Four Merchandising Ideas You Can Put to Use Today
by Libby Dowd
When it comes to lingerie, retailers across America have learned one important lesson: Pretty little things are usually sold in pretty little spaces.
With not-so-spacious boutiques cropping up all over the map, storeowners are looking for effective ways to merchandise product, making do with the space they have. An entire store makeover can be a daunting task, but there are certain areas of your store that you can re-do for an immediate impact.
Here, four successful storeowners pick out the parts of their boutiques that help drive traffic in.
1. SEND A MESSAGE
In order to run a successful lingerie store, you must have a clear brand message, says CEO of Kramer Design Group, Robin Kramer. Before making any changes or adjustments to the design and layout of your store, she advises retailers to ask themselves, “What is the message of my brand?” Understanding what you want your brand to relay to the consumer is the fastest way to built customer loyalty. “We always work closely with our clients to create a cohesive story,” she says.
Once your message is clear, spin it through every element of your store and its design. At New York-based lingerie boutique Journelle, owner Clare Chambers worked with Kramer to develop a theme that revolved around everyday luxury. The concept is reflected in the 1,800-square-foot store’s product selection—moderately priced styles range in price from $70 to $100—and through regular e-mails featuring suggested “daily luxury items”.
“What is the message of my brand?” Understanding what you want your brand to relay to the consumer is the fastest way to built customer loyalty. “We always work closely with our clients to create a cohesive story,”
Boseman, MT-based Suelto Boutique caters to adult women who know the value of a good bra. Owner Jolee Barry wanted everything about the 865-square foot store to appeal to these women. “My tagline is: Elegant. Sexy. You.,” she says. “I started with a philosophy for my store, which I bring into everything I do—what I buy, how I train my employees, how I design the store.” Barry caters to smart, sexy women with an aesthetic that’s a little bit funky.
“I wanted a boutique not a brightly lit business,” she says. “When I envision a boutique, I think of a funky little, imperfect, creative space,” Barry has her brand message displayed down to the last detail. “I searched high and low for the perfect scented candle which I burn everyday,” she says. “In the summer when I have my door open people are lured in by the smell and they always tell me how great it is.”
2. CREATE PERFECT PRIVACY
According to Kramer, an intimate apparel sale is made in the fitting room. “It’s the nature of the product,” she explains. “Dressing rooms have to be comfortable, very clean and warm. There should also be enough space for two people, [the customer and the sales clerk] with shopping bags and product, to undress and see themselves in the mirror.” Kramer, who’s worked with intimate apparel brands such as Ralph Lauren, Donna Karen and Calvin Klein, urges retailers to consider their customer when designing fitting rooms. Not everyone will feel comfortable inviting a sales clerk into the changing room. For this reason, Kramer created three levels of privacy in the fitting room area at Journelle. The areas suit every type of woman from the modest to the shy. “We also placed armoires in the fitting room so there is an immediate stock for someone who needs a different size,” she says.
Prior to her store opening, Chambers spent a lot of time in dressing rooms around New York City. She found that the rooms with the best lighting, made the best impression. “The lighting in our dressing room is a mixture of florescent and incandescent,” she says. “We used warm, neutral taupes and beiges. We also put down carpet and added benches to make it more inviting.”
Even the smallest bit of extra space will go a long way when it comes to designing your fitting rooms. Kramer feels that an extra 15 percent of your total floor space is ideal. For Patti Symons of Nightengals in Zionsville, IN, allowing extra space for the fitting rooms was a major priority. From the 800 square feet of retail space, Symons created three 6’x7’ fitting rooms. “There is enough room for women to bring in a baby carriage,” she says.
Alison Rubke, owner of Faire Frou Frou, a 900-square-foot boutique in Los Angeles, CA, paid a great deal of attention to the design of her dressing rooms. The look reflects the soft, sweet style that Rubke and her mother Gale were looking to create.
“Pale pink satin drapes spill onto the floor and are tied back with a huge satin bow,” she says. “And each fitting room has a mini chandelier, it’s very sweet.”
Adding bathrobes are an inexpensive way to immediately make your dressing room more comfortable. “This isn’t like shopping for denim,” says Kramer. “She’s basically naked in there and is not going to walk around the store looking for a new size.”
3. SAVE SOME SPACE
Operating an intimate apparel boutique can sometimes feel like living in a New York City apartment. If your shop feels more like a shoebox, you may be tempted to order smaller quantities of items. This is one of the most common mistakes made by retailers, says Kramer. “If you don’t have it in stock and have to place an order, it’s a turn off. Your customers can do that on the internet.” She often recommends that stores display only a few sizes per style and store the rest in draws similar to those used in department stores. For Journelle, Kramer designed draws that resembled a library’s catalog system.
Rubke learned that keeping her stock stored on the sales floor was the best way to make a quick sale. “We were storing extra pieces in plastic storage bins in the office and it took us too long to get to them,” she says. Rubke now keeps her stock close at hand in ornate 19th century antique pieces and custom-made bead board cabinets.
4. SHAKE THINGS UP
Sales may be slacking because your products are not effectively grouped or displayed. When Chambers—who groups merchandise based on price—noticed customers were promptly leaving the store before making a purchase, she did some investigating. She found that the area people were drawn to first—the front left of the store—was where she displayed her most expensive items. “People were leaving because the first items they saw were very expensive, and that intimidated them,” she says. “Everyday fashion is what we are about, so we are catering to the customer looking for that. I don’t want them to encounter really expensive items right away.” The store’s displays were revamped, and immediately, Chambers noticed a difference in shoppers spending attitudes. Color also plays an important role in her product grouping. “We arrange by color group, things that work well together,” she says. “Each tell a different story or help highlight a trend or mood people may not have noticed.”
Sales may be slacking because your products are not effectively grouped or displayed.
Bras at Nightengals are arranged by color along the wall, while sleepwear and loungewear are displayed on racks in the center of the floor. According to Symons the wave of color creates a unique look that customers are drawn to. “On one wall are pinks, reds and blacks and on the other side are purples, blues and jewel tones, and these displays are always changing,” she says.
When determining your product grouping, first understand who your customer is, says Kramer. “If you’re about serving all shapes and sizes, then arrange by size. Or if your audience is all about fashion and less basic, group by color.”
No matter what method you choose, be sure to continually re-arrange your merchandise and displays as the change will catch customer’s attention. With this recommendation, Kramer refers back to her initial advice. “You have to do some soul searching up front,” she says. “The retailer must know who their target audience is, and what makes their store special.”