Dynamic and inspiring visual merchandising displays may be the culmination of much effort on the part of VM teams yet they do not serve their purpose if they are not consistently maintained to allow each customer the opportunity to experience them at their best. Hence the importance of establishing ways in which visual merchandising displays can be maintained.
In the majority of situations visual merchandisers must rely upon floor staff being as committed to VM standards as possible. This commitment will inspire and motivate them to consistently keep up the standards that VM has set without them needing to be present.
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The need for consistency
Retail is built upon the customer experience. To have any credibility in the highly competitive modern retail world that experience needs to be consistent in sending a message that makes the brand and the product appealing. Consistent VM contributes to a seamless customer experience every time they visit the store.
We can assume that employees working in retail sales have some level of loyalty to the business in which they work and the customers they serve. In order to encourage sales teams to get behind VM initiatives and contribute to the upkeep of standards a connection needs to be made so they understand the benefits to them personally of making the effort to add VM housekeeping to their already full plate of responsibilities.
The biggest benefit to sales teams of well maintained visual merchandising displays is engaged and empowered customers. They can get excited by what they see and experience, feel positive toward the shopping experience, and gather ideas about what may suit their needs that day. This makes their life and the life of sales teams so much easier.
High standards of store presentation means:
- Stores visually appeal to customers and are a pleasant environment for staff to work in
- Customers are provided with a shopping environment that supports them in finding what they want
- Sales teams can use displays as a talking point to introduce customers to products that may be of interest
- Products are more likely to be maintained in a highly saleable condition reducing the need to make markdowns
- Well maintained visual merchandising can allow theft to be more easily detected
Housekeeping and maintenance plans
Housekeeping for visual merchandising is an essential part of ensuring a seamless store experience for customers. Each retailer and each store within their business will have differing housekeeping requirements to be conducted daily, weekly and quarterly.
Generally each store has a basic daily checklist that covers the standards for:
- Stock replenishment
- Store exterior
- Windows and lighting
- Point of Sale
- Fitting rooms
- Fixtures and fittings
- Signage and ticketing
- Carpets, floor surfaces
On a weekly basis, retailers need to schedule stock rotation and consolidation and VM equipment maintenance.
Many retailers include a monthly or quarterly overhaul where they address the areas not routinely covered in the weekly schedule. Best scheduled during times when the store is closed it can be likened to a stock take for visual merchandising where teams of staff are allocated across the store to do a comprehensive check of their area against the VM standards.
These overall checks can be valuable in highlighting damage and wear to fixtures and fittings.
It can be a sobering reality that visual merchandising is more about maintaining standards than creating interesting and exotic displays. Yet it is commerciality that drives this maintenance of standards. Devising systems to manage them ensures the store is consistently maintained and refreshed to attract customers.
Promote staff commitment to VM
It can be challenging to gather the required support for visual merchandising housekeeping, as most retail staff are busy with other priorities. Once they do understand why their contribution is important, appreciated and how it benefits them personally, it’s time to make it as easy as possible for them to build VM tasks into their day.
- Make VM standards simple is the first step. They must be clear, logical and justified. Importantly they need to be aligned with a customer centric way of doing business. That means tasks that support customer satisfaction and loyalty must be prioritised.
- Support staff with training. Sales teams are not generally trained in visual merchandising so it is key that ample opportunities exist for the development of their skills and knowledge. Again it should be clear, simple and supported with why this or that needs to be done. Training may include the use of manuals, online tutorials, in store workshops and live one on one demonstration.
- Supply tools to make it simple. Checklists, VM equipment, photographs of displays to help with replenishment and repair accuracy can all make it more straightforward for sales teams to help maintain standards.
- Give feedback on their contribution, both to reinforce what is being done well and to guide improvement
Visual merchandising can be perceived as an exciting and creative part of retail and some sales staff will embrace any VM responsibilities enthusiastically. These staff can be extremely helpful and although their enthusiasm may require direction at times they can be a strong source of support for time poor VM teams. Other less enthused sales staff may require additional coaxing, however with the right training and tools they too can be valuable contributors to visual merchandising maintenance.
About ARA Retail Institute
ARA Retail Institute is Australia’s leading retail training provider for both accredited and non-accredited learning programs. For more information, please visit: www.retailinstitute.org.au