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4
Jan

Visual Merchandising Tours and Why They Should Be a Part of your Process

what's the point?

what’s the point?

 

Outdoor Retailer is just a few days away and for my outdoor retail friends, I want to recommend making the time for visual merchandising tours. Merchandising tours are a task I recommend to anyone in the merchandising, sales or marketing arenas for two reasons:

 

  • Inspiration – When you see something that inspires or moves you, you refresh your perspective and have an opportunity to reignite your own work from a space of excitement and you just might get a deeper insight into how to tell your business story.
  • Solutions – If you struggle with merchandising a particular item, it’s pretty certain you are not alone. Visual merchandising tours give you an opportunity to see what solutions others have discovered. Even better? You begin to think outside the box and open your creative mind to finding your own unique solution as well!

 

I recommend taking advantage of fantastic visual merchandising opportunities like trade shows or scheduling time with your sales staff to wander a local mall. This is not to be confused with a competitor analysis or tours with the primary focus of checking out what your competition is doing, though visiting competitors is a great idea! Instead, a visual merchandising tour should include a wandering kind of spirit and be an adventure into what captures your attention.

When I led Visual Merchandising Tours at Outdoor Retailer, I spent a few hours just walking the floor noting where something caught my attention. I worked off a list of merchandising elements in an attempt to capture examples in as many categories as possible for participants. The categories I kept in mind included:

  • lighting
  • flooring
  • signage
  • display
  • fixturing
  • story
  • use of technology
  • product interaction
  • booth architecture

 

After I had a good list of notable booths, I revisited them and looked in depth at what caused me to ‘see’ in a place heavy on visual and auditory overload. I asked booth personnel if I could take a picture and took a few moments to chat about what I was seeing and getting some background.

What is key to an inspirational and educational tour is an ability to look outside your own product specific focus and here’s why:

It’s a little like heading out to shop and specifically seeking a white blouse, but while you browse you don’t find a white blouse. You find yellow, pink, maybe even a light blue that you love, but your focus is so strictly on the white that you fail to notice that maybe, just maybe another color might do. In other words, if you only pay attention to how footwear is being displayed, you might miss the innovative fixturing someone developed for dog products, a fixture idea that you could have potentially adapted to footwear.

I believe inspiration speaks loud and clear, and often the issue is we just don’t listen. A visual merchandising tour is important little break you give yourself to remember how to see, pay attention, and how to listen to what pulls your attention and especially, how to let the human part of you be pulled.

Just like you want to pull your customers to you.

 

Posted in merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, Merchandising Planning, Outdoor Retail Merchandising, retail display, trade show merchandising, Uncategorized, visual merchandiser, visual merchandising training and education | Tagged | Leave a comment
9
Dec

Your story starts with….WHY

I’m working with a writer right now who is incredibly intelligent, who not only has strong opinions, but has the life experience and mind to be the right person to voice those opinions, and he’s rocking it.

We started working together a few months ago when he decided he wanted to take the message he had shared in a TEDx talk and spread his message via the written word. Aside from our work on the mechanics of setting goals and getting published, we have spent most of our time helping him bring his voice, the one no one else has, to the surface. He’s worked super hard to understand why he is driven to write on the subjects he does and to bring himself into his stories where it warrants, so that he can engage with his readers on subjects that matter dearly to him. And he’s rocking it.

He’s rocking it because he has found his voice and is learning how to use it. Bravely. Without apology. Honestly.

Man, do I love working with people like him!

I spoke with a retail brand today, a company that is seeking guidance on how to best communicate their story, especially with their retailers. They know that the distance between the buy and when the product arrives in store is great and that much can be lost in the translation. I suggested to them that the answer is to understand that all learning comes in layers. Learning is most effective when it has a strategy behind it with multiple layers and is not a random white paper that arrives when change is in the air or without some thought as to ‘why.’

I’m a huge believer in answering the question, ‘why?’  before determining how and what. Why do you want to write? Start a company? Sell your product? Why do you do what you do?

Until you uncover your why, telling the story of you and your business might feel choppy or disjointed.

The journey from ‘why’ to story has no set time frame-it might be a sprint or it might feel like a marathon, but when one isn’t seduced by shortcuts and is willing to put in the work, the foundation is significant, so stable that it would be a supreme challenge to knock it down.

Here’s an example of Apple’s why (from Simon Sinek’s TED talk transcript “Start with Why”:

“Here’s how Apple actually communicates – Everything we do we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.

Your why is not your ‘how’ or your ‘what.’ Your why is also not about making money or becoming famous – your why is your core belief system or essence, the thing that makes you run, the thing that drives you, the thing you must share with your staff and customers. It is what makes the right ‘others’ fall in love with you or your brand.

In our culture, identifying these nuances in life and business can be readily dismissed in lieu of the formulation of a business plan or logo design. But your why is where your story starts. Just like your home or place of business must have a solid foundation to support the structure that will rest upon it, so does your business or professional direction. Your why is what supports good decision making and movement towards your goals, goals that reflect your personal belief system.

I will be delivering a workshop in Boulder in January, “Getting to Why,” that guides participants through the discovery of their why so that they can begin their story from a solid foundation. I am also available to work privately with individuals or in small groups (up to three) either virtually or live. Email me for more information on this process and to be added to that email chain.

Posted in Holiday merchandising tips, merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, Outdoor Retail Merchandising, Retail sales, small business tips, trade show merchandising, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education, Working with a Visual Merchandising Consultant | Leave a comment
8
Dec

Stand Out. Tell your OWN Story.

standingoutflamingo

I was interviewed recently by the awesome Kristin Carpenter-Ogden of Verde PR and LivingUber and we chatted about the power of story in brand messaging and retail visual merchandising. We shared our views on engaging in a connected society that is actually…disconnected. (You can listen to the interview here.)
Stories have been a vital part of human communication since the beginning of time and are far more enticing and memorable than academic or technical elements. When used well in marketing and merchandising, stories tend to do more than expand consumer base. A good story line creates a following.
Your visual and verbal creative expression–as the storyteller you are–silently sells…or doesn’t.
The million dollar question is how does one tell a story that magnetically pulls an audience in? How does one get comfy taking the risk of being both a beacon and a screen–a beacon pulling like-minded individuals in and screening those that dance to a different melody–in storytelling?
If you know why you are in business (not how, but WHY) and you have spent time unearthing who you are in life and business, who you are is your business, the arc of creating story becomes more seamless and natural and when you are natural, real and even raw, you provide an opportunity for your audience or consumers to engage. Your audience believes you. Your audience trusts you. Look at REI’s #OptOutside campaign or check out United by Blue’s work.
The decision to be ‘you’ in business is rather simple, but involves a risk that hits many of us in a soft spot: What happens if I let myself really be seen and I’m not understood (or liked, or lose money etc.)?
When we put ourselves and our businesses out there, this risk is real, but here’s the thing: we also open the door to a deeper and more loyal connection with like-minded folk, we open the door to finding our people.
Don’t know what your story is? I’m here to help. Let’s talk.
Posted in merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, Outdoor Retail Merchandising, retail display, Retail sales, small business tips, visual merchandiser, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education | Leave a comment
30
Oct

The less than linear path

I launched Merchandising Matters over six years ago. I worked with a designer and developed my website, purchased business cards and hung out my virtual ‘plaque.’ I timed the start of my new business with a move to Colorado giving the phrase ‘fresh start’ new meaning. Everything was new to me: friends, location, climate, home, you name it.

It was an exciting time, but it tested me to the core. To say it was challenging is an understatement.

Through the years Merchandising Matters has morphed into something I could not have possibly have envisioned, and the road I have traveled as a sole proprietor has been anything but linear, with me even recently contemplating closing the doors on Merchandising Matters because something felt off.

I’ve taken enormous risks and experienced the high of success and the low of perceived failure, and reinvented and redefined what I do countless times, and along the way have learned grace. I’ve learned how to give myself permission to twist and turn as I find my way.

I’m all in now. I wasn’t before.

Not everyone will experience starts and stops like I have. Some will launch their business with a crystal clear vision that never deviates, but I write this post today for those that are perhaps still seeking, but have not yet found their solid direction. I write this post today for those that might feel alone and wonder what the heck they are doing wrong.

I write this post for the dreamers, the idea-populators, the creatively inspired, and the late bloomers. I write this post for those who experience self-doubt, are encountering barriers or who wonder if it’s time to toss in the hat. I write this for those with a passion for their work but who may be feeling a little lost.

About eight months ago, I was floundering. My past work as visual merchandising consultant felt out of focus and lacking in passion. My workshops were loosing money. My writing work felt directionless and my bank account would have been humorous had it not been terrifying. I spent hours outdoors, hiking, riding, or just sitting and meditating near a stream trying to hear myself again.

I knew I was at a crossroads and that I was a little lost.

So I did something I’m getting better at: I asked for directions.

I reached out to my power circle, the people who I respect in business and life, and I asked them for feedback, listened to them share what they saw as opportunities in the changing business climate and the outdoor industry and most important of all, I listened to myself speak.

I heard myself speak with confidence about the things I care deeply about and believe. I heard myself share ideas and listened as they were reflected back by movers and shakers in my industry. I was reignited. And I walked away with a renewed focus, which felt a bit like trading in jeans that don’t fit for a pair that does.

Along the winding path of my business journey, I encountered spaces that were not a good fit, but I would not have known this had I not opened those doors for a peek. The space I am in today is possible precisely because I followed a variety of paths before changing direction and finding my way to today.

My journey as a business owner has involved work with small businesses, as a volunteer, with the CEO’s of major brands, as a coach to businesses and individuals who want to identify and tell their story and I’ve presented at a number of popular trade shows. I’ve worked as a writer, workshop leader, and launched another business, Permission to Leap, in the midst of it all that focuses on helping writers and storytellers tell their own unique stories.

I work with others to stay true to their gift. I believe in the power of story. I know with certainty that human beings want to engage with other human beings. I believe that our personal and professional lives should fit together whenever possible.

And I have the skills to show others the way, to help bring to the surface the magnificent ideas and dreams they already have. I teach them to give themselves permission to leap.

So if you are encountering walls on your own professional journey, my advice to you is to look for a door. And if you can’t find the door alone? Hire someone who can help you carve a beautiful one.

The following tips were my personal game changers:

  • Let go of should have’s or embarrassment or rules if your path is not linear. No one is born knowing exactly where they are going.
  • Learn to trust yourself and do whatever you need to do to improve your confidence.
  • Listen to your inner compass, your heart or whatever is keeping you up at night. Our bodies are incredibly smart and will alert us — we need to get better at listening. I find meditation and journaling to be the most powerful tools for hearing me.
  • Reach out to those you respect and ask for help. Hire the right consultant (or fairy godmother) and invest in yourself. Realize that you are worth the investment.
  • Remember that who you are is integrally connected to what you do. They must be in alignment for you to feel like you are wearing the right size jeans.
  • Focus. I am an idea person and can easily be pulled in twenty different directions and have worked hard on finding a way to harvest my ideas but stay true to the road I’m on. I’ve elicited the help of friends to keep me on track.
  • Know why you are doing what you are doing and revisit this regularly. Have it written down somewhere you can see it daily..
  • Have a plan. Revise it as necessary.

It took me almost six years to marry my skills into a cohesive package–I’m a storyteller who guides others to creative expression either visually or through the written word. The outdoors is my go-to guru for inspiration, perspective and clarity.

Stick with it. You have something to offer. You are learning. Be patient, but maintain momentum. Ask for directions when you are lost. Stop thinking of making money first.

Remember. You are learning how to dance to the tune of the dream only you have. And this takes practice.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
22
Oct

Training Tools: Teach How. Teach Why.

helping grow

Can you imagine being hired to do a job and not receiving training? Or being asked to fulfill a role and not being provided with a clear understanding of how to achieve the desired outcome?

Do you think it would be possible to do perform well under those circumstances?

Over the past few years I’ve worked with small and large retailers, large trade shows, emerging and well-established brands and individuals who are writers, thought leaders and business owners.

Hands down, every project I’ve been asked to lead can be boiled down to one priceless element: Communication.

Why?

I believe that most people want to do a good job. In order for them to do a good job, they need to know what to do.

Far too many employers leave communication to chance which can result in time wasted, off-the-mark projects, and/or frustrated and disenfranchised individuals who lose momentum. Healthy and positive risk taking is elusive without communication because it is when we have a clear picture of expectation that we have the necessary outline of how to move forward.

My most valuable experience in recent years was while performing as a visual merchandising project lead during my store remodel and at new store openings across the country while working at REI.

Projects like these move fast and usually operate under chaotic and changing conditions with newly-formed teams that may or may not have experience. The teams I led numbered from 3 or 4 to 25 at a time. During our store remodel, we would arrive around 7 a.m. and begin the task of making a store that had undergone overnight construction back into a shoppable store. Every morning was a surprise but we had to be ready to open the doors at 10 a.m. New store openings had a set opening day. The task of a project lead was to not only lead my team to create a consumer experience, but to train sales staff in visual merchandising practices along the way.

I had floorset plans which were able to be interpreted because of the training foundation I had received. A foundation that began with a company manual*.

I learned the value of not only teaching others best practices, but explaining the reason behind the inevitable adaptations and out-of-the-box solutions necessitated by things that did not go according to the book by sharing the why behind the plan.

We must know how and why.

When we know how to do a task and the why behind decision-making, we are given the tools to develop creative problem solving techniques that are real-life and more likely than not in alignment with desired outcome. We give valuable autonomy to the people we hire. We develop a team.

Identifying and documenting your best practices lays the foundation for your staff. This is not a luxury for businesses that want to hit home runs, it is a necessity. When I work with a client on the development and documentation of a manual, it is a wonderful opportunity for organization leaders to determine and identify what they value most in their practices. The development of these tools pay for themselves over time.

Merchandising is a team sport and like any team sport, the rules and guidelines of the game need to be clearly communicated so that we can trust one another and ourselves. Training in both technique and policy are important.

I view training as a series of layers that when attended to result in a system that is seamless.

Human beings have different learning styles and a good training program involves all of them. Good layers include:

  • The foundation: Best Practice Manual
  • Make it come alive: Group workshops where the ‘why’ is explored
  • Touchy-feely: Hands-on practice to understand the ‘how’
  • Cementing skills: Follow up and feedback
  • Trainer evolution: Identifying and developing training apprentices

Individuals who know what is expected of them and know what to do are not only being given the tools to be a team member, they tend to be happier and more satisfied team members.

They also know how to do a good job.

*I’m here to help. Reach out for a complimentary consult and begin the layering of your training. 

Posted in Merchandising Planning, Retail sales, small business tips, visual merchandiser, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education | Tagged | Leave a comment
23
Mar

Merchandising Matters talks merchandising basics

Posted in merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, Merchandising Planning, retail display, Retail sales, small business tips, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education | Leave a comment
16
Mar

Space: The most often-neglected and important component to work

bookcliffbefore1

Bookcliff Vineyard wine tasting room in Boulder, Colorado: Before

P1080700

Bookcliff Vineyard wine tasting room: After

The most important thing to me in my work is space. The space needs to feed my creative spirit and has to have that certain something that feeds brain freedom and is reflective of me. I have a home office with an enormous white board that is my planning ‘ground zero’ and am in the process of making an old door into my desk. I have just contracted to share another office in Boulder which will be my writing cave for a few days a week and will be a place to exit the isolation most artists have in their daily work. The first thing I will do is hang some art and set the stage for space that inspires me.

I was once married to a hoarder and was overwhelmed by internal anxiety created by his clutter. When we split and the clutter was removed, I was amazed by the instant sensation of peace and zen and joy I felt with the new space.

I work with artists trying to gain a foothold on their creative genre and one of the first tasks I assign them is to develop a space for their work–a space that is reflective of the spirit of their unique selves.

When I work with clients, the same rule applies. The images above reflect the beautiful metamorphosis of a wine tasting room in Boulder. The bank was not broken on this remodel and the intent was to create a comfortable space where patrons would feel both at home and a sense of the vineyard personality. Artwork was changed to actual photographs of the vineyard, a new color theme was devised to generate warmth and built-in benches were added to add storage and seating.

Look at your space, whether it be home office or retail environment. Ask yourself: Does this space inspire a sale (or creativity)? Would you want to linger there? Is this space reflective of your unique personality or brand?

If your answer is no to any of the above questions, I recommend you begin making a ‘blue sky’ list of all the things you would change if you could without censorship. Start small if you must–perhaps just a can of paint, but start. If you don’t feel you have the skills to manifest these changes, hire someone to guide you. When I worked with Bookcliff, I purely guided them on ways to insert their genuine vibe into their design. They did the footwork.

There are many ways to accomplish change, and your space is important both to you and the work you want to produce. Designing space is also a way of further clarifying who you are and what your purpose is, so have fun with it!

I find that when my space is reflective of me, my work is as well. Fit your space to you–I think you’ll discover a great deal along the way.

Cheers!

 

Posted in Merchandising Planning, retail display, Retail sales, visual merchandiser, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips | Leave a comment
25
Feb

What kind of consumer experience do you provide?

Let’s contrast these customer service experiences, shall we?

Beautiful interior, but customer service?


1) I was seeking a restaurant in the Cambridge area a few weeks ago to celebrate my younger daughter’s 21st. It was a surprise and I needed a reservation for 12. I called Henrietta’s Table in the Charles Hotel and yes, they could accommodate us at the time I wanted, but they would not guarantee that we would all be sitting together. Huh? I needed a reservation for 12 people, not two groups of six. The host was impatient with me and said, “Look I’ll do what I can, but I can’t promise anything.” I take it the rudeness came with the $45 per person fee for brunch, and no, I didn’t go there and they lost over $600.

your guess is as good as mine as to actual cost


2) I was trying to make a flight reservation on Delta for a trip in April and saw a killer deal for a first class seat. The flight had two legs and was long so I figured I’d jump on the $200 upgrade. Went through the entire process, added my credit card information, chose my seat and waited while the circle of hell swirled in front of me to complete the deal. Oh. I had the seat, no problem, but guess what? The price had jumped from $649 to $1200. I thought it was a mistake and tried again. Same thing. So I called Delta where a man who spoke the worst English I have heard in quite some time read from a script, “I’m sorry about our trouble. We reserve the right to increase our fares at any time.” I told him, well I respect that, but dude you not only doubled your price AFTER I went through the entire process, you still have the wrong price on your website.

3) Two days ago I received a pair of shoes I had ordered from Tieks. It was a pair of flats that Oprah had recommended in a sidebar on Facebook that I ordered in a happy shade of orange. I couldn’t wait to see if they would fit and opened the box in excitement. This is what I found after I opened the shipping box:

footwear?

You could have knocked me over. The last pair of shoes I ordered came in this box:

Blah.

Tieks’ packaging made me feel like I had received a present. I peeled off the flower, opened the box and the flats were nicely folded inside each other. And wait. There was more. As I took the shoes out and unfolded them, I spied something in the bottom of the box: A tote. Receiving footwear has never been so delightful.

Takeaways? It all comes down to creating an experience. A positive experience.

an experience

Customer service is more than a pretty box. It involves caring enough about your end user to go the extra step. And, I can’t wait to talk Tieks up. Oh. Their shoes are freaking awesome too!

Posted in fashion merchandising, merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, retail display, Retail sales, visual merchandising display tips | Tagged | Leave a comment
15
Feb

Exploring Salt Lake City’s Nordstrom

Store design and the mannequins inside come in all sizes, shapes and colors, and determining which is best for individual retailers or manufacturers is never arbitrary. While on a recent trip to Salt Lake City for Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, I checked out Nordstrom and thought I’d share with you some of the things that caught my attention beginning with a rock star fitting room. Enjoy!

dressing room waiting area

This dressing room is larger than my living room! Love fitting rooms that have ample space to rest for whoever is accompanying the shopper. Comfortable customers linger longer and are likely to spend more.

colorful and fun bodies reflect clothing personality

color pop body


Abstract mannequins do a fine job reflecting the playful clothing here.

what’s the point?

When I posted this picture on the facebook page of Merchandising Matters, it was a unanimous thumbs down. Sure, it’s attention getting; but what’s the point (pun intended)?

Drama

Loved this Anthropologie-ish display. The backwards mannequin adds drama, and the one in the swing makes great use of the high wall while adding a playful perspective.

Purse display

This abstract body form allows the handbags to be the display focal point but also adds visual interest.

Ohm

Love the natural elements in this yoga display…wondering if the muse for this came from Prana’s booth at ORSM 2012?

connect the dots

I love how these mannequins are only dressed in tops with the pants displayed on the table below allowing the consumer to complete their own style picture.

The variety of mannequin styles in one store perfectly spotlights the way different styles can work with the category they are displaying and the story being told. Be sure your mannequins speak the right language when you make design choices for your retail environment!

Posted in fashion merchandising, merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, retail display, visual merchandiser, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education | Tagged | Leave a comment
28
Jan

Sparkly Seattle Windows

Yes, it rained when I was in Seattle, but you know something?  Windows that are well merchandised are even more compelling with that lovely glisten of moisture from the sky and seem to sparkle at night. Here’s a bit of what I saw while wandering around on my recent Seattle trip:

talk about sparkle!

The rain made this window glow.  I was smitten.  Seriously.

wood art

Don’t be traditional: All too often tables are displayed the way they are used, firmly on the ground.  But these tables in a store on First Avenue in Seattle are uniquely artful and fortunately the store takes advantage of that in this window.

pop those neutrals and remember to repeat

This pop of orange color caught my attention from down the street.

Miniature captivating holiday story

Tiffany’s never fails to disappoint does it?  It was a rainy and windy evening in Seattle and  it didn’t matter–Tiffany’s little windows pulled me straight to her door.

Stringing me along

I’ve seen this used before in store windows and love how the lines pull me to the product and add visual interest.

eyewear served on a platter

What a nice surprise, glasses singled out and sitting on a cushion right at eye level.

customer service

Ha!  I bet you’re wondering why this is in here.  The Alexis Hotel (Hotel Monaco) took my comfort seriously.  I added this photo to remind you that visual merchandising is another form of customer service, and while this particular closet display might not win any awards–the feeling of being cared for while traveling lingers.  And I suspect I’ll stay here again.  So my question for you is: Are you doing all you can to make sure your customers want to return?

 

Posted in fashion merchandising, merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, retail display, visual merchandising display tips, Visual Merchandising Tips, visual merchandising training and education | Leave a comment