Why in-store merchandising has to change
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Mark Heckman Consulting blog.
At fixture and merchandising plan meetings I attended over thirty-plus years, discussions centered on logistics and space availability, but there was little or no focus on shopper convenience or shopping efficiency. Essentially, this remains the approach of most retailers today.
Let me suggest a few things retailers can do that will yield quick, incremental gains. It simply requires retailers to re-think where they place departments and categories in a more holistic, shopper-centric manner. I have seen this happening in three steps.
- Recognize some categories are more important than others and should be readily accessible without your shoppers having to work to find them. Purposely placing the most important categories in the far reaches of stores to manipulate the shopper’s trip is becoming increasingly risky.
- Understand there are some areas in every retail store that are more productive than others. Also, distinct, existing traffic patterns in every store are much easier to leverage than to attempt to change. Just know that some areas of your store are frequented less by shoppers than you would like. It is also important to realize that shoppers spend faster and with more efficiency early in their trip. Know that their trip time is inherently short and not easily stretched by “good merchandising” and using placement of “destination categories” as magnets to attract shoppers into parts of the store they are not otherwise interested in going.
- Many departments, categories and items have strong affinities with other items on the basis of how the shoppers view and use these categories and items. When possible, data can be used to measure basket level affinity quantitatively (basket analysis) and qualitatively (shopper questionnaires and shop-a-long research) to better understand the strength of these relationships.
Enabling shoppers to quickly and efficiently find what they are looking for in today’s bricks and mortar stores is emerging as a key competitive advantage. As with most things retailer, there will always be an element of “art” in any empirical category placement plan. However, we are no longer operating in a consumer environment in which our stores and merchandising plans accommodate our merchants first and expect the shoppers to adapt.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which all-too-common merchandising practices work against shopper efficiency and convenience? How would you advise retailers to rethink how they place departments and categories?