10 Tips to Merchandise Your Retail Shop

Posted By: Todd McCormick CWA Blog,

Climbing shoes in climbing gym

A key component to having a successful retail operation is how you merchandise your store.

Merchandising is the art of laying out your store and making your store shoppable while thinking about how it looks to your customers. Of course, your shop should look neat and clean, but most importantly it should draw customers in to look around. Maybe they aren’t interested in buying anything, but the first step to making a sale is drawing someone into your retail space just to look!

  1. Give your customers space. Whenever someone walks into your retail space, your staff should be letting them know immediately that you see them,
    “Hey! Feel free to look around. My name is Todd, don’t hesitate to grab me if you have any questions.”
    Something friendly like that is non-intrusive but lets them know you are available to help them and that you see them. Then, I like to give them some time to browse on their own without being in their face, which might come off as pushy. Another way I give customers space is literally keeping space around your displays. Think about all your customers, can a person in a wheelchair comfortably shop in your store? Not only should someone feel comfortable in your retail space, but in a crowded shop, it’s also difficult for your customers to take in all the items that you might have on display.
  2. Have a dedicated area for clearance items. A “clearance corner” lets your customers know exactly where to look for discounted gear. This helps to clearly define what’s full price versus what’s not. But it also makes space in the main area of your shop to more prominently display the current models that you’re selling at full price. Most people shop with the handy assistant of their phone by their side. It’s almost certain that they’ll see old models heavily discounted on online shopping platforms. So be on top of keeping your shop stocked with the latest models that are at full retail price, also.
  3. Prominently display something that’s not for sale. A great way to draw someone into your shop is with an eye-catching item. Maybe it’s a neat piece of art or a mannequin that’s decked out in a funky Halloween outfit. Not only is it a great conversation starter, but it also catches the eye of your customer and might draw them into your shop just to check out how the “monthly mannequin” is dressed up this time. In one of the shops that I manage, there’s a large chandelier made of climbing holds. Customers love it and make comments on things like this all the time. 
    Retail Area in ASCEND Climbing

    Prominently displaying a non-for-sale item is a great way to catch attention.

  4. Change your displays often. You may not have the ability to change your displays all the time but changing them up as often as you can gives them a fresh look. You’ll often get a customer that will say, “Oh, you started carrying this new harness,” or whatever product, when actually you’ve carried it all along and they just haven’t noticed it before. I’d recommend once a month at most and twice a year at a minimum. Keeping your displays updated is often a great way to get a customer to turn their head and notice something new instead of just walking through.
  5. Give more space to the items your customers want, not the ones they need. Things like chalk, nail clippers, and tape are necessities. If you customer wants them, they’ll ask for them or more than likely they’ll already know where to find them. Make larger displays predominantly for items that are less of a necessity.
    Things like ropes, quickdraws, and trad gear (if you choose to carry it) are often purchases that customers spend a lot more time thinking about before actually buying something.
    Make displays for items like this more prominent so that they think about that new rope every time they enter your gym.
  6. Allow your customers to shop with more than just their eyes. Customers like to touch things and see how they feel. They want to know how the rope feels/handles, how soft that beanie is, or what the gate action is like on a carabiner. If you keep items behind the desk or in a retail case, reserve that space for only the most expensive of items, like maybe a set of cams. You certainly want to keep theft in mind, but a customer is more likely to buy something after they’ve had a chance to touch it as opposed to just looking.
  7. Rotate in and out items that are seasonal. Tank-tops in the summer and hoodies in the winter are a great example of this. If you try to keep items like this out year-round, they’ll take up a ton of space when that space could be used for items that are more seasonally appropriate. If you aren’t bringing in the same tank tops next summer, move them to your clearance corner. If you are keeping the same tank tops in stock next summer, then box them up and store them away for the cold months. 
    Retail Area in ASCEND Climbing

    The front of your gym can be utilized to force customers to spend more time in your retail area.

  8. Focus on the front of your store. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? In this case, I’d say the first thing your customer sees is the most important. You may not have the time to change up the whole look of your shop every month, but if you have one main display in a window or at the front of your store, then you could focus on changing up just that one display once a month. And then you can give the rest of your shop a total refresh once or twice a year. 
  9. Keep your inventory clean! This is a significant challenge in a climbing gym, where chalk dust somehow sneaks its way into every nook and cranny. If you have clever building design, then your retail shop will be away from the part of the gym where chalk dust is floating everywhere. But most gyms have a retail space with at least part of it open to the main area of the gym. Make it a task of your nightly closing crew to go through the shop and dust off as much horizontal space as they can, including things like bookshelves and tops of shoe boxes. Then when you’re doing your monthly or quarterly retail shop refresh, really get over, under, and behind everything. Another way that I like to combat chalk dust is using clear storage bins with a lid for your backstock. I like them to be clear so I can see what’s in it and how much is left, and the lid is to help keep dust off that inventory.
  10. Group similar products together. Part of making your shop shoppable is helping guide your customers and subtly suggest what you’d recommend for them to purchase. Some shops like to organize all brands together, but I like to organize by category. I’ll have all my chalk bags next to each other and then next to chalk bags I’ll have all chalk together, with brushes and tape somewhere nearby as well. When someone picks up a chalk bag, without saying anything, I’m suggesting to the person, “Hey, why don’t you grab a bag of chalk while you’re at it, and a brush for the brush holder, and a roll of tape for that zipper pocket.” Like in a grocery store, you can usually count on the PB&J being really close to the bread aisle.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully it gives you at least a few ideas of how you can keep your shop looking fresh. The only thing you are limited by is your creativity. Don’t hesitate to try something new! The most important thing is to have fun with it.

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About the Author

Todd McCormickTodd McCormick is the sole owner and operator of Keystone Climbing Consultants, helping gyms become more efficient in their retail operations. Todd holds degrees in Industrial Engineering from the University of Pittsburgh and in Math Education from the University of Kentucky. He has been an avid climber for 17 years and has been managing gyms, guiding new climbers, and working in outdoor recreation ever since.