Nine Dimensions of Dynamite Merchandising

Last Updated Mar 12, 2010 8:56 AM EST

From store layout, down to micro-space planning, how well a store is merchandised can have a significant impact on sales and profit. Merchandising a store takes a blend of smart science and artistic flair, which some organisations do brilliantly, whilst others flounder. So what are the best doing, that the others aren't? Here are the nine dimensions of great merchandising.

1. Distant destinations
Identify the destination categories, often they're the categories that customers can't get, or can't get cheaper, anywhere else. These need to be visible, but distant, ideally in the farthest reaches of the store. The journey for the customer to get there is your biggest opportunity for an add-on sale.

2. Stock for signage
Nobody reads the signs in a supermarket. If you want to find tea bags, you walk along the main aisle, looking down each aisle for a big block of brown that looks like Nescafe. As you home in, you're scanning the area for a familiar colour and shape that could be PG Tips or Twinings. Finally, you home in on the product you want. A big display of iconic product is a far better signpost than a signpost could ever be.

3. Build the basket
Consider a customer coming to buy a product from a destination category. What else might they buy from the store? What other products would naturally fit in their basket? The more of these that they pass between door, destination and checkout, the more they are likely to spend with you. Each destination category needs a basket list.

4. Plan the pathway
Start from the door and walk to the destination category. What route do you take and why? Which "basket products" do you pass, and which might you pass if you took a slightly different route? Small changes in the length, width and angle of the aisles can make a big difference in the routes customers take, and the products they pass.

5. Sell the ensemble
Fashion retailers have done this for years, but FMCG retailers are getting there too. What are the sets of products that people might buy together? Razor blades and shaving gel? Novels and chocolate bars? Ready-meals and bottles of wine? What are the ensembles in your inventory that could be merchandised together? Often, by merchandising with communication materials, there may be further opportunities to link-sell products and educate the customer into a broader regime, like exfoliating before using suncream.

6. Block by brand
Brand blocking is a great way to deliver dimensions 2 and 5 above, but it has other benefits. Boots, for instance, merchandises Toni & Guy conditioner in a brand block of Toni & Guy, not in an aisle of conditioner, for very good reason. Not only is it so much easier to find, but whilst you're buying it, you're staring at other products, from a brand you like, that work well with it. If it was surrounded by other conditioners, once you've chosen the Toni & Guy one, everything else in front of you is irrelevant.

7. Fit the facings
Efficient use of space and two days stock on shelf are good principles for deciding numbers of facings, but so is visual appearance. A symmetrical, balanced, and fully faced-up shelf of product is attractive and visually appealing, and is a key element of delivering a smart, tidy store environment, signalling quality and care to the customer. Fastidious merchandising principles are significantly cheaper than a store refit, but can deliver much the same benefits.

8. Sell-ups and seek-outs
Some products in a caterory are more attractive for you to sell. These need to be in the hot-spot - generally at chest height, in the centre of the category space. Other products, customers will be prepared to look for. These can fit around the edges. You don't need to advertise them - customers will seek them out. Do you know which products are sell-ups, and which are seek-outs?

9. Add interaction
In lots of categories, customers want to touch, smell and feel the products. It helps them compare, select and differentiate between the alternatives, and enriches their experience. Whether it's interacting with the product or interacting with staff, the layout, merchandising and product display are key to giving the customer an experience they will value, remember, and recommend.

Do you have any more great ideas for dynamic merchandising?

(Pic: blmurch cc2.0)