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  • The Zoom Effect: How ‘Medium Shots’ Lead Customers Through The Store


    You’ve driven all morning to reach the mountain peak. You get out of the car, stretch your legs, and enjoy the stunning view. After a few minutes, you turn back to the car, get in, and start the long drive back down.

    If that’s all there is, it hardly seems worth the trip.
    The panorama view is great, but you want to see more. It’s much more enjoyable to find a hiking trail. A scenic picnic spot. A hidden lake. You want to stay longer to explore.

    Customers also want more than just the panorama view. Sometimes a store looks good at first glance, but doesn’t draw shoppers inside. Customers walk in, glance around and bounce right back out again.

    So, how do you keep people from bouncing out the door?

    Customers need something to draw them inside
    That’s where medium shots come in.

    Medium shots are used to pull the shopper deeper into the store after the panorama shot attracts their attention. The panorama shot is the wide angle view. It’s the mountaintop vista that attracts the shopper.

    The panorama shot also helps the customer understand how the products are organized. In the panorama approach, merchandise is grouped into three main stories, or sections. The customer can easily understand these three stories without getting overwhelmed. Once the shopper chooses one of these three stories, she’s ready for a closer view.

    That’s where medium shots come in.

    What are medium shots?
    Medium shots focus on a scene within the overall landscape.  In the mountain scene, this would be a grove of trees, a shrub, or a field of flowers.

    In a store, the medium shot focuses on one of your three main stories. The goal is to set up your medium shot to guide and lead your customer through the store.

    Medium shots draw the customer inside
    They invite her to spend more time in the store.
    To explore.
    To browse.

    Let’s zoom in a little to take a closer look at how medium shots guide your shoppers.

    How do you lead customers through the store?
    Medium shots use three concepts to invite shoppers to explore.

    1) Frames
    2) Categories
    3) Pathways

    Each of these concepts is a method to lead the customer deeper into the store. In this article we’re going to examine the first method; frames. Categories and pathways will be discussed in the following articles.

    Let’s look at the concept of using frames in your medium shots.

    1) Frames – Composing the scene
    In photography, framing is a method of focusing attention on the subject. Just like a photographer, you want to focus attention on certain areas of the store. You are composing the scene that you want your customer to see.

    Framing the medium shot includes these three elements:

    A) Foreground
    B) Middle ground
    C) Background

    As the shopper moves through the department, the foreground leads the shopper to the middle ground and through to the background. This organization provides a framework to help the customer find what she needs. When the department is planned in this way, the shopper is more likely to look around the store. The layout frames the merchandise

    Let’s look at foreground in more detail.

    A) Foreground
    The foreground in a store is arranged to draw attention.  Key displays invite the shopper to slow down and start to browse.

    The foreground is made up of the fixtures at the front of the department, near the aisle. These fixtures welcome the customer to the department, and frame the view of the rest of the department.

    The front fixtures may be lower than fixtures in the centre of the department, so the viewer can see the merchandise behind them. Tables are often used in this location.


    A: Foreground tables
    B: Middle ground fixtures
    C: Background

    The foreground may be used for displays , temporary merchandising units, or endcaps of aisles.

    The merchandise and displays in the foreground tend to change often. These areas are used for new or featured merchandise, or seasonal items.

    The foreground leads the customer to the middle ground.

    B) Middle ground
    The middle ground includes the bulk of the floor fixtures. These might be gondolas, tables, tiered tables, shelving units, or apparel racks.

    Typically these fixtures will be higher than the fixtures in the front of the store. Often these middle ground fixtures will be a consistent height, particularly if they are all gondolas or shelving units. In an apparel or giftware shop, there may be more variance in the styles and heights in the middle ground fixtures.

    The middle ground holds the general stock for the store. The merchandise in the middle ground doesn’t change as often as the foreground. Staple items are carried in this area. Often middle ground fixtures are labeled to identify the types of products found there. For example, grocery or hardware stores have signs to indicate the products found in each aisle.

    C) Background
    The background is usually the back wall of the department or section. The background needs to draw shoppers towards it. The back wall, or part of it needs to be visible from the front of the department. The middle ground fixtures should frame, not obscure, the wall.

    In boutiques, the back wall is mostly visible. It features a strong theme and key display. The wall presents seasonal, high margin merchandise, not sale items. The displays and merchandise presentation are highlighted with spot lights. One colour that was featured in the foreground is often sprinkled through the middle ground, and again highlighted on this back wall. This provides a trail of breadcrumbs for the shopper to follow through the store.

    In a large general merchandise store, the back wall is often not as visible. It is still important to be able to see part of the wall from the front of the department. This can be a view down a wide centre aisle. Or it can be a large department sign mounted on the back wall above the level of the fixtures.


    A: Foreground endcaps
    B: Middle ground aisles
    C: Background with department sign

    Using either words or graphics, the sign indicates what shoppers will find in that section, drawing them through the store. This helps the customer get oriented before entering the department. Often in this type of shop, highly desirable basic items are at the back of the store. This encourages shoppers to walk to the back.

    These three areas; the foreground, middle ground and background, provide a frame for the department. Framing focuses the shoppers attention on the displays in the foreground. Then the shopper is led through the middle ground to the background.

    Just like the trip up the mountain, now that your shoppers are in the store, you want them to stay and enjoy the scenery. Framing keeps your customers from bouncing back out the door, and gets them to browse instead.

    But framing is just one of the ways you can use medium shots to lead your customer through the store.

    Next step
    Over the next two weeks, we’ll look at how categories and pathways are used in medium shots. You’ll learn how these techniques work to get your shoppers to explore the store. 

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    Are You Struggling to Merchandise Because You Don’t Know the Pinwheel Concept?

    You’ve worked hard on your business. You know your target market. You have a quality product. You’ve trained your staff.

    For some reason, you’re just not getting the response you hoped for. Customers aren’t buying.

    You’re not sure where to turn.

    What do you do next?

    Do you create new displays? Put everything on sale?
    Get someone to help you with merchandising?
    You know you need to do something.
    But what?

    Before you make any decisions, you need to understand the pinwheel concept.

    Have you ever played with a pinwheel?

    A pinwheel has four vanes that capture wind and spin the pinwheel. In your business, the four vanes are four areas of information. This information is what you need to know to merchandise your store effectively.

    The information takes the struggle out of merchandising decisions. And when you struggle less, your business starts to gain momentum. The pinwheel starts to spin.

    So, what do I need to know?

    First, you need to understand the four areas of the pinwheel. Then you’ll learn WHY you need this information to merchandise your store. Finally, you’ll discover how to use this information to make merchandising decisions.

    So, let’s get started.

    Analyze the information in the pinwheel.

    The four areas that you need to know about are:


    Let’s look at these in more detail. You will probably know some of this information already, but probably not all of it.

    1. Customer

    What do you need to know about your customer?
    As much as you can. Does she shop alone, or bring a friend or family member? How often does she visit?

    Find out what she likes best about your store. Her favourite products. How did she hear about your store?
    If she could change something about your store, what would it be? What service could you add that she would love? What would she love to tell their friends about your store?

    Customers will be happy to be asked about their opinion. Ask questions when helping them shop, use a survey or try a focus group. Take a customer or two out for coffee.

    2. Products

    How are your products performing?

    Make it a habit to always know your highest and lowest selling products. Do some detective work on these items. Do your highest sellers have a good margin?

    Study where these items are placed. Perhaps the lowest selling items are hard for customers to find. How often are products rotated and displays changed? How long has all your merchandise been in the store?
    Make sure you know the competitors that offer similar products. What are the price points? How are they displayed?

    3. Sales

    It is important to track your sales results on a daily basis. How do your sales compare to last year? To your plan?
    Know the details of your daily sales. What is the average number of items in each transaction? And the average dollar amount of each sale?

    4. Traffic

    Analyze your traffic. Count the number of visitors each day. Calculate your conversion rate: number of daily sales divided by number of daily visitors. Multiply this number by 100 to get the percentage of visitors that are converted to paying customers.

    Watch your customers walk through the store. What attracts their attention? What do they touch? How long do they spend in the store? Where do they spend the most time in the store?

    Why do you need to know these things?

    The four key ‘vanes’ of information help your business keep moving. Without information in these areas, merchandising decisions become guesses.

    If a vane of the pinwheel is missing, it doesn’t spin. It turns a little. And stops. Then starts again.

    To start spinning continuously, the pinwheel needs all four vanes. Once it starts moving smoothly, it gains momentum and keeps spinning.

    When you start catching the information in the four areas of your business, it starts to move. A little at a time. The information you take in begins to tell you what to do.

    You don’t need to guess.

    What the pinwheel will tell you.
    (As good as a crystal ball? Almost.)

    You might already be collecting this information and not using it. It’s no good sitting in a report. Or a computer file. Now is the time to put it to use.

    Here’s what you can learn by analyzing the pinwheel information.

    What merchandise to buy

    Analyzing your customers’ needs, feedback and top sellers to know what to buy. Focus on products that your competitors don’t carry.

    What merchandise to markdown and clear out

    Merchandise sitting on shelves and not moving is costing you money. You are paying rent on the space it takes up. If the product is more than three months old, consider marking it down. If you’ve had something sitting in the store for six months to a year, move it out. Deep discount it to free up the cash for new merchandise.

    Older than 1 year? Old merchandise makes the store look stale, crowded and boring. Some things may never sell. Once in a while it may be best to just pull items off the floor. If you have the space to store it, pull it out for a sidewalk or warehouse sale.

    Where to place merchandise

    Place high margin, strong sellers in high visibility, high traffic areas. Use these areas for new regular priced, high value merchandise.
    As a general rule, put sale items at the back of the store. Customers are willing to work harder for discounts.

    Use cross-merchandising and displays to encourage multiple purchases. Change displays weekly to keep merchandise fresh, and capture the interest of shoppers.

    When to have promotions or events

    Use your traffic analysis to plan limited time promotions or small events. Use them to boost traffic during slow times.

    Use the pinwheel to find out key information about your business.

    Then make a change to your merchandising. Measure the results.
    If it works, do more of it.

    Less struggle. More momentum.
    Get that pinwheel spinning.

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    Eight Retail Event Essentials

    Community events can be great marketing and selling opportunities for retailers. Events give you the chance to increase your profile and brand awareness in the community, attract new residents and tourists into your store, and increase sales.

    On the other hand, regular customers may avoid shopping during congested events. Other shoppers may be deterred by a lack of available parking. Retailers may find that walk-by traffic increases, but shoppers don’t come into the store.

    Maybe you can identify with retailers like these:

    • • Carole owns a women’s clothing boutique in the downtown of a mid-sized city. Every year at the annual weekend Summerfest event, she puts a couple of sale racks out on the sidewalk. She brings in an extra staff member to stand outside and hand out balloons, while keeping an eye on the merchandise. Carole is disappointed that the increased traffic at Summerfest hasn’t resulted in more sales in her store.
    • • Jim & Susan just opened a day spa that retails bath and body products in Calgary. They’re looking for ways to become more integrated in the local community. They want to show their support for next year’s Stampede, but are wondering how to tie it in with their product and identity.
    • • Eric owns an urban pet boutique in Vancouver. With the 2010 Olympics on the horizon, he wants to come up with Olympic themed ideas to attract shoppers to his store.

    What can you do to get the most mileage out of participating in one of these kinds of community events?

    1. Set a goal for the event. Be clear about what you want to achieve through your participation in the community event.

    Do you want to increase sales at the event itself?
    Do you want to encourage local visitors to visit the store for the first time?
    Do you want to use the event to build new relationships in the community?
    Are you trying to build recognition of your store name and brand?
    Is your goal to get tourists to visit your store and make a purchase?
    Do you want shoppers to have a great in-store experience, and shop from your online store when they return home?

    2. Start planning early. Depending on the size of the event and what your goals are, you may need to plan several weeks to a year or more in advance. Consider what your needs will be for marketing, staffing and inventory for the event.

    3. Consider special promotions or products. Are there particular products that tie in well with the upcoming event? Consider carrying a limited supply of a special product just for the event, or stock up on a popular item and give it an event price. If you have giveaways, find a way to brand them with your name and logo.

    4. Create your own events. Host your own kick-off party a few days or a week before the big event. During the event, make sure something is always happening in your store that will draw customers in. If you don’t create a reason for them to come in, they won’t. Invite a volunteer to do facepainting for kids in the store, have some kind of food available, host live music, or an artist in residence. You could also offer short talks, workshops or book reading.

    Mini events in your store don’t have to be expensive. Try to use volunteers, or find someone who will benefit from doing a joint promotion with your store. Whatever you do, tie it in logically with your product and target market.

    5. Create unique themed displays. Get creative with displays, and don’t be afraid to use humour. Brainstorm how you can tie into a community event in a unique way. A bale of hay and a cowboy hat in a display with bath and body products doesn’t send any message at all. Instead, a vignette display of clothes piled on the floor, a cowboy hat on a chair, next to bath products & candles can have a sign asking, ”How will you relax after the rodeo?” Strive to make a connection in the customer’s mind between the event and your product.

    Leading up to the Olympics, a pet boutique display might show dog sporting events with accessories, or pet merchandise that represents Vancouver. Props or graphics can help to get the message across. Cartoons of pets could be used to create large scale posters, or adhesive window graphics to attract the attention of walk-by traffic.

    If all else fails, try using colour as a theme by creating displays that use one or two of the colours from the official event, or apply the event theme in your own store.

    6. Consider in-store traffic flow. How will you handle an increase in visitors? How will you manage line-ups? Perhaps you can remove a fixture or two from the sales floor to allow better traffic flow. Consider roping off an area for line-ups or in-store activities.

    Provide something for customers to do while waiting in line-ups. Providing entertainment, video monitors, interaction with staff, or something to read, helps to keep customers from getting antsy while waiting for service.

    7. Create effective signage. When your store is busy, you are not going to have time to give the same level of customer service that you normally provide. Effective signage can help provide information that customers need to find what they are looking for, and make buying decisions. Signs can provide:

    • • information about promotions, sales or discounts
    • • answers to common questions that customers ask
    • • pricing information
    • • suggestions of complimentary merchandise
    • • product features and benefits
    • • product information
    • • special event information or instructions
    • • an invitation for shoppers to sign-up for a VIP list or email newsletter
    • • information for tourists wanting their purchase shipped home for them

    Thinking ahead about the types of information and signs that will be needed for your event will help your customer to have a more enjoyable experience in your store.

    8. Start marketing well before the event. Don’t wait until the event arrives to create displays and marketing. Create anticipation for the upcoming event by putting up in-store posters and signs. Announce the dates of the event, planned in-store activities, as well as any special promotions, discounts, incentives or products. Create a series of displays and change them weekly leading up to the event.

    Don’t forget to communicate your plans to event organizers and the media. They’re usually more than happy to let people know how local businesses are participating and supporting community activities. Event organizers may even have some tips and ideas for how you can get involved and make the event even more successful for you.

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    Is Your Merchandise Plan Working Backwards?

    Do you ever feel overwhelmed when new stock arrives? Where do you put it all?

    Maybe you’re working backwards, and don’t know it.

    Does this sound a little bit familiar?

    It’s time to buy product for the next season. You know how much you want to spend. You know what type of merchandise you need to replenish. You may have a budget to spend for each department.

    You go through the catalogues and websites. You compare the suppliers minimum orders with what you think you can sell. You see some new products that you like and think your customers will buy. You make your orders.

    Sometime later, boxes begin arriving. You start putting product out on the shelves. More stock is arriving. You realize you’ll have to do some major merchandise moves to fit it all in.

    Not to mention, how are you going to create a display of some of this merchandise? There are some really great new products, but there aren’t enough of them to create a strong impact.

    It takes a considerable amount of time to get new merchandise arranged.

    You move it here. But you don’t like it.

    You move it there. It looks better, but now you have a hole over here to fill.

    And then there is this stack of merchandise that you still need to find a place for. Well, we’ll put it in this corner for now.

    There is another way.

    What if we turned the process around?

    Imagine how much easier it would be if you knew exactly where your stock would go before it arrived.

    What if you had a written plan or sketch that showed where to place each item?

    What if you didn’t have to place the stock at all, but could hand it over to a staff member?

    Unrealistic, you say?

    It isn’t. It just takes some time up front.

    Time to plan.

    Time to visualize.

    In the end you’ll save time. And headaches.

    Use these 5 steps to reduce your headaches and stress:

    1. Make a floor plan.

    Draw in all the elements of the store that don’t change–doors, walls, pillars, windows, steps, platforms, built in fixtures, electrical outlets. Make copies.

    Using one of your floor plan copies, draw in all the movable fixtures, in their current location. Make copies.

    2. Determine optimum merchandise levels.

    Working with a copy of your fixture plan, go through one department at a time. Decide what types of products can be merchandised on each fixture. Calculate the quantity of merchandise each fixture can hold.

    Identify display areas in each department. How much merchandise will be in each display?

    Label your plan with all of the types and quantities of merchandise.

    3. Order merchandise.

    As you choose merchandise, consider the department and fixture that will hold the products. Select quantities, colours and themes based on how the merchandise will coordinate in the store. Think ahead to how the merchandise will look in displays.

    Remember – your goal is to create a strong visual impact with each department. Coordinating and complimentary merchandise encourages multiple sales.

    4. Create a merchandise plan.

    Make labeled sketches of where all the new merchandise will go in the store, and in what quantities. Believe me – when the merchandise arrives, you won’t remember exactly what you planned when you ordered. Put your plan on paper.

    Don’t forget to include your current merchandise in your plan. Where will you move it to make room for the new?

    There is no need to be a perfectionist. Don’t try to draw the products. A row of bottles is a vertical rectangle. A folded sweater is a horizontal rectangle.

    The key to this step is knowing the amount of space each product will require.

    Create a clear plan that another person could follow if you weren’t there to explain it.

    5. Create a display plan.

    Determine upcoming events. Decide how often displays will be changed. Identify the key merchandise that will be in each display. Create rough sketches for each display.

    When the merchandise arrives, implement your plan.

    Better yet, if you have staff, give the plans to them to install. You can go have a cup of coffee and start on plans for next season.

    Want some help easing your merchandising headaches?

    I can help you create floor plans. Email me to find out more.


    I can coach you through the merchandise planning process. I am starting a trial coaching program that is only $150 per month for independent retailers.

    Want to find out more? Email me for details. No strings, no pressure.

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