10 tips to turn your store around in 2012 according to merchandising & sales training expert Denis Caldora
January is the beginning of a new year – and the way of doing business has changed drastically. Not that long ago, builders made up most of a lighting retailer’s sales. The customers who come in to lighting stores now are seeking someone they can talk to, they’re looking for a trusted source.
For this reason, you have to update your salespeople with the tools they need to make them the qualified experts that customers want in 2012. For example, get the current paint colors for both exteriors and interiors, so you can customize your advice to the customer by asking, “Show me the color of your dining room, the outside of your house, etc.” This way, you’re arming your salespeople with what they need to combat the competition. Here’s how to get started:
1. Don’t be afraid to buy
You don’t make sales today by waiting for the Recession to pass. Imagine if you walked into your local Mercedes dealership in 2012 and they told you that they couldn’t afford to bring in new models since 2009. You’d walk right out, wouldn’t you? And they’d be out of business.
2. Think like a department store
They are excellent at identifying which pieces are doing well and which are not. The word “Sale” has been prostituted. Look at your inventory and determine which items are your steady winners and which are, let’s say, the non-winners. (I don’t like to call them dogs.) Another thing that department stores know very well that you could learn from: At the right price, anything will sell.
3. Identify your winners
When you go to market, plan to bring in a couple of new pieces that complement these winning families. The art of purchasing is to buy something new and mix it in with the older merchandise so it’s not obvious to the customer what’s new and what’s old. The new items will enliven the entire display and even the salespeople will treat the product family as fresh because of the new additions.
When the items purchased at market come in, the buyer should hold a meeting with the sales staff to let everyone know why each new piece was purchased and explain which style and type of furniture it goes with. The buyer should also relate the overall trends he/she saw at the show. This way, the salespeople can pass that knowledge on to their customers.
4. Create a binder for purchasing
Whenever I don’t make a shopping list before going to the grocery store, I end up buying extra stuff that I don’t need. The same is true when buying for your showroom. You can’t afford to make a mistake when purchasing. These days, you can’t waste any dollars. Buying has now become a science.
Take pictures of all of your displays, number the ceiling grids, and the fixture locations so you know exactly where the “holes” are in your showroom. Your mission at market is to fill in those holes with new, complementary merchandise. Don’t forget to photograph your displays for outdoor products and bath lighting.
If you’re buying accessories at market, bring along photos of your vignettes so you can instantly see, “Oh that [accessory] goes perfectly with that vignette.” Make notes right there in the binder while you are at market making that purchase so you will know exactly where the new items are going to go when they arrive in the showroom.
5. Get rid of the word “Clearance”
First of all, suggesting that someone go look at the clearance area is demoralizing for the customer. Second, in the typical clearance scenario, everything is all mismatched because each item is cast off from various style families all over the showroom. How can you expect the customer to feel good about buying an item that looks like it’s been devalued and out of context? Besides, with such a random assortment of poor sellers, there is no design continuity. I don’t believe in segregating people or products!
6. Create “Special Value”
As I just mentioned, when you have a low-performing model within a style family, please don’t slap a “clearance” tag on it or send it to the discount corner. Instead, you want to maintain the integrity of the product family that the lower-performer is in, but mark it as a “Special Value.” The salesperson shows the product family to the customer as he/she normally would, but would point out that “special value” means an extra 10 percent off. The explanation could be, “We got a good deal on these, so we’re able to give it to you at a special price.” That item now becomes the lower price point of that style family. The customer is happy to have an affordable option in a style they liked. Another way of naming it could be “Starter Home Special” or “Perfect for New Homeowners.” By keeping the under-performing model alongside its style family, the customer can buy it with a feeling of pride that they wouldn’t have in a clearance corner.
7. Hold a “Floor Sample” sale
After several months, if the Special Values aren’t selling and your market orders are about to arrive, you can consider taking those low performers and hold a “Floor Sample Sale.” This has a different perception with the consumer than “clearance.” The term “floor sample” doesn’t conjure up the same negative feeling. If you’re an astute buyer, you know what’s selling and what’s not at the beginning of the season. Therefore, you can have a legitimate sale on floor samples. Set it for one month before the items you bought at market come in. A floor sample sale shouldn’t be something you throw together at the 11th hour. It needs to be planned out. In addition, give incentive to the salespeople to sell these items.
8. Move your displays
Do you know what happens when you drive past the same billboard every day? Very quickly you become so accustomed to it being there that you stop “seeing” it. Your front windows – and even your displays inside the showroom – are your “billboards.” When I had Caldora Lighting, I would switch my showroom around twice a year. You’d be surprised how often customers – and your own staff – will mistake old fixtures for new or seem to notice them for the first time just because they’ve been moved to a different area in the showroom! I wouldn’t re-do every grid, but I’d suggest devoting 10 to 20 percent of your store to the current trends and the rest comprised of basics and perennial best-sellers. While you’re at it, freshen up your Web site periodically. Have a page that highlights the latest trends with a note to “Check out our new arrivals.”
9. Motivate your salespeople
Educate your staff about the furniture trends you’ve seen at market so they can speak as experts to consumers. Look through design magazines and newspapers to find the latest and greatest styles popular right now. Tear out those pictures, form a trend story, and create storyboards that your customers can relate to. For example, you can put photos of the latest comforters and bedspreads (as seen in circulars from Macys and Bed Bath & Beyond) on a storyboard and surround it with appropriate lighting fixtures for the bedroom. Now the consumer doesn’t have to leave the store to go home and figure out what would work in their bedroom. They can find the storyboard with a style they can relate to and make a decision right there. The worst thing is to have a customer walk out because they were confused or overwhelmed by choice and you didn’t have the tools to help them. Teach your staff how to use catalogs and how to partner with the customer to determine their needs.
10. Adapt to how consumers are buying in 2012
Consumers are shopping differently over the past several years because the market has changed. We now have companies in the furniture industry that are diversifying into lighting. While it is true that people are doing a lot of shopping research online, they still like to have contact with a person. When people come into your store, they either want to connect a style with what they already have in their homes or they want to learn what is coming into fashion. Have pictures of furniture trends for 2012 ready so that when they comes in, you are ready with that information.