The value of Visual Merchandising (part one)

The value of Visual Merchandising is impressive. Imagine it is 15 minutes prior closing time and you are standing in a store where there is no overview, no clear walkways and it is either dark or TL-lighting is in place. You came to the store to buy a teddy bear (the one displayed in the shop window) for your nephew but you are not able to find it next to the toys but behind some boxes in a dark corner next to the silverware. You look at the price tag and see that this plate (?) costs you €5,-, at least that’s what the label on the shelf says. (apparently someone did not replenished the store well) You are looking around to find a staff member to tell you the price but there is nobody around. At the till you see the price of €25. This is over your intended budget however you are buying this bear because there was no other option. Since all the stores are closed and you are the only one in this store left you needed to find this product. Now if you had more time… Did you consider going to this store in the first place? You were triggered by the bear in the window but standing in the opening of the store you could have made up your mind. With this experience you would not go back to this store as this will take too much time and probably frustration.

Does the example point out the value of Visual Merchandising? Yes, it does!

  • Trigger in the window to attract walking by customers creating awareness, interest and first signal to walk in.
  • Disorganized store, no clear routing would hold you back to walk further than the first 3 meters of the shop and probably force you to turn around and leave without knowing what the store actually offers.
  • Poor lighting standards: the chance is significant that you won’t go to the dark corners of the shop or aware of the products which are not illuminated.
  • Pricing labels: you are confused as the price label was not up to date and needed to ask a staff member the price. Imagine customers won’t ask staff for the price because there is no staff near or it is just an extra step to take.

If you think this is not happening often and it won’t happen in theme parks, indoor attractions or holiday parks than I must disappoint you it does happen on a regular basis even in global brand stores! Soon I will write about ‘Challenges in VM’ where I will list up the biggest challenges in Visual Merchandising including tools to prevent or solve these challenges.

How we wanted it to be:

Same time different store but triggered by the same teddy bear which you want to buy for your nephew. You walk in and on the right you see a huge toy wall, left you see the till and more in the back home ware, drink ware and whatsoever. In front of you there is a big cake stand displaying all kinds of plush. There is a promotion running 2 plush bears for 30,-. You pick up the teddy bear which you have seen in the shop window and see the price of €25,-. Way over your budget however if I buy 2 bears I already have a gift for my niece which has her birthday next week and I will save €20,-. Good deal and you are heading to the till. The friendly staff member asks if it are presents and will wrap it. During this she asks you if you are interested in a key ring for just €2,-. You decide to buy 2 as it is just €2,- and it is something extra for both niece and nephew. You are paying the €34,- and the staff member mentioned she will add a discount voucher in the free bag for your next purchase.   After wishing you a great evening you will leave the store happy and heading to the birthday party of your nephew.

The second example ticks the boxes although you were in a rush. Because you could find the products within seconds, you had time to see the promotion calculate the value for money and remember the next upcoming family event. At the till the staff member had the time to create a real present, small talk, upsell and point you at the discount voucher. You did not lose time to find the product and you left happily. Due overview, staff attention and the voucher you will come back.

Theme parks, attractions and the rest of the Leisure industry

Now these were examples for high street stores but imagine the importance of VM in an attraction, theme park or holiday park. Retail within the leisure industry is not core business meaning that guests are not travelling to purchase merchandise, ride photo or play a midway game. All these purchases are secondary which makes Visual Merchandising even more important!

Retailing in a theme park requests a different mindset and shops are often part of the complete experience, well themed (or at least that’s what I would advise) and merchandise is branded and based on the nearby ride or area where the shop is located (again my advice). There is also competition from F&B or Photography and what about queuing time at the rides? The last does not affect the decision to spend but will affect the time to spend in your shop and therefore the awareness of promotions, product ranges, staff attention and (probably when it is crowded in the shop) the will to walk in. Most guests will shop at the end of the day after the major rides are experienced and heading to the exit. A theme park guest does not want to walk all day long with shopping bags and to be honest me neither. All the adrenaline will make the guest forget about that nice souvenir she saw in the morning. So most of the time your store managers have 1 shot to close the deal. Especially in day attractions were the entrance and exit are totally separated and guests just spend a part of the day exploring the attraction. What you often see is that routing within these attractions is one-way with the souvenir shop at the end of the attraction. This is the most effective way however can cause customer flow problems in peak periods.

First impression counts! Make it happen!

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