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Ups and Downs of Visual Merchandising

Ups and Downs of Visual Merchandising

Snack merchandising displays blend easily into manual foodservice space at Hofstra University, a Lackmann account.

Landscape can be one of the most influential parts of a merchandising strategy. Think of it as the “ups and downs” of your operation’s physical space. A well designed landscape allows you, the operator, to call attention to the items you want your customers to see—and purchase—the most.

“The best way to drive sales is to first identify what I refer to as the ‘prime rent district’ (PRD),” says Arlene Spiegel, president of Arlene Spiegel & Associates, a leading restaurant concept development company. “That’s the space that is at eye level, about 4- to 6-feet from the floor.

“You want to put items here that are either for sale, will draw the customer’s eye to products that are for sale or are complementary to the guiding principles of your operation. Secondary items do not belong here.”

She says this is particularly effective if it’s near a spot where customers have a momentary wait, “for example, while they wait for slices of pizza to be warmed in an oven. At that spot, you want a bevy of yummy impulse foods staring them right in the face.”

Follow the Eye’s Line

Horizontal merchandising limits visibility and makes the shopper walk to buy. Vertical merchandising groups items for maximum visual impact and lets the customer “see” more of an entire assortment from one spot.

Customers “read” left to right when scanning the length of an aisle, not top to bottom. So, think of every display as a series of vertical display modules of varying widths. If there is no vertical merchandising in an operation, the customer’s eye has no point on which to focus. And when the customer cannot easily see all of his or her options, he or she will have a more difficult time understanding what choices are available and in making choices themselves. This inevitably leads to frustration and can also slow down servery lines.

“A flat landscape leads to hundreds of missed opportunities,” Spiegel says.

Good merchandising of the PRD will lead a customer’s eye to a specific point once it has scanned the peaks and valleys you’ve constructed. Fast selling and high margin items should be the easiest to see, reach and buy. Put slow moving and lower margin items farthest from the customer’s reach. Slow movers do not warrant good display space!

Give Vertical Space Depth

Concentrate merchandising efforts on the most visible areas first.

“The entry point to an operation is your first opportunity to give your customer’s eyes a path to follow. If you’ve developed the landscape, your customer’s eye will move through the display and stop on the focal points you’ve designed,” says Nancy Lane, education account development manager for the Hubert Company. Products should be displayed at varying

heights to increase their visual appeal. Because real estate in many operations comes at a premium, careful use of elevation tools like risers or shelving to merchandise products is essential. Your goal should always be to maximize the use and impact of vertical space within a given footprint. Encourage staff to take pictures of good merchandising displays they see elsewhere and make time to critique them in staff meetings. Spiegel suggests that you walk through

your café, critically looking for non-performing space. “Continually ask yourself, ‘what does this space, empty or not, communicate to my customer,” she concludes.

3 Easy Landscape Fixes:

  1. As you design a landscape and put fixtures into place, remember to back up and examine the space from the point of view of a customer just walking up to the counter. Ask yourself, ‘‘Does this call attention to the focal points I want it to call attention to?’; ‘Does the landscape design compete with the product I’m trying to sell?’
  2. Avoid a flat landscape. Especially if your operation is tight on space, explore every possible use of vertical real estate. Use pedestals or risers to elevate your product so the customer can see it.
  3. Maximize the value of the prime rent district with primary impulse items. Fast selling and high margin items should be the easiest to see, reach and buy.
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