Merchandising 101 is such a large concept to grasp, that it can be hard to know where to begin. In this section, we’ll give you some retail merchandising tips that will round out the merchandising basics and make getting started easier and more visual.
You’ll want to start with the category, your brand, and the story you want to tell. What does your brand stand for? What message are you trying to get across to your customers? What are your values? Are you a fun and funky brand or are you a little more sophisticated and formal? Answering these questions will help you write your brand story and find the right new products to fit your customer needs in a relatively quick timeframe.
This story should be evident in all of the decisions you make about product selection, store layout, display styling, and many more aspects of your business far beyond the scope of retail merchandising. In almost all cases, this story will be built around your company’s value proposition as well as the key qualities that make your business different from competitors. The same can be said for your target customer. The ideal buyer should be at the center of all retail merchandising decisions you make. You need to understand their ideal customer experience and do your best to create it.
To get started, put yourself in shoes of the type of shopper you want to court. Before you were a retail buyer, category manager, or even in retail merchandising, you were a customer. Think of about your ideal shopping experience. What did you expect when you walked into a store? Chances are your expectation aren’t that much different than those of your customers.
Next, think about complementary products. This is the part of the retail merchandising process that most merchants do without even realizing it. The products you stock should make sense together. This helps give your store a clear identity that’s easy for shoppers to understand and remember.
Mixing product styles dramatically only serves to confuse shoppers. For example, if you’re a children’s toy store, are you going to sell bird cages? Probably not, because it wouldn’t make much sense.
Stick with a theme and be consistent for the best results in your retail merchandising. You can always evolve this theme over time based on customer demand, but you don’t want to stray too far from your category identity.
Similarly, you’ll want to organize your products into logical groups. This can be as basic as having a boys and girls section, but we recommend going at least one level deeper than that. Continuing with our toy store example, this would mean having separate sections for board games, outdoor fun, physical sports, and video games.
You can be more creative with your groupings as long as it makes sense to your customers. You often see this approach with sporting goods stores that organize their merchandise by sport.
Organizing your merchandise in this manner eliminates doubt and questions in the shopper’s mind, which is often a huge barrier to making a purchase.
As with your broader retail merchandising strategy, you’ll want to keep your ideal customer in mind. Try to source products that create an experience that caters to the customer’s unique personality and values. Look for products that keep the retail store merchandising fresh and unique. Plan products that might pleasantly surprise the customer and keep them coming back for more surprises in the category.