Greg O’Neal of Philosophy Design presented a seminar at the recent Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association show in Dallas, Texas entitled, “How to Design and Market Your Store.” Drawing from 13 years in the retail and wholesale industries, he stressed three areas: finding your niche; marketing your niche; merchandising your niche.
“A store must have a niche to survive,” O’Neal stressed. A niche can be concentrating on games, or stuffed toys, or marbles. As a retailer, you might offer other products but your store would be the destination to find a specific item. Retailers can also define their niche with a specific retail philosophy. For example, Essence of Nonsense in St. Paul, MN, doesn’t carry any toys with batteries.
O’Neal suggests that the best way to market your goods is through a means that reflects your philosophy as well as your niche. For stores that carry old-fashioned toys, the best means would be local or specialty print media and perhaps television, but not a gamers’ magazine. Direct mail in a standard postcard is also good if you have a mailing list or wish to reach a community.
Above all, word of mouth works best, said O’Neal, and the best way to create a buzz is with your store’s appearance. Enhancing your store’s appeal is crucial when your inventory is low or when you have a lot of merchandise to move. “Merchandising displays can be cost effective when you buy and plan with a vision in mind, when you believe in what you are buying, and when you can communicate your vision,” said O’Neal. It’s a savvy business move to invest in a talented visual merchandiser who charges you by the job. You can get someone to do just the display windows or just the display cases.
“Know your sales peaks and valleys and merchandise around those,” warned O’Neal. You can merchandise on a budget by changing paint colors on temporary walls or cubes, using vinyl lettering, and by incorporating props into your displays (i.e. fruit; rocks; candy; shredded colored paper; fabric; shells; filled glass containers; antiques).
Finally, O’Neal gave a few tips for retailers to take home with them:
●Less is more – don’t confuse the eye of the customer. Buy what you believe in and buy enough quantity for your displays.
●Pick a color theme or a subject theme – Customers stop more often when they are attracted by a color theme. Even when you chose a subject for your theme, if you also pick a color to emphasis it, the visual impact is more intense. For example, if you are doing a summer at the beach theme, choose your backgrounds and accent items in blue; your merchandise with then “pop!”
●Use the “Theory of Three” – Display items in groups of three. Our brains are attracted to groups of three, rather than groups of one or two, and will remember them better.
●Take risks – “You will inspire your customers to come back and see what you are doing,” O’Neal predicted. “You will also inspire your retail neighbors to create attractive stores and you will stimulate a healthy retail environment.” As a retailer, you can also hold the manufacturers’ interest by sending them photos of the store displaying their products. Finally, you will inspire yourself as a buyer to keep finding and merchandising the products within your niche.