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Q: What merchandising concepts work best to introduce a new product at your store?

Bill Heckman, Heckman Marketing Associates, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Merchandising a new product to maximize its potential has been stated best by one of my retail dealers — 'Show the whole backyard dream by presenting the total collection.' The showroom must be your showplace and a dream palace of ideas. This is what will separate specialty from mass: A great, fully accessorized display of the full range of items in the collection. That will allow the customer to visualize not only what they plan for now, but what they can add for the future. At a time of fewer customers, greater competition and a battle for every dollar, it is critical to maximize every transaction with everyone who enters your door. If you display only the key volume items from a collection in order to show more groups, it will be much harder to motivate your customer to see the dream or add more items to their purchase.

The other key to success is to make every collection a coordinated 'wow' with finish, fabrics, table surface and accessories all working together for maximum impact. Since we cannot win the price game, we must win their hearts (and wallets) with great design, quality, service and full ability to special order with the widest spectrum of options.

Mary Fruehauf, Fruehauf's Patio and Garden, Boulder, Colo.

When we have a new product, we will find a prominent place on our showroom floor to display it. We will find some fun accessories to really draw attention to it. We will then make sure we spend some extra training time — maybe even have someone from the manufacturer come in and help — with our sales staff to make sure they are really knowledgeable about the new product and that it is fresh in their minds and to create enthusiasm about the product.

Marc McDonald, Leisure Living, Salt Lake City

I've found over the years that there are several areas through the store that for various reasons product retails best. These key areas are where we will showcase a new group or product so we can get a quick response as to how the customer responds to it and how it will retail. We also have a live broadcast on a local TV program twice in the spring where we like to feature this new product.

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