcome assistance, especially during the harried days of holiday preparation when inspiration may wane in the wake of overwhelming choices. The personal interactions in your shop can help ease this holiday stress and ensure positive shopping experiences, while contributing to community and global harmony.

ShopTalk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Do you have problems with customers shoplifting small items? I just did an inventory of our rings (kept at the counter) and essential oils (a short distance away near bath salts and lotions), and I am really concerned about the number that are missing. Am I supposed to just accept this as a cost of doing business? Do you have any suggestions?

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

While your customers are soaking up the last rays of summer sun and making sure their kids are ready for back-to-school, you’re already fast-forwarding to visions of snowflakes and festive giftwrap. It’s a retailer’s prerogative—indeed a necessity—to plan ahead for the holiday season. After all, holiday shopping accounts for between 25 and 40 percent of annual sales for most retailers. Just think about those numbers. No wonder store owners are so focused on the fourth quarter.

Boost 4th Quarter Sales by Responding to Trends in Your Customers’ Lives

Recent reports by the National Retail Federation suggest sales are finally trending up, and fall/holiday looks promising. That’s great news—but what the data doesn’t show is how much customers have shifted energetically over the last few years. Most have experienced tremendous change and growth; they’re simply not the same folks they were before. Your challenge? Meet them where they are now.

Display on a Dime

Display on a Dime

Get out your toolbox—it’s time to create some new displays! This is a different kind of toolbox, one filled with thumbtacks, fabric, boxes for stacking, and ceiling clips, as well as odds and ends you can repurpose into some of the best displays in town. This toolbox may even be the larger, more coveted display closet where you keep such goodies as the four-foot glowing pumpkin or the wicker sleigh. Diligently, you’ve scoured the craft store clearance sections, yard sales, flea markets, store closing sales, and even may have trash-picked a piece or two.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Our store will open in two months, and my husband and I have run into a disagreement. He thinks we should spend $4,000 on signage right now, and I think we should start with a less expensive sign and then get the one we want later. What would you suggest?

Stocking for Success

Inventory management may seem like a dry subject, but for retailers, it can have a dramatic effect on profitability. A system that ensures you are carrying the right merchandise in the right quantity is an essential ingredient in a healthy bottom line. Too much inventory will tie up badly needed money while taking up valuable space on your shelves; too little inventory will eat away at your cash flow and disappoint customers you can’t afford to lose.

Bright Ideas

Providing customers with a highly attractive shopping environment is one of the key factors in supporting retail sales. And, at the most basic level, a store cannot begin to optimize profits without a proper lighting system. Not only will lighting enhance the presentation of your merchandise, it also affects the mood of shoppers in your store.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I’m hoping to open a new store this summer and have been looking at available real estate. I have found spaces for lease in locations I like that are 1,200 to 2,400 square feet. Can you tell me how much floor (sales) space and how much back-room space I should plan for?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: What do you think about plastic gift cards? Are they worth the investment?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How can I interest customers in buying books that are valuable (in my opinion) but tend to just sit on the shelf?

Survivor's Guide to the Economy

Survivor's Guide to the Economy

What changes have you made in your store to keep your business healthy in the slow economy? This is the question I asked recently as I spoke with New Age retailers around the country. Many told me they had developed important and effective strategies for store survival, including both fundamental changes in the way they do business and smaller adjustments in procedures or focus. The best part? You can benefit from their success by applying these ideas to your business, helping you not only survive during the slow times, but thrive as the economy once again picks up steam.

How to Sell Jewelry Your Customers Can Afford

The cost of silver is increasing dramatically, and it’s causing some real problems for retail stores and their customers. Two years ago the price of raw silver was $12 an ounce. Six months ago it was $24, and in early June, the price was over $36—with no end in sight. Some experts predict it will continue to climb to record levels through the end of the year. Your customers want jewelry, and now is the time to find alternative ways to provide them with products they can afford.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: How long should we hold on to merchandise that isn’t selling before we mark it down? My husband never wants to mark anything down, but I’m concerned about inventory that just sits. What do you suggest?

8 Paths to Selling Success

8 Paths to Selling Success

Adding hot new products to your inventory is always exciting, but when you’re an independent retailer with a tight budget and tight quarters, how do you merchandise, introduce, and promote these unknown brands effectively? To help you debut what’s new in your store, industry insiders—from manufacturers and merchants to a feng shui expert and a marketing whiz—share ideas and recommendations for getting your creative merchandising juices flowing.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: When pricing items that do not come pre-priced, are there certain prices to avoid and others that are proven to sell well?

The Art of Private Labeling

The Art of Private Labeling

When you think “private label,” you probably imagine high-end, exclusive private stock with a limited offering, or its opposite: your local grocery’s cheap store brand that’s all about budget shopping. Whether high or low end, private labeling may seem out of the domain of small business. True, private labeling is not for every business, but when approached as a strategy and branding technique, it can be a powerful tool to get your store noticed and create customer loyalty.

5 Ways to Stop Theft Before It Happens

Have you ever looked at your store through the eyes of a thief? To the shoplifter, your beautiful displays and ample products are like a delicious bunch of grapes, ripe and ready for snatching. During hours, after hours, when you’re looking, and when you aren’t—all are opportunities for loss.

5 Savvy Tips to Boost Your Average Sale

Every customer who walks through your door is a spin of the roulette wheel. Left to their own devices, they could purchase $2 worth of incense, a $100 necklace, or just walk out. Here are some strategies that cost little or nothing but can stack the sales odds in your favor with every customer.

Match Game

You see it all the time at the grocery store: Instead of simply having a display of pumpkin pies, containers of whipped cream are placed among and around the pies, creating a need for both. If the whipped cream is shelved only in the dairy section, it might get overlooked or forgotten. Or you might see shampoo displayed with conditioner near the hairbrushes or a nylon “scrubbie” hanging beside body wash. The idea is to draw attention to related items and have the customer “cross over” and purchase additional merchandise. This is classic cross merchandising.

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