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Merchandising tips to welcome spring

Thank goodness for spring! After being cold and gray all winter (in much of the country), it's time to pack up the winter blahs and think fresh bright colors.

Here's an exercise for you and your sales staff: Ask everyone who works for your store to walk into the store through the front door like your customers do. Take a moment to look at what the customer is seeing, what you may be overlooking and how you can renew with the spring season.

With the Merchandising Awards contest approaching, I hope to see tons of pictures sent in of great looking stores, not "old, tired uninspiring reasons to never shop again for casual living products." It's a great opportunity to shine, and perhaps win an in-store event with Casual Living and me.

Here are a few tips to grab my attention — but most importantly, your customers'.

Remember it's spring, a time to be fresh.

  1. Brighten up your entry. Add some color through either painting the walls, hanging bright artwork, displaying fresh spring botanicals and colorful accessories or maybe all of those things. Color will grab lots of attention. Elizabeth Arden always did it with a red door — what color will yours be?

  2. Move merchandise around. Flip the selling floor around to make it all look new. Your best-selling table and chairs sitting in the same spot from last year is beginning to look tired. Move it! Then add new accessories, outdoor rugs and lighting. It could still look fresh and on trend this season.

  3. Spring Clean! I know this sounds simple. But take a good look at the dust and dullness of the glass dining tops and floors. You should sparkle. Assign "zones" around your store to all the associates. That way, everyone is responsible for keeping up a great appearance at all times.

  4. Tell a story with vignettes. If you're selling grills, merchandise the tumblers, acrylic plates and aprons, with the grill sets. If it's beach sling chairs, why not go for it by putting in a sand deck? Pour bags of play sand under the chairs in an area you have set aside as an inside beach. Add beach music, open some umbrellas and roll up beach towels on the chaises. You will surely create thoughts of a day at the beach.

  5. Plan a theme day in the store. Have your staff wear "tacky beach tourist" Hawaiian shirts and hats and have a greeter hand out leis to customers. Everyone will have a good time. Coordinate the theme with your advertising, add in-store beach music and serve Hawaiian punch (remember to send in the staff pictures). Create a real event.

  6. Don't forget the outside deck or porch. Colorful umbrellas and pillows freshen up the teak benches. Flags waving in the wind add movement and color. Large planters with a single color of flowers give impact and are fairly easy to maintain.

I hope you have sent in pictures of your stores to show your fresh, bright and exciting merchandising stories. I look forward to seeing all the entrants' pictures and visiting one of them this summer.

Designer and visual merchandising expert Mark Abrams is a former retailer who will again serve as a judge of Casual Living's Merchandising Awards contest. The winners will be announced in our June issue.

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