follow us

Oh, To Be An Apple Store!

January 5, 2012
Did you know that Apple stores have an average sales volume of $5,000 per square foot? Multiply that by your store’s square footage and let me know if your total volume is even close to that! So, the question on everyone's lips is, "How do they do that?" Simple, they sell what people WANT! They don’t try to be all things to all people; instead, they sell the hottest, newest.

You know who else is doing the same thing? Restoration Hardware. If you haven’t been into one of the medium sized locations recently, you really should go see one. Right now they are highlighting their indoor furniture. They don’t have a gajillion styles or sets; instead, they have, at most, ten different styles on display. But each style and color way is exactly what people are looking for right now. Even though I don’t need indoor furniture right now, even I was tempted to buy.

What’s the difference between Restoration Hardware and my store? Display for one. Resto's dim ambient lighting is as romantic as hell and exactly how I imagine I want my home to look. My store is much bigger and much harder to light like that because we have a whole wall of exterior windows which makes for much brighter lighting.

The other difference is that I have between 100 and 125 sets of furniture on display as opposed to their 10. I am trying to cover the waterfront, as it were, from traditional to modern to match a wide gamut of taste. They are using a rifle approach to appeal to the younger, hipper generation. My shotgun approach has be trying to appeal to everyone from the young and hip to the older and richer. After seeing their setup, I wonder, “Is that is such a good idea?”

It seems so obvious, doesn’t it, that as outdoor specialists we should show the hottest, newest just like Apple? But it also seems obvious that we need breadth and depth to be considered a valid outdoor specialty store. I have given a lot of thought as to how to reconcile the two. Here are some of my ideas starting with the easiest to implement.

We feel our web site is the first impression many clients get of our store. With the thought in mind that you never get another chance to make a first impression, we don’t try to show everything we sell on our web site. Instead, we try to be as forward thinking as possible with the limited items we do show. The beauty shots highlight the newest styles and colors of the season. After all, it’s easier to show images of avant-garde designs and colors instead of bringing those same goods in colors or designs that might be left languishing in the warehouse at year’s end.

Next, we display the most current and desirable groups at the front of our store and in our front display windows. Pretty obvious, huh? I think you would be surprised at how oblivious we become to our store’s first impression after seeing it day after day, week after week. If you think I am wrong about this, ask a good friend who hasn't been in to your store in a while to tell you what they think about the first impression your store makes. Make sure they are a good friend who isn't above hurting your feelings! Our entrance and windows are important but we don't neglect presentation at the sides and rear of our store. We use these areas to display less spectacular but equally as important styles such as wrought iron and casual aluminum (read: strapped and slinged).

Finally, cross merchandising can be your friend. We don't take the segregated department approach to accessories. Plastic drink ware, outdoor lighting, rugs, umbrellas, throw pillows, even protective covers can and should be integrated into every group of furniture we display. We do have areas where we show all of the carpets or plastic tableware we stock. It makes it easier for customers to choose from. We just make sure these areas flow naturally into our furniture displays.

Times change, people change, styles change, ways of shopping change; but, one thing remains constant, consumers buy what they want (or think they want). As retailers we not only have to have what they want, we have to have what they didn’t even know they wanted.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce