• Cinde Ingram

The selling season beckons

Casually Speaking

You’ve got your stores spruced up by now, ready to welcome shoppers.

Now take an objective look and ask yourself whether consumers really feel welcomed as they walk through the door. Have you left open pathways so they can walk freely toward that colorful vignette near the rear of the store or will shoppers have to turn sideways and squeeze between multiple groups of furniture to get there? Do you use strong colors to pull together outdoor living areas? Have you overloaded displays with hangtags and other signage, hiding the products underneath? Are there bright lights, shiny grill islands, sleek spas and light-hearted accessories to beckon and prompt a positive response? One good way to take an objective view of your store’s look is through photographs. Remember the stage tricks you’ve seen in showrooms, such as using plants, screens or fabric curtains to separate vignettes. After you take a few good photos that show how well specific areas are merchandised, how you make outdoor displays exciting and how your entrance helps draw consumers into your store then please take time to send copies of your best images to Associate Editor Courtney Mueller. You have until May 2 to share evidence of your creativity by participating in Casual Living’s annual Merchandising Awards. Winners get attention from your peers in the industry, a certificate to display in your store and a press release, which you can send to local media in your area.     You may not have faced the drastic natural disaster recovery New Orleans retailer Bruce Aronson did after Hurricane Katrina and Tropical Storm Cindy left their marks. In the issue you’re holding, Bruce shares his decisions, strategies and the recovery process being like eating an elephant one bite at a time. Your challenges with the growing number of competitors, whether brick-and-mortar or online, may seem equally massive. But they require the same deliberate approach. It starts with decisions about what drives customers into your store, how you’ve made it an experience they must have and why they should buy from you again and again.