Even if you have an excellent sense of fashion, you still have to learn how to merchandise it to manage a successful boutique. This is because the two are separate skill sets. While a broad knowledge of fashion is a definite plus, merchandising involves more than an appreciation for design. You also need to understand consumer trends, marketing, and retailing.
Here are 10 things you can do to get good at merchandising:
1. Earn a fashion merchandising degree.
What is fashion merchandising? It is knowing how to analyze fashion trends and how to forecast future trends. It is also knowing how to buy, price, market, and promote merchandise. This is a lot to learn, and while you could theoretically learn these on the jobs, it will take years. Getting a formal education in fashion merchandising will get you up to speed quickly, saving you years of figuring things out through experience.
2. Refresh your visual displays.
Ideally, you should change your entire display every month. This will give your boutique a fresh, new look every month, giving the impression that you are always improving your selection. Begin each month by featuring all your new arrivals in the most prominent places.
3. Keep holiday seasons short and sweet.
When holiday seasons arrive, avoid dragging them out by starting too early and maintaining the same displays after the holidays’ excitement has passed. Holidays have a short shelf life and trying to extend your promotions too long is almost like a sign of desperation, as if you’re clinging on to the good feelings of the holidays long after everyone else has lost interest and enthusiasm.
4. Avoid half measures.
If you order merchandise from different vendors for a sales event, wait for everything to arrive before you set up your display. You diffuse the impact of your display by putting out a little at a time.
5. Focus on wants over needs.
While customers come in for clothes that they need, you should display the clothes they want up front. For instance, customers may come in for shirts, pants, blouses, or skirts, but put these in the back of the store and put out the most fashionable items and the latest accessories toward the front of the store. They will still stay focused enough to get what they need, but they may also walk away with something they want.
6. Cluster your display into groups.
A group of clothing could be based on fashion style, color, gender, or some other category. By putting everything in a group, customers will see the whole attire at a glance. When grouping, think of wardrobes and complete outfits rather than putting similar items of clothing in a single group. Prefer related or contrasting things, rather than homogenous things.
7. Display your best stuff up front.
Most of your displays should be toward the front of the store, and the closer to the door, the better. If, for example, you want to feature affordable geek fashion, these mannequins should be close to the door. The front of the store is where you want to put your latest, greatest, and most expensive items. Also, arrange your displays at various heights rather than all at eye level so that customers look up and down and around the store.
8. Toss in curiosity-arousing props.
When creating retail displays that sell, one trick is to have unrelated visual props in unusual corners of the store, just to keep things interesting. These could, for example, be stuffed animals or some kind of ornamentation. This will excite wonder because it’s something that isn’t linear or logical. Why, for example, do you have a smiling green alligator stuffed toy in your lingerie section? It’s incongruous and makes customers start to pay attention to what other interesting curiosities you may have around the store. It’s important, of course, that you don’t overdo it, and that you change your surprise props every time you refresh the look-and-feel of the boutique.
9. Don’t forget lighting.
Lighting plays a huge role in making your store interesting. Contrast your lighting by using a variety of different light fixtures.
10. Use tags to describe merchandise.
Use plenty of easy-to-read tags for customers to get more information at a glance. These tags could mention the name of the manufacturer, the textile, the weave, the color (if it’s unusual), and other useful bits of information. Tags will engage customers.
In closing, merchandising is about making things pop and making your boutique entertaining. It should pique customer interest every month they visit your store.