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  • Does Your Store Need An Exercise Plan?

    We all know exercise is good for us. It keeps us fit and gives us energy. If we exercise regularly, we can maintain a healthier weight. We have fewer aches and pains.

    We know the benefits. For many of us, it’s a challenge to fit into our busy lives. We have so many urgent things to do, that it’s hard to fit exercise in. After a while, we start to notice that a short walk leaves us puffing for breath. Or our clothes fit a little snugger than they used to. We realize that our habits have left us out of shape.

    Our stores get out of shape just like our bodies
    When a store first opens, everything is shiny & new.
    Clean windows.
    Fresh paint.
    New fixtures.
    Shining spotlights.

    And then we get busy with running the store
    Each day is so full.
    There’s marketing to do.
    Calls to make.
    Inventory to buy.
    Displays to build.

    Staff to manage.
    And then there’s customers to serve!
    With so much to do, we stop seeing the store as customers do.

    The bright shiny shop starts to lose it’s sparkle
    The floor gets scuff marks.
    Table corners chip.
    Paint gets worn.
    Windows get dirty.

    When you’re in the store everyday, it’s easy to overlook
    those little changes over time.

    What happens when the store starts getting out of shape?

    Customers notice.
    The image of the store starts to slip.
    The shop no longer makes an attractive first impression.
    New shoppers aren’t wowed anymore.
    Existing customers start to drift away.
    But the change is slow.
    And hard to see.

    One day the shop is fresh and new, a couple of years
    later it looks a little worn around the edges.

    What can you do to your store back in shape?

    Or to keep it fit in the first place?

    Just like exercise, it takes regular discipline.
    And a little bit of planning.

    Plan maintenance tasks in your daily activities
    Because maintenance is rarely as urgent as ordering or unpacking merchandise, serving customers or managing employees, it doesn’t get done. Planning a few maintenance tasks every day is a way to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten.

    For example, every morning wipe all the glass in the store, clean dust bunnies out of displays and replace burnt out lightbulbs. In the evenings, sweep or vacuum the floors. Once a week schedule fixtures, furniture and cupboards to be cleaned. And at the end of every month, walk through the store with a checklist and look for fixtures, walls, or flooring that needs to be repaired or repainted. Schedule the repairs to be completed within the next thirty days.

    Scheduling maintenance will keep the sparkle your store
    Maintaining your store sends a message to customers that you value quality, and pay attention to the details. They will appreciate your commitment to creating an inviting atmosphere. They’ll show their appreciation by coming back again. And again.

    If you don’t have a maintenance plan for your store, today is the day to start.
    Just like regular exercise keeps you fit, scheduled maintenance keeps your store in tip top shape.

    The new year is a great time to get your store in top shape. Mark your calendar now to set up a maintenance schedule when your holiday rush as over. You’ll get the new year started off on the right foot.

    Recommended Product: Another great way to start off the new year. Learn more about Why Customers Aren’t Buying (And How To Fix It): The Pinwheel Principle


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    Why Shopping Is Harder Than You Think (And How to Make It Easy)

    Shopping is hard work.
    Harder than it used to be. And getting harder.

    The culprit is choice.
    We are surrounded by choice. The opportunities to choose are growing every day. We can choose to shop where we live or work. We can choose to travel to a store that has exactly what we want. Or we can choose to buy online. We can choose from hundreds, or thousands of stores. And millions of products.

    You might think that more choice makes it easier to shop.
    But it doesn’t.
    Instead, shoppers become paralyzed with indecision.
    When too much choice is presented to customers, their eyes glaze over.
    They move on to the next store, or the next website.

    Don’t customers want options?
    They do. But they want their options to be simplified. They buy when the choices are easy.

    Look at Amazon for example. Amazon offers tons of choice. And the number of choices are constantly expanding. But Amazon helps you choose. Amazon makes it easy to find exactly what you want. Their search feature, customer reviews, recommendations and personalized emails guide you to buy. They make it easy.

    So what makes it easy for customers to shop?
    Three things: consistency, organization and information.

    1. Consistency
    Consistency helps your customer know what to expect. Consistency means you have a strong identity that is carried through your entire company.

    Imagine a store sends out an email featuring new designer fashions. It includes an elegant black & white logo. Classic typeface. Lots of white space.

    What do we expect this store to look like?
    Naturally, a store that has the same identity. A comfortable, elegant shopping environment. A lot of space between racks. Quality merchandise. Helpful service.

    We’re surprised & confused if we find a discount store instead. Or the featured merchandise is unavailable. Or the sales staff are apathetic.

    Maintain consistency in all points of contact with your customers. They just want to know what to expect from you. Customers find it easier to choose when they know what to expect.

    2. Organization

    Shoppers don’t like to feel confused.
    At the slightest hint of confusion, shoppers will turn around and walk away.

    At the very least, a store needs to be clean & neat. Boxes of stock and returned merchandise don’t belong on the selling floor.

    Beyond this, merchandise needs to be organized in clearly defined categories. To determine categories, watch how your customers shop. What products do they buy together? Group these complementary products together.

    For example, imagine a store that sells computers, digital cameras and accessories. Instead of grouping equipment bags together, place camera bags with cameras. Laptop bags next to laptops.

    Customers that find everything they need in one place, choose to buy more.

    3. Information
    Information helps shoppers makes decisions.
    But only if it’s the right information.
    In the right place. At the right time.

    Signs can help you put the right information where it needs to be. Use them to answer frequently asked questions. Do shoppers have questions about how pants should fit? Or how to choose the right printer? Or what the price is?

    But how do you know where to put the sign? Sometimes the answer is not obvious. To discover the right place, watch how customers shop. What are they doing right before they ask a question? Test sign placement to see if customers read it. Test, and test again until you get it right.

    To help shoppers choose, provide the information they need. When & where they need it.

    Use consistency, organization and information to make your customers’ choices easy.

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    Shoestring Merchandising Tips for Retail Store Display

    Quick tips to improve your store:

    • Upgrade lighting whenever you can. Retail store windows especially need to be well lit. There are some great little halogen spotlights out there that are inexpensive and easy to install. They are terrific for highlighting display areas. Just make sure they are installed safely and the cords are unobtrusive.

    • An inexpensive can of paint can be used to paint your fixtures to match, or touch up chips and keep things looking new.

    • Fabric and paper are two valuable display helpers. Use them under or behind a display to provide a backdrop, use a scarf to add colour and movement to a static arrangement. To avoid a busy look, stick to a few colours and textures that complement your store design and merchandise.

    • Use magazines as a source of ideas for displays. Find time to go to the library so you can browse for free. Look at do-it-yourself magazines for hardware, home decor magazines for giftware and housewares, etc. The full page ads, feature stories and new product listings are helpful.

    • Take a seminar or spend a couple of hours with a retail consultant to learn some display and merchandising techniques.

    • Pretend you are a customer and take a look at your storefront. Try to see the store as the customer would see it. What do you notice? Take photos to get a different perspective. Often you’ll see things you didn’t notice before.

    • Sit down and make a list of adjectives that describe the image you want to achieve for your store. Before you make merchandising plans, check your list to stay focussed. A great idea in another store won’t necessarily fit your image.

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    Use Your Cash Wrap to Communicate With Customers

    Quick spot check! Grab a pen and paper.

    Stand in line with your customers at the till. What do you see while you’re waiting? Make a list.

    Sale bins and return policy signs. Phones, debit machines and tape dispensers. Pens, papers and binders. Customer holds and returns. Hangers. Notes from management to staff.

    Clutter is not a selling tool.

    What is the job of the cash wrap? Not storing supplies. Not holding equipment.

    The job of the cash wrap is to close the sale. Offer add-on merchandise. Invite guests to return.

    The experience at the till is just as important as greeting the customer. Just as important as finding out the customer’s needs. Just as important as helping him find solutions to his problem.

    At the checkout you reinforce the identity of the store. Strengthen the shopper’s impression of a positive experience.

    At the this point in the selling process, you have the opportunity to resolve concerns that the customer may still have. You get to reinforce a connection with the shopper.

    An effective and efficient cash wrap zone sets the stage for a favorable interaction. It creates positive customer expectations of the service they will receive.

    It’s hard for customers to evaluate service.

    Service isn’t tangible. The shopper can’t touch it. He can’t measure it.

    When a customer evaluates your services, he evaluates how he feels about it. And much of how the customer feels about the interaction is based on the selling environment. The things he can see, touch, hear and smell.

    Imagine… how do you want the customer to feel as she leaves your store?

    Satisfied with her purchase. Confident that she made the right decision. Content with an efficient transaction. Happy to have met someone who understands her needs. Pleased to have made a new friend.

    Your goal is to make sure that the customer leaves feeling good about her interaction with you. Give her a reason to return.

    It’s harder to do this if your cash desk sends a completely different message.

    Be clear about the message your cash desk communicates.

    Messages are not only words and signs.

    The physical aspects of your store are the main way of communicating what your store is all about. If you’re not careful, you can inadvertently send messages you didn’t intend to send.

    Dirty counters or chipped paint communicates a lack of attention to detail. Notes to employees taped on the till or the wall show you’re focused on operations, not on the customer. An unattended debit pinpad on the counter says you may not be careful about preventing fraud. A pile of holds, hangers or papers shows that perhaps you’re too busy to be attentive.

    Think carefully about the message you want to send.

    You want the customer to have confidence in you. To trust you. Believe you to be organized, knowledgeable, and approachable.

    What would your cash wrap look like if it sent that message?

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    Why You Need to Sell to Just One Person

    Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

    –Kurt Vonnegut

    Retailing is a creative process. Just like writing.

    Just like great writers, great retailers sell to just one customer.

    Many retailers fall into the trap of thinking something along the lines of “If I market to just one customer, I won’t sell enough to buy my family a box of cereal!” Well, maybe you didn’t word it exactly like that, but isn’t that essentially what you are afraid of?

    Once you’re in the trap of trying to sell to everyone, you’re stuck. You have to figure out how to sell your product to the world.

    Now that’s a big job!

    How are you going to do it? You don’t have the money to market to everyone. You don’t have enough staff to sell to the world.

    You don’t even know where to begin. It’s overwhelming.

    And what about the people who are not interested in what you’re selling. Do you want to spend money trying to sell to people who are not interested in your product?

    Wouldn’t you rather spend your money sending your message to people who are the most likely to buy from you? People who already enjoy products similar to yours?

    Do you see where I ‘m going with this?

    When you try to please everyone, you become exhausted. You can’t possibly sell to the whole world, or even your whole community.

    You wear yourself out trying to be everything to everyone. Your store gets pneumonia. Your business concept becomes weak and sickly.

    The remedy is to sell to just one person.

    The one who will love your product. The one who will come back over and over.

    When you sell to just one person, business decisions becomes easier.

    When you buy products, you won’t say to yourself, “Somebody might like this.” Instead you say, “Sally will love this!” or “I’m not buying that. Sally will hate it!”

    When you market your business, you know where Sally lives, so you can send her a note. Or phone her. Call her up and say, “Sally, I just got this new thing you’ll love! I was thinking about you when I ordered it!”

    Sally realizes that you’re not just talking to anyone, you’re talking to her. And you know exactly what she loves. When she walks in your store, she feels like her name is written all over the store. From the scent of vanilla in the air to the upholstered chair by the fitting rooms, it is her kind of place.

    The best part is that Sally has friends. And family. And co-workers. And neighbours. And many of them like the same things that Sally does.

    Sell to Sally.

    Not to the world.

    Your business will be a lot healthier.

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    Best of Vancouver Retail


    What does beautiful Vancouver have to offer shoppers?

    What can we learn by looking at what great retailers do well?

    A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of hosting a couple of guests from Great Harvest Bakery head office in Dillon, MT. We spent the day on a tour of the best Vancouver retail. What a fabulous way to spend the day – visiting stores, talking retail, snacking on the best baking in town, and making new friends.

    I learned what a fabulous company Great Harvest has created. Their stores are all franchised, and they have a deep commitment to their store owners, and communities.

    We visited the well-known born-in-Vancouver success stories – MEC, Lululemon, Aritizia, and many more examples of retailers who are doing what it takes to deliver what customers want. Our day was jam-packed with stores. Some of them had so much to see we had a hard time leaving to move on to the next one!

    Some of the things these retailers do well:

    • Tailoring each store to fit the community. Many of these stores are NOT using the cookie-cutter chain approach to store design. They might have many locations, but the best of these retailers are demonstrating to their customers that they are active and involved in their local community. The stores maintain a strong brand and identity, while adapting it in each location to reflect the personality of the neighbourhood.
    • Great signage. Shoppers are hungry for information. The best retail examples have strong signage to help customers find what they are looking for – quickly and easily – and make an informed decision.
    • Good lighting in key areas. Lighting enhances texture and colour. Lighting displays well makes them sparkle, and draws the customer in.
    • Positioning displays to attract attention. Displays are used throughout the store – always keeping in mind the customers’ point of view. What does the customer see when she walks in the store? Stands next to a table? Waits in line?

    These are just a few of the many points we noted on our tour. Stay tuned…we may just open up the tour soon so you can join us…and get one of our fabulous swag bags of samples too!

    The Great Harvest team with me at the end of our tour, in Coal Harbour:

    My new associate, Marie-Claude, (on the left) joined us for the day as well:

    Photos courtesy of Kaylee, Great Harvest Bakery.

    I hope to see some of you on the Best of Vancouver retail tour soon!

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    Turn Customer Confusion into Traffic That Flows

    Have you ever entered a store, looked around and walked out because it was messy or claustrophobic?

    Or been in a store, searching for a product feeling confused or frustrated because you can’t find it?

    Maybe you returned to a store, in search of your favorite product, only to find the merchandise completely re-arranged.


    Customer confusion is a continuum.

    If the customer is conscious of feelings of frustration or confusion, the store layout and merchandising are clearly ineffective. At the other end of the continuum, the shopping experience is a joy to the senses. Most shopping experiences are somewhere in between.

    Customers won’t complain if they are confused. They’ll just turn around and walk back out.

    Customers will tolerate a mild level of confusion. Maybe even buy an item or two.

    But they won’t become raving fans. They may not return. They may express their frustration to their friends.

    So, what can you do to reduce customer confusion?

    Make it easy

    An effective store layout is easy for the customer to understand. It has a natural flow and visual cues to help shoppers find their way through the store.
    Store departments, or product groupings are clearly separated to guide shoppers to the merchandise they need.

    When the shopper enters, there is enough open space for the shopper to slow down her pace, look around and transition into the store. As she slows down she scans the layout for clues to help her find what she needs.

    The front area on the right is one of the prime locations in your store. It is a key area for sales, and for establishing the identity of the store. The fixtures and merchandise in this space need to grab people and draw them in.

    This section right in front of the door, should entice shoppers with its dynamic display. It should announce that the store is brimming with new and exciting offerings.

    Balance new products and basics.

    A general rule to use when organizing the store, is to keep major departments and staple items on walls, and in lower traffic areas.

    Shoppers want to know that the basics will not move around. They want to find these things easily each time they return. Seasonal and high margin merchandise should be in high traffic areas.

    Take a walk in the shoppers’ shoes.

    It is important to consider what the shopper sees, the ‘vistas’ from different points in the store. To examine how the layout can be improved, take a look at a large section of the store at a time. One of the best ways to do this is through photos.

    For example, what does the customer see at the back of the store, when she comes in the store? Treat that view like a display or a piece of art that you are creating. Is there a strong, appealing focal point? Is there balance and symmetry? Is there anything obstructing the view?

    A rule of thumb is to use shorter fixtures towards the front of the store, or department, with taller ones further to the back. The customer is able to take in an overall view of the store, without obstructions. It also keeps the front of the store from feeling closed in. The shorter fixtures lead shoppers into each area.

    The back wall also needs a strong focal point. It is another high impact area, or prime location. It needs to be one of the strongest points of the store.

    Shoppers want to look around the store and understand the layout in a glance. Creating clear focal points and moving obstructions is one step towards reducing customer confusion.

    Plan first.

    Before you get all excited and start moving things around, make a plan. On paper. Not in your head. A helpful tool is a planogram.

    A planogram is a floor plan of the entire store with fixtures and merchandise placement, including quantities of merchandise. It enables you to work out a layout on paper, making merchandise or fixture moves quicker and easier.

    Even if only a small section of the store is moved, it is helpful to plan the move on paper first. A clear plan is easy to delegate to team members. The move becomes more efficient and effective.

    A well-planned and organized store will convert your customer confusion to customer enjoyment.

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