Posted in Merchandising, Productivity, Retail Operations

Back to Basics Visual Merchandising

Everything you need to know about visual merchandising is in this one picture.



Photo credit: Marcus Gibson. The photo was taken up in the mountains, near an extinct volcano and an artisan village Batur, Indonesia. I saw it on hois Facebook page, and he was kind enough to allow me to use it.

  • It tells a STORY: we are in the fresh fruit business.
  • Each product (category) is distinguishable – no visual noise.
  • The product is ‘framed’ by blue material cover – without unnecessary signage or lifestyle imagery that would just create visual clutter.
  • Every display has a focal point.
  • The displays are neat and tidy.
  • The products are displayed as it would be used/ consumed.
  • The products are hygienic – as well as the environment – especially considering the location.
  • They use lines (pyramidal shapes) to lead your visual inspection and give your eye an easy entry point.
  • They use colour to contrast adjacencies – and colour-coordination of the pots in the front row.
  • They use rhythm (pineapple basket +4 others in a row, as well colours repeating)
  • There is balance (6-5-6). And simply ‘join the dots’ by drawing an imaginary line from the blue pot in the middle row left to the other blue pots.
  • Best use of available light.
  • Accessible and convenient to shop. Most items on the top shelf (less accessible) are back-up stock, which add to the presentation, but still allows efficient service – and nothing on the floor.

Of course I am taking artistic license to say ‘everything’ you need to know. But I am sure you ‘get the picture’ (pun intended) and I would even go so far as to say that NOT having the price points there, gives the owner of the stall an opportunity to engage with customers because there wouldn’t be much else to discuss.

Good merchandising is not hard. Despite what some experts may say, it ONLY has to make sense for the customer – and move your stock. You can use your instincts and common sense to achieve this- just like this peasant in a remote Balinese village simply get these basics right.

There is a critical role that a designer plays in translating a business model into a retail experience. But keeping your merchandise organised and clean (= shoppable) isn’t that role.

Most retailers simply get lazy and allow ‘merchandise creep’ to overpower the original design by allowing a plethora of spinners, and dump-bins to be progressively bastardise any attempt at effective visual communication.

PS: To get some confidence and an insight into smart, pragmatic approach to visual merchandising, GO HERE.




Posted in Design & Display

Top Mistakes of Visual Merchandising

We get around a bit in retail land and it’s part of what we love about the job. We get to see a great deal of good and bad along the way.

Given the work we do with the retail supply chain (brands, landlords etc) we are often called in to ‘help’ some of their suppliers; i.e. the retailers.

Given these circumstance, we prefer to provide advice that can actually be implemented in the short-term, rather than esoteric ‘strategic’ suggestions.

I find that we repeat the advice at store after store. I wrote the eBook (sold HERE) but still we see the same thing over and over, and just scanning through our latest Visual Merchandising Advisory Report that Moonyeen pulled together (over 40pp) I felt the déjà vu – and was wondering if anyone is paying attention – or whether they wanted to go broke?

Below is the list of the most commonly given advice I give to struggling retailers. I pass this on to you, so that you don’t end up getting a visit from us, because, quite frankly, sometimes I feel like the Grim Reaper…

  1. Fill the holes. (If there is nothing there, it can’t sell.)
  2. Don’t split your categories – unless you are cross-merchandising for a pre-determined purpose.
  3. Put the RIGHT product at eye-level. (Hint: it is not necessarily the most popular.)
  4. Use signage to communicate effectively
  5. Open up the sight-lines so that the customer can see.
  6. Get your adjacencies right – and that means the way the customer shops, not because it suits you that way.
  7. Get rid of that stupid sign that says ‘the camera is watching’ – and try and have a sales assistant that actually serves AND get rid of that stupid sign that says ‘you pay when you break it’ and encourage the customer to shop.
  8. Displays are NOT about ‘themes’. Accessorising is not a substitute for a display; so DISPLAY what you want to SELL.
  9. Give your display a ‘focal point’ – something that draws the customer’s eye; because if it isn’t seen it will never be sold.
  10. Clean your friggin’ shop

BONUS TIP: don’t always sell your discounted rubbish at the front of the store – sometimes there is a reason why it never sold in the first place.


Posted in Merchandising, People, Retail Operations

They said…

This post is not about the shameless self-promotion. It is about being proud to have made a difference.

Listed below are some of the comments from agents that attended the Retail Remedy makeover:

 “I thought it was outstanding. Ed and Jo have done an excellent job and are inspired to do more.  As Ed and Dennis said, News Ltd was the catalyst to freshen up a ‘tired’ Newsagency and should be congratulated. This whole concept can help ‘fix’ a lot of similar Newsagencies at not a great expense”.

 “As we are doing a makeover of one of our walls at the moment I found it inspiring and have picked up some great ideas from Eddie and Jo. I felt that it was like walking into a complete new shop. Once again thankyou to NWN and Dennis and his wife for a great worthwhile promotion”.

 “After seeing the shop on the first presentation I didn’t think it needed that much doing to it, but when we saw the completed makeover I can’t believe the difference it made”.

 “I thought the completion was good, but they should have focused more of the magazine stand at the front of the shop, I know that they plan to do that next, but I would have done it first as it is the first thing customers see.  The rest of the makeover was great”.

 “The whole idea of getting the newsagencies together with these workshops is a brilliant initiative of News Ltd, because when we get together we network & communicate and that’s where newsagents get their strengths from.  When Dennis said to just move things around in the shop as you notice it more when you do, is great advice and we should all do more of it.  I like the changes that Ainslie made and it has made a vast improvement on the look of the shop, I will be experimenting in my shop with my stock placement in the coming weeks.”

 “I thought it was a terrific improvement and you could really notice the changes, we will be taking a lot of the ideas shown to us and using them when we move into our new shop location next month”.

 “The changes are good, the before & after is very different, we are doing the survey and I am working with my senior staff to see where we can make improvements in our own shop.”

 “The whole shop looks brighter and there are noticeable improvements, the makeover overall looks great, it shows what a little money spent in the right areas can do”.

Posted in Management, Merchandising

The perfect retail employee

The ideal staff member: works hard, for free

Here is some research that brings some really bad news. But I will also give you some good news. (The research has been conducted by him! research and consulting.)

  • Three categories (lotteries, magazines and newspapers) are in 76% of shopping baskets.
  • Average visit frequency is 1.6 (with the lottery shopper at 1.9 times, the real figure is worse) and this is well below the other convenience channels
  • Average items purchased = 1.75 with almost 60% buying one item only.
  • 81% of shoppers were not aware of any promotional messages

Is this employee not your favourite employee too? Meet the silent salesman that works (maybe) at every newsagent for free: Mr Merchandise.

In some newsagencies, Mr Merchandise sits around all day. Are you putting him to work in your business?

Here is one simple strategy that you can use to put Mr Merchandise to work: Cross Merchandise.

That is; put associated and related products together. There are 3 types of cross merchandising that you may apply.

1. Inter-category: Associated product with some of your core products.

Example: Ribbons with gift bags

2. Intra-category: Related products paired within a category, usually slower sellers or new sellers with your hot items.

Example: The belts with the dresses

3. Trade partners: Introducing an item that is NOT usually carried with one of your core sellers.

Example: Accessories from the local Jeweller with your Bag.

Of course you know all that, right? But with thousands of possible combinations, do you exploit them all – consistently? Probably not.

The list is too long for me to generate one here, so here is better idea: Make a template for your staff to generate ideas of products that can be paired together as cross merchandising opportunities.

In this image you can see how I used a matrix to pair products. It would be impossible to list the thousands of SKUs, but identify the key categories as follows:



List the core products that sell well week in and week out. Then identify the range of products that:

  • you want to promote
  • have high margins but don’t sell well
  • are new
  • don’t sell well and are ‘last chance’
  • special offers (buy-in or tie-in stock including consignment)

Mix them up and list them along the X and the Y axes on your template. Evaluate every cell.

TIP: Do several of them and allocate one to every staff member and ask them for their ideas and views. You may just be surprised.) 


Posted in Customer Service, Design & Display, Productivity, Shopper Marketing

Invisible dollars: Or the Art of Retailing

Where the material ends, art begins. 

This is a quote by Etienne Hajdu, and it reflects his view on sculpting. Retail too, is an art, and we are inclined to forget that sometimes.

Sometimes it is what is NOT there that makes a retail experience memorable. In fact maybe, as alluded in the title, that is really what retail is all about.

In retail we focus on getting the offer right, on getting the prices right and so forth. We focus on the ‘what IS’ to the exclusion of ‘what is NOT’.

By this I mean we consider all the variables of retail and we attempt to manipulate that into something that is unique.

When people buy a product or a service, they do not only pay with money, they pay with many ‘invisible dollars’:

  • ·        They invest their very precious time
  • ·        They risk their reputation
  • ·        The opportunity cost of not pursuing a different product/outcome

Forgetting these invisible payments can cost us dearly.

Similarly, the retailer pays with those same invisible dollars (i.e. indirect costs) for the products. We don’t factor the opportunity cost of the working capital, the risk of obsolescence and damage into our cost of sales.

Forgetting these ‘invisible costs’ can cost us dearly.

But more importantly, how can you improve the customer experience by taking things away rather than adding it? It is human nature to want to add/grow/improve and it does not come naturally to prune or backburn.

We have found that we have to build these checkpoints into our Customer Experience Design initiatives by conscious effort to make sure we keep things simple and that we remember the value of the unseen.

Because, more often than we would care to admit, getting out the way of the customer is more valuable than the alternative.


Posted in Customer Service, Design & Display, Marketing, Selling & Persuasion, Shopper Marketing

Customer flirtations: How and Why

A female begins fascinating a male by smiling at him, raising her eyebrows to make her eyes appear more child-like, quickly lowering her eyelids  while tucking her chin down in an effort to bring him closer. After averting her gaze, she will almost invariably and within moments, put her hands on/near her mouth, giggle, lick her lips and thrust her chest out towards the object of desire.


(According to research conducted by Eibl-Eibesfeldt quoted by Sally Hogshead in the book Fascination. To get the book, there is an AMAZON link on the left-hand menu of this post.)


Imagine a peacock and you can imagine the man’s behaviour.

Research has found that flirting behaviours – both men and women – are universal and timeless; it applies regardless of race, culture, language, socio-economic status or any other variable.

It seems to me that retailers would do well to learn from these universal principles because this is the basis of making a fascinating offer or proposition. And if it holds true as widely as indicated, the relevance may be stretched to the shopfloor:

Let’s see how this might work:

  • Smiling

How friendly is your store? Your offer? Your staff? Other research has also proven clearly that people like to buy from people whom they like.

  • Raising her eyebrows to make her eyes appear more child-like

Sometimes the offer we make is pretty crass. We shout ‘sale’ and ‘special’ from every corner. Now whilst that works for some (ahem) offers that may be made in certain parts of the town, the normal customer may appreciate something more subtle and innocent.

  • Lowering eyelids & tucking her chin down to bring him closer

How enticing is your offer? Anything that will make them take a closer look?  What will make them pick it up? (Once that happens your odds of a sale is better than 50% in most instances. Is there any mystery? Suspense?

  • Giggle, lick her lips

Are you promising to be fun; promising to be (ahem) easy (to deal with) – or are customers faced with signs and terms and conditions before they have even made the purchase?

  • Thrust the chest towards the object of desire

Ultimately the offer has to be clear and importantly, it has to be made. It is not about the song & dance; it is about the eventual connection. How bold is you statement of intent? How attractive is your merchandising? Do you make the first move and show your wares on offer?

Whilst this analogy is made tongue-in-cheek, there is an element of verity. Because ‘your market’ is human being first and customer second. Maybe we can treat them accordingly.




Posted in Finance, General, Merchandising, Productivity

Make more profit

I have posted a new post HERE that shows you how to calculate the optimum price for a product, assuming you have the cost price and one other piece of information.

Isn’t that fantastic? ¬†And it is easy too.

But you aren’t going to read about it here. You will have to go to the link and renew your subscription by dropping your email in the box or clicking on the RSS feed.

Look forward to seeing you there…



Posted in Management, Merchandising, Retail Operations

Make more money (by understanding price elasticity)

The best price to charge is the one where you make the most money (profit). There is a simple formula for this. To calculate the price elasticity, you simply have to have two data points.

How much product was sold at P1 and how much product is sold at Price 2?

Price elasticity (PE) is basically the relationship between the change in quantity and change in price. If you imagine that as a straight line between two points, it is the slope of the line.

 (PE) PE = [(Q2-Q1) / ((Q1+Q2) / 2 )] / [(P2-P1) / ((P1+P2) / 2]

Where Q1 = initial quantity; Q2 = final quantity; P1 = initial price; P2 = final price


  • If the PE > 1 (i.e. positive) the product is said to be relatively elastic. An increase in price would result in a decrease in revenue, and a decrease in price would result in an increase in revenue.
  • If the PE < 1 (i.e. negative) the product is relatively inelastic. An increase in price would result in an increase in revenue, and a decrease in price would result in a decrease in revenue. (Think products like petrol.) 


To illustrate, assume that:

(a) The product costs $50.

(b) You have calculated the elasticity of a product to be -2.4005.  (This would be a product that is very inelastic – meaning that this product can tolerate price increases without sacrificing quantity.)


The simple formula for the optimum price is this:


Profit maximizing RSP


price elasticity x cost

price elasticity +1


-2.4005 x $50

-2.4005 +1



This means that the price at which you would sell your product to make the most profit is $85.70.

(There is one technical assumption that is unlikely to make a difference, but for the sake of completenes: This calcualtion assumes that the conditions that applied (competitors, discounts, etc) when you collected your price sensitivity data continues to apply after you have set your price.)