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Jenny Heinzen York

Effective merchandising helps customers visualize

Imagine the faces of your loved ones on Christmas morning while opening gifts you've carefully chosen for each of them. Imagine the joy on their faces and the happiness of being together after you've attended to every single detail.

While setting up your showroom, set up with the hope of seeing such expressions on the faces of your customers. Whether spring, fall or our holiday season, we must create an atmosphere that welcomes customers, makes them want to return to our stores and feel we can provide them with merchandise and service that will make their house feel like home.

I recently spoke to an older gentleman in Casual Marketplace who said to me, "In my more than 80 years, I've never seen anything like this place." He had a big smile on his face and I knew he felt welcome in our store. We must be extraordinary in this world of mass marketing.

To create a well-planned showroom, know how vital it is to give each manufacturer a specific space on your floor. Placing all product of one vendor in the same area dictates strength and depth of their product. It makes it possible to showcase a variety of finishes and fabrics on their designs. Educate customers that the vendors you display are the best and you are proud to partner with them.

Placement of alternative tops in as many areas as possible creates excitement and differentiates you from the price leader table and four. Glass tables need more color and dressing with tabletop than alternative tops.

Manage your space carefully. The price of floor space is far too valuable to leave it vacant. Every inch of space is important and, if used carefully, will complement every other inch of space in the surrounding area. One space will most likely sell the next.

We work hard to create a special ambiance throughout the store. Realize the importance of lighting, background music, special aromas and perhaps the sound of fountains or crackling logs when in season to make customers feel like you were expecting them.

I believe consumers look to us as professionals to help them visualize their options. Just going to market and buying the best furniture is not nearly enough. The work has only just begun. It is necessary to shop for the perfect accessories to complement your furniture. Indoor and outdoor lighting, prints, linens, fountains, firepits, outdoor wall decor and any other creative merchandise will help to tell a complete story.

What we do with the furniture when it arrives in our stores is what will make it attractive and desirable for purchase. The bottom line is the customer's personal taste, but when asked, it is our responsibility to give them professional information. Don't underestimate your customers. If they ask you a question, do your best to give them an honest answer; an educated consumer will be a happier customer.

Accessorize perfectly and consistently. Coordinating pillows and throws, floral arrangements and decorative pottery will enhance any furniture group on your floor. Many customers do not have the imagination to know how terrific a group of furniture may complement their home. The perfect accessory may sell an entire set of furniture.

For example, I recently had a dining set on my floor for an extended length of time. When we decided to change the location and accessories in the area, we not only sold the set on the floor but were fortunate enough to receive special orders on this group. If one display is not working for you, try another.

Know the strength of your staff and direct them to complete specific areas where you know they will excel in accessorizing. Praise their accomplishments and they will continue to improve.

Nothing but hard work and attention to detail will accomplish the ultimate goal. It is a continual process and your showroom must be reworked daily. This means dusting and vacuuming, restocking and moving merchandise. Keep it fresh with a new look that will provoke thought in the minds of the consumer. Consistently maintaining your showroom to the level of exceptional is the only way to obtain the reputation you will need to keep your business strong and secure.

When you do this and your customers know what to expect of you, they will not only return — they will tell others of their good experience to promote business by referral. These are things we must do if we want new business and more importantly repeat business.

There is nothing as important as a loyal customer base. You can do all of the advertising available to you and it will never be as important as your excellent reputation for what your store represents.

Be proud of your profession, be proud of your dedication and show by example you are the best there is. Prove to your customers they came to the right place — your store.

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