Shop for Success

By: Caroline Thomas

Imagine that you’re standing in your favorite store. What do you see around you? What catches your attention? What ultimately convinces you to make a purchase? Is the purchase you make planned or unplanned?  You make your way through a store to find you are surrounded by a variety of items and that can sometimes lead to an overwhelming feeling. I have to admit that there have been times that I have forgotten why I went to a store in the first place because of all the distractions that are present. The good news is that you can be the difference in a consumer’s experience. There are many strategies that can be applied in both the world of retail merchandising and association management that will help to achieve the goals you strive for.

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(Have you ever felt like this in a store?)

 Merchandising is not just about a physical shopping experience; there is more to it than that. It’s about products as well as services. The approaches used can be a combination of visual as well as non-visual, but the two hold equal importance, just in different ways. Colors, the right assortments, displays, lighting, music, temperature, smells, textures, tones, and people can have an impact on your experience. You probably don’t even realize it most of the time, but if it’s done properly, everyone leaves happy; that’s the objective, right?

You may be reading this blog and fantasizing about where you’re going to go shopping next, but allow me to first outline my top 10 countdown of key tips that will provide benefits that will far outweigh the shopping itself (I know that’s hard to believe, right?!)

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10. Remember who your audience is. A store or an association typically caters to a variety of people, from different ages to different personalities, and even different nationalities (I had the pleasure of speaking to someone in Australia on the phone the other dayJ ). It is important to note who you are dealing with and how you can adapt to the situation to make everyone happy.

9. There is no specific time line. You can’t really determine a start and end in the merchandising and association worlds. It is an ongoing process in which you have to always be open to making changes for the better. It may take some trial and error to get it just right. In the merchandising world, visual displays are updated or changed frequently to continue to grasp the consumer’s attention.

8. Adapt to change. Changes frequently occur in the economy, seasons, clients, employees, budgets, personal life, etc. Remember the importance of flexibility in these situations and strive to achieve your next goal even better than the last, despite changes and setbacks.

7. Follow trends. It is important to know what’s happening in that particular industry as well as other industries. Take a little time each day to do some research and reading. Browse the web, watch the news, read some magazines, and soak it all in. You never know when your knowledge could be useful and this will help gain some brownie points maybe when you least expect it. Remember however that a trend means something is going in a general direction. It is not set in stone and can always be up for discussion and improvement.

6. Be innovative and get creative. Think about how you have seen something done before and determine how you would change it. How would you like to see it done if it were you on the other side? The world is your oyster and both the merchandising and association management worlds are the perfect place to bring out the creative side in us all.

5. Utilize the basic principles of customer service, all the time (believe me, it’s easy and it will work). Listen carefully to the customer and identify what they need. Next, empathize with them and let them know that you are there to help. Go above and beyond to make them feel valued and appreciated, even if it’s as small of an issue as they didn’t receive their new CDT card in the mail. If necessary, explain to them the way the process works in your store or organization and help them to walk away feeling that they accept your way and think it works.

4. Know the history. In order to be able to advance with an idea or project, it helps to know some general history. In the fashion world, it’s important to note the trends that have occurred throughout the years. Though you won’t find me rocking some of these past trends personally, they do often tend to make comebacks. When working with a consumer, you want them to feel that you know about their past, their missions, and their future. By doing so, you can go a step further to help them achieve their goals. You may just be able to reinvent the wheel here and blow everyone away with your knowledge because you did the research.

3. Pay attention to all the details, big and small. It is important to be detail oriented in the merchandising and association worlds. Spell check will probably become your greatest friend. I recommend stepping away from something to refresh your mind and then having someone else review it as well; you’re less likely to have a mistake slip through the cracks that way. In doing so, it is important to accept constructive criticism and apply it. Picture a display in a store and relate your work to this overall concept. If it’s neat, appealing, organized, and leaves you feeling satisfied, you are doing something right.

2. Remember that less can be more. A brochure or presentation can be simple and still achieve positive results. You don’t want to overly distract a consumer or leave them feeling confused. Within this tip, note what you learned about colors when you were younger. It may save you the next time you need to create signs or brochures.

1. Generate and maintain a solid and respectable reputation. It’s incredibly important to do this! You want to be known as the association that goes the extra mile, right? Work to become the association that comes up in conversation and people recommend you.

photo CAs a bonus tip, remember the following quote by Morris Hite: Advertising moves people toward goods; Merchandising moves goods toward people. Which do you think is more important?

Photo Credits: Images courtesy of jscreationzs, scottchan, and Simon Howden and all images provided by


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