Is Your Merchandising Holding You Back from Driving Sales?

Oct 6, 2022

A successful visual merchandising program involves taking risks. It involves experimenting with new ideas to discover what your ever-evolving customer responds to. Getting everyone on the same page and on board with taking these risks can be a challenging part of the process, especially when you are presenting new ideas or something unexpected. Throughout my career as a visual merchandiser, I’ve often encountered clients, managers, team members, or associates who seem to have an endless amount of excuses that prevent them from bringing their merchandising vision to life.

These excuses only serve as roadblocks – hindrances that prevent progress in accomplishing your goals. Because we know how valuable visual merchandising can be in increasing foot traffic and driving sales, allowing these conflicting cop-outs to get in the way of your idea could mean the difference between loyal customers and customers who never enter your store.

Consider your visual merchandising programs. Do any of the below sound familiar?

  • “We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work.”
  • “I’m not sure if we should move that.”
  • “You’re blocking my security camera.”
  • “You can’t do that.”
  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Let’s dive into why these comments should be overlooked, how they stop you from moving forward, and how you can respond if someone in your team uses them.

“We’ve tried that before, and it didn’t work.”

I hear this one quite a bit. I get it and often it’s true. It’s difficult to try something that you did before and failed at. But It’s no different than getting back up on that bicycle or horse. Whatever the case, don’t give up.

Here’s Why

With any new idea, there are a number of reasons why it might have been considered unsuccessful. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right. Maybe items critical to your visual merchandising setup didn’t arrive on time. Or the online marketing didn’t connect with the in-store experience. Ultimately, it’s unfair to “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Because there are so many factors considered when creating a fantastic retail store experience, now is the time to identify what about your visual merchandising program did and didn’t work. Then, don’t be afraid to try it again and look at it from a new perspective.
For example, if items didn’t arrive on time or your full idea was incomplete, this is your opportunity to create what you had in mind at the start. If a contest didn’t draw enough participation, you might address increasing the value of the prize.
If someone on your team insists that you shouldn’t try something more than once, encourage them to think differently.

How to Respond

“I understand we weren’t happy with the results of (your merchandising idea) in the past, but we did agree that there was (something that fell through like very little marketing or not enough story in the display and layout) and we should try (a solution to a specific challenge like moving the display location or ordering items in advance).”

“I’m not sure if we should move it.” 

I’ve enjoyed long conversations and debates over rearranging something. So long, in fact, that we could have moved something to test it and already moved it back if we didn’t like it. The truth is there are always lots of ideas and opinions but it’s impossible to be sure without some trial and error.

Here’s Why

Visual merchandising is part providing a visual experience. In this way, sometimes you just have to move something and see it before you know. Sometimes it immediately feels right. But if it doesn’t – move it back! At least you tried.  Most importantly, this experimentation leads to innovation, discovery, and success. Some people in your team might need to be convinced, and that’s ok.

Sometimes you just have to move something and try it before you know. Experimentation leads to innovation, discovery, and success.

How to Respond

“Let’s move this display over there and see if it actually (doesn’t look good or presents a problem like blocking your wall display). If it does or we’re not happy with it, we’ll just move it back to where you suggested. I’d like to see what it looks like before we make assumptions.”

“You’re blocking my camera.” 

Security and loss prevention are an important support to the retail process. They serve a key purpose that is fundamentally different than visual merchandisers, but, arguably, just as essential to the success of your store. But, again, they should not be a roadblock to creating a great store experience for the customer.

Here’s Why

When I really get upset, I call loss prevention teams the “sales prevention” department. Loss prevention teams are hired and motivated to prevent theft – not to promote positive sales. As visual merchandisers, that’s our number one goal – to draw in customers and drive profits for your business. It can be frustrating to get push back from a department that doesn’t share your objective. But, retailers who are fortunate enough to invest in loss prevention with security cameras or even facial-recognition software must be considered. If you have a seasonal display or a sign that blocks a security camera, be courteous enough to move it. If your fixtures are decreasing visibility for security staff, try lowering the height of your props. Loss prevention methods might require adjustments, but do not let it derail your plan.
It is important to communicate thoroughly with your security and loss prevention team, so that they are aware of your vision and can inform you of any red flags.
Try scheduling a routine or comprehensive kick-off email or meeting with your team that allows you to provide updates on your progress. The sooner you know about changes that need to be made because of security precautions, the sooner you can make necessary adjustments and move forward with your program.

How to Respond

“I can adjust the placement so it doesn’t block the camera, but this is important for my store experience and I hope we can work together on this. In the future, can we set some time to discuss both our plans ahead of time so we can prevent any onsite issues?”

“You can’t do that.”

Often, we can be limited by our own rules. Rules are great – they set company directives and standards. It’s also vital to train the entire team on those directives and standards ensuring everyone is on the same page. But, occasionally, you may encounter a situation or opportunity that calls for breaking a rule or treating it more like a guideline than a firm requirement.

Here’s Why

Sometimes breaking the rules can lead to innovation – and that’s okay. You might find you just need to bend them for a short time or that they no longer serve their initial purpose for the company. Again, because every visual merchandising program presents new elements, our decisions can be influenced by many factors. The product, the fixtures, the space, the opportunity. These can all be influences in the decision to break or bend an existing rule. Ultimately, if it leads you to greater sales, then you’ll know you’re on to something.
The key is getting the whole team in agreement again. If it leads you to greater sales, then you’ll know you’re on to something!

How to Respond

“Since we implemented this rule for [a specific purpose like the benefit of a past employee or due to lack of supplies], we might find it no longer applies to [your merchandising idea]. Let’s try it and assess our sales numbers in a week to make a final call about this rule.”

If it leads you to greater sales, then you’ll know you’re on to something. 

“We’ve never done it that way before!”

New things can often be scary. We know change is often frightening or intimidating to people because there are many resources for coaching people through change. This can be met with all kinds of objections, but don’t lose patience. My advice is to always persevere.

Here’s Why

There are times in visual merchandising where you might just want to try something. You want to move something, add something, change something from the way it’s always been done. You should be motivated by this desire because something unexpected is proven to get your customers talking and posting about your store online. Customers love to be delighted and surprised. You don’t want them to be bored by your store’s look and feel by using the same features, signage, and displays all year.

Remember, just because it has never been done that way does not make it wrong. It’s good to try new things, experiment, and learn. Stand back and observe how customers or associates respond over a few days. Testing is key, and if we don’t test new ideas, we won’t discover new things. Besides, if you don’t like it, there is no harm in stopping the test.

How to Respond

“I think it would be exciting to try something we haven’t done before. If we don’t try it, we’ll never know if it was successful. Besides, we would have never found out that what we currently do is effective if we hadn’t tried it in the first place.”
As you can see, my best advice is to persevere through the roadblocks. Remain creative and willing to try new things. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and keep driving those sales!
To help your store truly deliver an unexpected experience, attend the upcoming ASD Market Week in Las Vegas. Our free retail seminars offer tons of advice from experts, plus you can discover thousands of items to sell in your store!

About ASD

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Joe Baer

Joe Baer

Written by guest Joe Baer. Joe is the CEO and Founder of ZenGenius, Inc., a visual merchandising, special events and creative direction company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Joe's experiences and love for all things visual have allowed him to travel the world teaching and inspiring others on the power of visual merchandising. Find out more about ZenGenius and Joe's upcoming speaking engagements by visiting their website and social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn