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Visual Merchandising - Selling From Wholeness

Furniture World Magazine


Lock in Sales through conceptual merchandising

Something like a sanctuary, a gallery of solutions, the retail space can be a paradise found for customers. Many times it isn’t. Ours is a visual universe. Our customer’s quest for integrating ideas of home and heaven is a search not only for furniture, but also for unity and harmony. The customer’s goal can be found by showing them the way with your own unified display space.

Strategically in the competitive struggle for furniture sales, there is no space more important than the retail environment. When creating, changing or improving their homes, the first place a customer looks for ideas, standards, and help is the furniture showroom.

Convincing them that their answer lies within your walls, requires that every square foot of display works in unity. In seamless fashion, one vignette unfolds to another, a sofa and love seat reveal tables which in turn suggest lamps, pictures, rugs. All elements work together in conceptual merchandising.

Conceptual merchandising integrates your showroom around a price point that gets more turns for your merchandise and encourages more and larger average sales. In conceptual merchandising , elements fit so well that when you change the focal point in the customer’s room with that one sofa and love seat sale, you open sales of tables, lamps, pictures and rugs.

An integrated retail environment that encourages and supports sales includes four elements... space planning, buying, setting -up and selling. It begins with space.

There is no element more critical than good space planning. Designing a store to fit a variety of merchandise forces you to think on paper.. . which is a much less costly place to think than in construction or renovation. Space planning is unquestionably linked to expanded sales.

As Executive Designer/Vice President for Seaman’s Furniture, Inc., for 14 years, one of my responsibilities was the design, visual layout and floor space planning for 40 stores. I saw how space planning contributed to the increase of average sales per square foot from $100 to $400 for the entire chain. Whether 40 stores or one, the space planning principals remain constant.

A good space planner can tell you how many pieces fit in your store on an area by area basis. A space planner can comprehensively delineate how many ensembles will fit... how many living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, all complete with accessories. If you have a gallery store such as the Thomasville Gallery, the space planner should define required wall space for comprehensive displays.

With 70 living rooms... or 65 living rooms, you may have 20 wall units. A schematic floor plan would show that sales dimension. It would also let you know how much wall space is available for accessories.

The planner should also furnish costs to stock the variety of decorative objects. The rule of thumb for space planners is never to use the same size twice. Use one large piece and use a middle-size piece, use two together, use four together, use the mirror, use the vertical lines, as long as you don’t repeat it again.

All of this information is tabulated and the units are counted. What it would cost to show 70 living rooms is calculated. The final figure will show the total amount of investment costs, broken down by section for closer monitoring.

The information from the space planner will prevent buyer disasters such as yielding to a special “deal.” You know them... the opportunity to buy a quantity of same-size pictures and an extra 10% discount thrown in by the rep. However, you also know from the space planner, step one, the normal vignette room could take anywhere from four to seven pieces... not all the same size. You also know the rule of thumb about not using the same size twice.

In one vignette, if your sofa is $700, and the love seat is $500, you wouldn’t put a $400 lamp in that room. You might show, for example, a $100 lamp. Then the picture should be $100-$150 and so on for other appropriate price point accessories.

The set-up person works from the original blueprint and organizes the merchandise in a price point vignette room. Everything in the vignette should be in that price realm for one important reason... sales.

  • Set-up you vignettes to avoid lost sales. How many times has a salesperson in your store come up and said, “I can’t find this picture to go with it.” They should be able to find the item, if it’s set up properly.
  • Make sure there is enough room in front of a chair to accommodate the ottoman.
  • Living room suites have to include a tree.
  • A floor lamp has to be included in the set-up of the sofa, table statue.

All this methodology... linking planning and buying with shapes and sizes is to increase sales. The average sale for each salesperson throughout the country is roughly $900 to $1,900 depending on the market served. With conceptual merchandising you can put in place energies that will increase each sale.

Conceptual merchandising lets you increase the sale... if not in the present, then in the future. Once you sell the sofa, especially if you do a sofa/love seat, you’re creating a focal point and dictating what everything else does in that room. You’ve got control. Don’t stop there.

  • Use your visualization and vignette rooms, to “go home” with your customer. Mentally walk around the room with them, visualizing it for yourself and for them.
  • Make their home space come alive in the showroom. Use for this a yardstick as an example to determine length and width to owners who have difficulty deciding how large a space is. Help them visualize, by asking, “Is it more than a yardstick,” since most dry wall construction is in four foot units.
  • Make suggestions: Suggest an area rug to go over a Kelly green wall to wall carpet., suggest brass sconces or oak tables.
  •  Get your customer to develop a shopping list and to make the decisions while you are there. If you let Mr. and Mrs. Jones leave without it, they’ll get home and see they need the area rug or that something is incomplete and they may go to another store.

Of course, your visualization is locked in with your price point vignette. If you do conceptual merchandising and put it all into he same price range, so much in accessories and so much in tables, you can buy in the right price ranges for your store. You can have the lowest end price range store and still do this.

All these elements work together for unity and harmony... the search that brought your customer to you.

Bill Blake is President of WRB Associates a space planning and design firm that creates and maintains retail environments that increase sales per sq. ft. and boosts merchandise turns. Questions can be sent to Bill care of FURNITURE WORLD at wrblake@furninfo.com.