Friday, 7 October 2011

Bright and Beautiful, the Importance of Colour

Colour plays and importand role in our everyday lives, but how much time to we spend consciously thinking about it?

As retailers, it's important that we do this all the time, keeping colour top of mind.
Why is colour so important?  We have natural physiological reactions to colour as well as behavioural and cultural reactions.  Almost everyone has a favouite colour, there are colour trends for fashion and for home, and we associate certain holidays with certain colour schemes.  There are people who dedicate their entire careers to colour.  You can find colour experts, behavioural psychologists that study colour, and even an international colour authority!

Obviously you can't please eveyone in one shot, so how can you apply colour to your store in an effective way?
First is colour blocking. 

By gathering items of a same colour together, you can create a display or section that's easier to look at, allowing the customer to gravitate to colours that appeal to them.  It works with regular merchandise, sale merchandise, or even just odds and sodds that you're trying to gather together for an appealing look.

In a display or a section, you can create a colour story, choosing specific colours to pull together for a certain look.  Then block those colours together in certain spots and combine them in others for a great overall look that's easy for the customer to shop.

Secondly, is colour trend.

Many people are very on trend as far as what is in this season and those colours will sell best for you.  So how do you know what's going to be in next season when you're ordering? 

One option is to consult with the International Colour Authority, an organization based in the UK that uses a panel of colour experts to determine future colour trends with great accuracy.  This is an expensive option, but will give you the most accurate colour forecast, far in advance. 

Are you like most of us and don't have the extra cash to spare for a colour report?  Your suppliers may have already subscribed to the international colour authority and be well aware of colour trends for the upcoming seasons.  As they are product developers and importers, it is important for them to be onto trends before everyone else! 
Lastly, use magazines.  You won't always get the information far in advance, but they're full of current trends and trends coming in the near future.  They're even known to set trends, of course!  Whether it's fashion, gifts, or home decor, look to your favourite magazines to guide you in the right direction and keep you on track.  Looking for a higher tech option than magazines?  Have a look at sites like Pinterest for trends!
When all is said and done, your intuition will help guide you in the right direction, just remember that strong colour blocking often leads to strong sales and an organized looking store.  And...  When in doubt, remember that customers shop first by colour, followed by everything else.  When in doubt, consult an expert to help you make the best of your store.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

6 steps to Employee Engagement

II was fortunate enough to attend the WiRN (Women in Retailing Network) breakfast lecture yesterday morning with speaker Gemma Giovanazzo.  The topic was the customer experience and how do we inspire our staff to deliver the best in customer service every time?

Gemma is the customer experience manager for Ford of Canada and spoke with lots of experience on how big business develops and ensures the customer experience.

After the lecture was over, I and the two lovely women at my table discussed how employee engagement can translate to small business.  In my experience as a store manager, here is what I can share on employee engagement.
  1. Treat your employees as equals.  Ask their opinions, get their feedback, and take what they have to say seriously.
  2. Praise for good work.  Lots of employers offer incentives or prizes which is great when you can do it, but what many employees really want is just a simple “great job” or “thanks for your hard work today.”  Try it; it feels great!
  3. Take an interest.  Try to remember fun personal details about your employees.  When I was a store manager for a big box retailer, I made a point of remembering everyone’s favourite colour, kids names, and any other personal details that I could.  We also had crayons and stickers as well as little treats stashed in my office for when they brought their kids or grandchildren by.  It was so much fun!
  4. Communication.  Gemma said it right; it’s so important!  Keep your employees informed of what’s going on with your store.  Tell them what you’ve purchased, what’s coming in, new sales techniques, what’s happening in the store and in the neighbourhood, etc.  Structured meetings aren’t always necessary, but try to make sure everyone gets necessary messages.  Even consider a communication book in a place where everyone can find it!
  5. Feedback.  Whether it’s simply telling them what they’re doing well or asking for improvement in certain areas, feedback is so necessary for an employee to feel engaged in their job.  Set regular intervals for feedback and make sure that if someone’s performance needs improvement in any area, you’re dealing with it right away.  Nobody likes to be doing something wrong and not be told about it for days, weeks, or months.  A simple, gentle conversation is all that’s necessary.  Tell them what they’re doing well and then what you would like them to improve and why.  Finish the conversation by reinforcing that they’re good at their job, but you would just like them to improve in this one area.
  6. Education.  Get them out of the store and get them educated.  If you can, send them out to information sessions on customer service, sales, merchandising or anything specific to the products you carry.  Make it an event for them!  Ensure you’re also providing as much product knowledge as possible and passing on and sharing your passion for the product you sell.

There are lots of big expensive steps to employee engagement and lots of large companies invest millions of dollars into ensuring it happens.  That’s not always necessary.  As a store owner and manager, follow these six steps and the result will likely be happy employees who treat the customers as beautifully as you treat them.  

Big thanks for Kendall and Kristi for their great company and conversation yesterday!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Seasonal Merchandise

This week’s Flourish Tip was all about looking to large chain retailers to find out when to display seasonal merchandise.

Think of every holiday or end of season as a big expiry date looming over the merchandise.  After that date passes, the merchandise is no longer profitable to you.  You either need to sell it at a large discount or pay someone to pack it up and then have it take up storage space which you are also paying for!  Not to mention, it eats up inventory dollars for that holiday or season during the next go-around!

With that being said, earlier is often better when it comes to seasonal merchandise and your profits.  Obviously, this is within reason, as you don’t want to have Christmas merchandise in your store in July or Valentines merchandise hanging around in December, but you want to make sure that you’re giving your merchandise ample opportunity to sell before it’s “expiry date”.  

This is where large chains come in handy!  They have the research and experience behind them and it’s worth checking them out for a cue as to when to put out yours!  Visit a nearby mall for stores with similar offerings to your store and make notes about when merchandise is going out!

Here are some guidelines that will help you in the next few months.  If you have fall merchandise, it should be out for customers to view starting in August.  Even when the weather appears nice, people are thinking ahead to upcoming seasons and many want the newest and latest buys!  Christmas related merchandise should go out by November 1st.  If you are a retailer that doesn’t sell much Halloween related product, then once Canadian Thanksgiving is over, it’s your time to get Christmas in place!  Yes, many customers will comment that it’s early, remind them that it’s only a couple of months away!  And many will balance those customers out and start purchasing gotta-have-it items right away.

If you’re still not sure when to get things out, hire an expert!  And remember; adjust your ordering according to when merchandise needs to be in-store after your reconnaissance mission to the mall.  You’ll be happy you did!

Happy Selling! Need help creating amazing seasonal displays? Call or email us today!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Why Target a Market?

My clients often ask me "why should I choose a specific target market?" 

Imagine trying to hit a target with an arrow...  If you shoot a bunch of arrows up in the air and hope you hit something, you're far less likely to hit the right target than if you take aim directly at the target you desire and fire away! 

Getting your message to the people that will buy your product works the same way.  If you hope to get the message out to all different people of all different age groups, with all sorts of different experiences, you're far less likely to get noticed by anyone than if you identify your target market and ensure you create a message that speaks to them directly.

If your store is already established, it pays to take a look at your most profitable customers and identify who they are.  Who spends the most money in your store?  Who buys at the highest margin?  Do your customers live nearby or are they willing to travel to get to your store?  How old are they?  What inspires them to buy?  What life stage are they at?

If you're a new retailer, just establishing your store, this is where it pays to do some research.  Check out your city's website for census information, visit your local business link for help researching, and see who shops with your competitors to help you establish your target market.

Once you've established your target market, you can create advertising that will appeal to them, advertise in the mediums they use, and creat a store environment that will make them feel welcome.  There are all sorts of things you can do to draw the right customer to you once you've established your target market!

If you need help establishing a target market or creating a store environment that will appeal to them, visit