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Wyoming Business Tips for Sept. 28-Oct. 4

September 19, 2014

A weekly look at Wyoming business questions from the Wyoming Small Business Development Center (WSBDC), part of WyomingEntrepreneur.Biz, a collection of business assistance programs at the University of Wyoming.

By Susan Jerke, Wyoming SBDC regional director

“Is visual merchandising important for my retail store?” Jeannie, Buffalo

I love shopping in small, family owned retail boutiques, gift shops and antique stores. They have a welcoming charm and the owners always have interesting stories to share about their businesses. Sometimes, however, shopkeepers become a little too comfortable and begin to overlook some of the special touches that keep customers coming back for that unique experience.

If you are the owner of an independent retail store, I challenge you to take a critical look at your space, identify areas that could be improved, and take creative steps to visually energize and renew your customers’ experience. A fresh, crisp, clean store is inviting and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to achieve. It is especially important now, as we look at the calendar, and realize the holidays are just around the corner. You will want to showcase our merchandise in the most visually attractive environment possible.

The term, “visual merchandising” is a skill that every small retailer should understand.

Let’s do a virtual walkthrough of a clothing shop on Main Street and visualize what that successful shopkeeper is doing right. As we view the store from the street, we note that the signage is well placed for both car traffic and pedestrians. An outside merchandise display creates a sense of excitement and draws us inside the store. The glass doors are clean and the window displays are well thought out, classily promoting the mood of new colors for fall.

As we enter the store, we pause on a “landing spot” where we can hesitate, visually get our bearings, and move forward to investigate the areas that have been cleverly placed. Did you know that most customers naturally turn to their right after entering the store and follow a specific pattern as they browse throughout the space? Studies have shown that the highest dollar sales are made at the front-center and immediate right-hand wall.

As we continue our adventure through our ideal store, everything is easily identified and it is clear from the signage that we can quickly pinpoint the departments and sales. All of our senses are subtly stimulated: the lighting is soft, but dramatic, music is tasteful, scents are inviting, use of color, and balance and design are good. The merchandise has been changed and rearranged to challenge curiosity. This retailer has taken the time to make the customers feel special each and every time they step into the store.

You can achieve a special ambiance in your own store by developing a strategy for visual merchandising. Don’t be afraid to try new ideas. Seek experienced resources to help and enjoy the fruits of your creativity as your store appeals to a greater audience of customers.

A blog version of this article and an opportunity to post comments are available at

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, email or write 1000 E. University Ave., Dept. 3922, Laramie, WY, 82071-3922.

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