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Editor's view: Why merchandising matters

  • Opinion
  • June 14, 2016
  • Sarah Dunn
Editor's view: Why merchandising matters

The retailer was going for a country-style, old-fashioned sweet-shop look. Its primary product was sweets, which were displayed throughout the shop in racks and stands, but it also had a chiller full of icecream; a large display cabinet holding chocolates; a small cabinet for baked goods; various machines to make fresh fruit icecream, milkshakes and smoothies; and an espresso machine hidden somewhere out the back.

But that’s not all. The shop’s vast range was further increased by combinations. Virtually every product it sold could be combined with other products on request – customers could design custom sundaes by adding sweets or special sauces; baked goods were offered with coffee at a discount; and special value-added products were created by adding extras to the fresh-fruit icecream. Each of these creations had its own creative name.

These choices were communicated using large handwritten signs hung above each cabinet or display. It was an enormous amount of literature, not all of which was displayed prominently.

Perhaps inevitably, I didn’t end up getting what I thought I’d ordered. With so many choices on offer, the nuances got lost in the delivery – I asked for a fresh fruit icecream, berry flavoured, and got a scoop of boysenberry Tip Top instead. It might be that the only way fresh fruit icecream came was in a sundae, but that level of detail is beyond me during a holiday. If the menu was meant to be an intelligence test, I failed.

There’s a lot to love about this shop’s approach, though. The bountiful offering felt rich and exciting, especially to children, and invited customers to return. After all, I’ve barely scratched the surface of this shop’s ability to deliver me sugary delights. The idea of revisiting all of those decisions, however, doesn’t appeal.

So, spare a thought for the customer when you’re surveying your store. You may be confident in your understanding of your retail offer, no matter how complex it is, but your customers almost certainly aren’t – and it’s their experience that matters.

This story originally appeared in NZRetail magazine issue 744 June / July 2016

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