This is your lucky day–your boss has just finished reading his issue of Jobber News and he’s been inspired: that showroom is going to be whipped into shape. Better yet, you have been appointed to head the detail. (You can thank us later.)
Getting a showroom into shape can be a huge job or a tiny one, depending on the state it is in now. Regardless, however, here is a quick checklist of items that deserve your attention.
Lighting in a showroom should be bright and consistent. Often the lighting is too dim–the same as your stockroom. Bright, white lights that can replace the existing (often the cheapest available) show product better and tend to entice customers into the store. Always replace broken or flickering fluorescent tubes in short order. This should be a daily check. You should also consider using parabolic halogen lights to highlight certain displays, such as featured products on the wall.
Shelving and Merchandisers
Shelves should be kept clean and organized. Be on the lookout for damaged merchandisers. Also, resist the temptation to reuse dedicated merchandisers to display products from other brands. You may hate to see all that good wire go to waste, but it is a route you should avoid. It looks amateurish and sloppy. Shelving should always be set up in a way that fits the products you are trying to display in terms of both spacing and location. Try not to display small boxes on large shelves and vice versa.
What are you using your walls to display? You probably have some cardstock items up. Perhaps you have a tool board behind the counter. Maybe even a heavy-duty light board. You are probably not fully capitalizing on the wall space of your store. Consider being creative by using it to display a sampling of hard parts–items like brake rotors don’t really lend themselves that well to shelf displays anyway–and it can give you the opportunity to get some light equipment like floor jacks off the floor, too (sturdy walls only please!).
Product placement and appearance are perhaps the two most important aspects of retailing. They are also two of the most often ignored subjects in jobber stores. Not that they start out that way, but the constant push and pull of suppliers and customers tends to cause the displays to lose their way. Too often, shelves are left empty. Resolve to have shelves dealt with daily. If a product is out of stock–making restocking impossible–fill the shelf with adjacent product.
Make sure that product pricing is clear and visible and that the stock on the shelf is either labelled or pricing is on the shelf. Do not make a customer ask. (Canadian consumers don’t seem to react well to this; perhaps none do.) There are many available options these days, from erasable do-it-yourself signs to computer-generated colour printouts, so there is really no excuse to not have retail pricing on your display products. For hard parts whose pricing can vary widely, pick a popular application and use that price, or give a range. Don’t worry, people who drive cars that are out of the ordinary, especially the DIYer, will know that they are likely going to have to pay more than the comparable, high-volume domestic make.
Stand outside of your store. What does the window display say? Do you have last year’s racing poster front and centre? Is there a floor jack in the prime position? When was the last time the most visible displays in the store were changed? The outside appearance of the store is your calling card. If you have a location with decent traffic, but little or no retail sales, an uninviting outward appearance could be why. There may very well be a total overhaul of the outward appearance in the long-term, but starting with clean and fresh is a good first step and costs nothing but time and a little elbow grease.
That’s right, the floor. It should be mopped every day, more often when the weather is sloppy. Ensure that any box remnants are removed and that any runners that have been placed to provide customers with firm footing in wet weather are in good condition and that the ends are secured so they don’t trip up customers. Make sure that product is not left on the floor in the aisles. Most jobber stores’ aisles are too narrow to use this floor display strategy. Restrict floor items to open areas and end caps.
Break the Counter Barrier
One of the biggest barriers to friendly service is that counter you’re likely leaning on right now. Get used to the idea of coming out from behind the counter to help the retail customer. I know this shouldn’t be anything new, but the fact remains that the psychological barrier to dealing with the walk-in consumer persists as long as the real barrier–the counter–does. The easiest way to deal with it is to open up one end. If you have one of those hinged, flip-up counter sections, remove it. If you have to take a saw to the end of the counter, then so be it. Many jobbers have had success with the kiosk-style computer stations that allow each counterperson easy access to the showroom from their own set of catalogues. As a side benefit, when angled, they also provide the counterperson with an opportunity to guide the customer through the options in the catalogues.
Some of these items may take a bit more planning than others, but most are just things that can be handled on a daily basis and require little more than some constant consideration and attention to detail. It is never a question of whipping a showroom into shape and then seeing the task as complete. Taking care of your showroom is like taking care of your car: regular maintenance and attention will keep it humming.