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7 Merchandising Tips — And Then Some

Posted By Administration, Monday, July 14, 2014

At the Retailers Luncheon held during TNNA’s recent Summer Trade Show in Indianapolis, Linda Cahan delivered a dynamic keynote titled “Refresh & Repeat: 7 Secrets to Keeping Your Store Fresh and Exciting.” But Cahan, who has been in visual merchandising, store design and display for more than four decades, shared a lot more than seven tips during her presentation!

Going beyond PowerPoint, Cahan even included a live demo of one of her favorite display tricks: Showcasing product on tree branches. “Fishing line is fabulous for hanging,” she said as took a bare branch and enhanced it with needlepoint ornament samples and cool LED lighting. 

Some additional hints she has for display, particularly for the front window, include: 

• In high spaces, grids are your best friend. “Little stuff doesn’t look great in big windows, so don’t be afraid to go big,” she says, noting that paper clips make great hooks to hang items from a grid overhead, which lowers the ceiling space and fills the window more proportionately. 

• Don’t skimp on lighting. “If you commit to doing a window display, you need to put light on the window’s wall,” Cahan advises. “The light is wasted if it’s just centered on top of the item.”

• Never underestimate the cute factor. Cahan underscored this during her presentation with a photo of a dog with knitting on its belly: “In an uncertain, dark and edgy world, it’s nice to make people feel good.” A display interspersing stuffed animals with product, for example, can be both playful and successful, she says. 

Cahan then shifted focus onto how to give your shop a “mini-facelift”:

1. Clear the clutter. “You stop seeing it after a while,” she points out. “Where are you putting things for UPS, for example? It may seem logical to you, but jarring to your customer.” She advises trying to do just one drawer or shelf a day, removing things like outdated signs that can distract from the merchandise. 

2. Color sells. As purveyors of color themselves in fiber and floss, members know that warm colors pop and cool colors recede. The brighter the color, the more affordable they seem; muted colors seem more expensive. Cahan advises considering those rules when working on displays. What do you want your message to be — that you are affordable (orange or green) or elegant (purple or white)? Do you want to be perceived as hip (hot pink) or authoritative (blue, especially navy)? Do you want customers to browse in a relaxed environment? Then use mint green, and stay away from red, she says.

3. Even your wood tones make a difference. “Would you buy a diamond ring in a box made from ‘gym floor’ wood, medium-toned wood or mahogany?” she asked attendees. “Think about that for price point. Are you super upscale? Dark wood will make you look more expensive.” Painted wood, she notes, can give a sense of style. But don’t wander into gray territory: “It kills the appeal of merchandise, unless you have a lot of bright colors and light.”

4. Check your signage. Cahan reports there are 4 “C’s” to signage: Consistency, Clarity, Contrast and Conciseness. One easy way to accomplish this is with chalkboard signs. Cahan relates how a retailer on Long Island regularly picks a customer quote to write on the wall, and then calls and lets the customer know they’re in the spotlight. “Of course, they’re going to come in,” she points out.

5. Be consistent with your branding. “Use your colors and logo consistently on your website, on social media, in advertising, in the parking lot, throughout the store, and on brochures, bags and boxes,” she says.

6. Knock some scents into your shop. “Most emotion-triggering moments are based on scent. Make them linger longer,” Cahan advises, noting that the No. 1 scent that induces happiness has been found to be chocolate chip cookies. Research has also found that consumers respond positively to citrus and cinnamon, but not to floral scents, which can annoy those with allergies, she notes.

7. A smile will go a long way. “No customer wants to be glommed onto, but a smile is contagious,” Cahan says. “Kindness comes from the top. What you focus on grows, for better or worse.”

“Before you go to sleep, find 10 things to be grateful for,” she said as she concluded her presentation. “Even on the worst day, if you have a roof over your head and food in your cupboard, you’re better off.”

During Show hours later that weekend, Cahan was also available for free one-on-one consulting at the TNNA Lounge, dispensing knowledge to attendees about everything from smart color choice to scent to setup in yarn and needlework shops. 

Tags:  design  display  Linda Cahan  needlearts  retail  retailers luncheon  shop  small business  store  TNNA 

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