Look like you are in the business

Supply chain issues are having an impact on product availability across the UK, resulting in fragmented offers, empty shelves, and overdue deliveries. This can damage brand credibility and customer confidence. Here Paul Ogburn, previously Retail Director at Tate, shares three key steps he would take to address the challenge.

Physical Stock

  • First impressions are important: re-lay the shop floor, emphasising ranges with the greatest availability and relocating ranges with fragmented or poor availability towards the rear of the store.
  • Modify your approach to buying and product development – supplement developed ranges with available bought in local products that complement your branded offers. With availability so challenging, suppliers may agree to sale or return, giving you extra flexibility for when your developed ranges arrive.
  • If you have more than one shop in your venue as I did – review your range plan and assess if there is sufficient availability to introduce additional offers across more retail stores. This may impact a little on the store identity, but the shop will appear more authoritative and customers propensity to buy will increase; you can’t sell thin air!
  • If you have old ranges or terminal stock you are waiting to use for the winter sale, maybe now would be a good time to sell through. You can always market the offer as clearance and locate towards the rear of the store, just to fill space.
  • If your retail proposition includes a strong book offer, increase the stock levels of some titles (best sellers) and cross merchandise with your developed ranges, helping to fill space and compliment the offer. Good to note that books can also be returned once your product availability increases, though you may find sales justify continuing with the cross merchandising.

Back Fill

  • Backfilling can be a successful way of creating the illusion of stock density by forcing the product forwards on the shelf. This works well on linear shelving but can be more challenging on tables.
  • Where possible, standing products upright rather than lying flat can also enhance the visual aesthetic of a fixture whilst concealing low levels of availability.
  • Acrylics are a very cost-effective method of back filling, but other areas of your offer e.g postcards, may benefit from a permanent solution through a wooden alternative.

Application of Graphics

  • A good way of increasing stock density is by using graphics, they can be educational, promotional, or just plain fun!
  • Consider the narrative content and best locations that would work for graphics, usually end of columns, and wall bays.
  • Remove the retail offer from the spaces where graphics are to be located and consolidate within other ranges, creating increased stock density whilst using strong visual treatment to enhance the visual aesthetic of the store.

Once you have taken these routes to increasing the visual perception of increased stock availability within your store, your spaces should look far healthier. It is hard work, but ‘looking like you are in the business’ maintains brand credibility, reduces reputational risk and protects income. Remember, you can’t sell thin air!

Check out Five Steps to Maximising Retail Income and Net Profit a new online training programme from Paul Ogburn Consultancy Limited, specialists in cultural, heritage and attraction enterprise.

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