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A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center, part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.
By Bruce Morse, WSBDC Region 2 director
"I own a retail store and am looking for some inexpensive ways to draw more people into my business. Do you have any suggestions?" Holly, Cody
Holly, unfortunately you just missed a great opportunity to hear from a nationally-known expert on merchandising and visual marketing, Bruce Baker, who was recently in Cody.
Listed are some of the ideas that he suggested to workshop participants. Of course, some will depend on budget, the current state of the storefront, amount of space the business owner has to work with, etc. Here are some ideas to try:
Window displays should be used to get customers' attention, those walking and in some cases driving by. Make sure people can see the display by having it well lit, especially if people tend to see it at night. Also, wash the glass periodically and avoid using doors and windows, prime display space, for advertising all local fund-raisers, baseball team schedules, etc. It is great to support those entities, just do it at a separate location, such as bulletin board, within the store. Make sure that signage also can be seen by those walking or driving by, but do not cover up merchandise display with a sign.
Once they are in the door, the business should smell good, not overpowering, but pleasant. Soft, appropriate music can also help. Use small signs near the merchandise to help customers find what they are looking for. If you can do this in a fun way to make them smile, even better. Consider using large format photography to help highlight various lines. Lean on suppliers for this -- many have some large posters they can donate. Merchandise should be displayed from the knees to about 6 inches above the customer's head. They do not want and usually will not bend over to get items off the floor or they simply will not see them.
The merchandising must match the merchandise. In other words, do not use cheap dime store displays to hold or show off expensive items. This sends a confusing message to customers. Change displays at least quarterly. Use seasonal colors, and "do not let the groundhog see Christmas." By Feb. 1, Christmas items and displays should be put away.
Two things to remember: Most stores do not have enough light. People will not buy if they can not see it. Replace burned out bulbs, and if possible, use track lighting to light up merchandise, not the wall or floor. And finally, get customers to touch the product. They are much more likely to buy if they pick up, look, smell, feel and hopefully fall in love with it.
A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments is available at http://www.wyomingentrepreneur.typepad.com/blog/.
The WSBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming. To ask a question, call 1-800-348-5194, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY 82071-3922.