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Details matter to consumers

How to make a lasting impression

I want to be impressed with shopping for the home just like I am when I go out for a special dinner. I look for good service, great food and wine, and all the details that make me come back over-and-over. Retail stores can borrow some "recipes" that work from Flemings Steakhouse, PF Changs, and Cheesecake Factory. They have exciting environments, great merchandise (i.e. food), a well-trained staff and good service. And have you noticed, there is always a line to get in. What do they have that you don't -- other than food?

Here's some suggestions to try in the new year...

  1. Be dramatic. Your entrance and front display should grab attention and welcome the customer into your store. Let them know they have arrived into an exciting store with on trend, fashionable merchandise.

  2. Set the mood. Add lamps, chandeliers and spotlights to properly light your store. Whereas high bays and florescents give good overall lighting, they do not create ambience or set the mood for more intimate vignettes. Table lamps and chandeliers add the "jewelry" to the vignette or room -- and you can use these as add-on sales.

  3. Add some noise. A quiet store is intimidating. You don't want to feel like you are in church or a funeral home. Customers want to feel the vibe or personality of what your store stands for. Jazz, disco or classical. All set the mood. You could add some extra surprise with background noise such as birds chirping. Hide a small CD player in a basket with a nature CD set on repeat. Hang some birdcages and you will be surprised when the customers look for the birds. It's a nice surprise that will play all day!

  4. Add some green color. Permanent botanicals add texture and color to your displays. Flowers, fruits and greenery are good add-ons to furniture sales. Permanent outdoor botanicals are great for a porch or balcony where watering fresh plants is difficult. Customers with weekend houses or condos will take note that they do not have to worry about coming home to plants that did not make it during the week without watering.

  5. Say thank you with a gift. Remember to treat your customers with some surprises. After I have visited a friend for the weekend, I write a short note expressing my thanks for the hospitality and good time. For a store, when you deliver a seating set or dining table have your delivery team bring a box of cookies from the local bakery or give a gift certificate for steaks from the local grocery with every high-end grill sold. Just like a thank you note, it's all in the details.

Designer and visual merchandising expert Mark Abrams, who served as a judge of Casual Living's 2006 Merchandising Awards contest, will visit and provide a free store consultation to this year's winner of the Most Fashionable Retailer award.

Don't forget to take photographs of your store and submit them by May 1 to compete. In addition to Most Fashionable, the annual awards recognize the best overall merchandising, use of accessories, outdoor display and storefront. For details, visit or call Courtney Mueller at 336-605-1001.

American Backyard uses outdoor lighting, rugs and layers of bright color to set this scene to attract customers.

Dodds & Eder takes advantage of foliage and bursts of color to freshen the look.

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