Refresh Your Dealership for Spring

No money to renovate? No problem – even small things can make a store feel new and fresh.

It’s that dreaded time of year again – spring cleaning! If you had a parent who insisted on a thorough cleaning of everything in your room, including drawers and closets, you understand that feeling of apprehension. There are several reasons to go through this annual ordeal, and they all add up to increased sales.

The following ideas range from free to affordable, and a few are fairly quick.

Free & Quick-ish

Angles lead the eyes and feet of customers wherever you want them to walk. If you have a wall of products that aren’t selling well and you can angle a few floor fixtures toward that wall, customers will see it and naturally walk that way. Angles are insistent – they act on our unconscious minds and lead us in the direction they are pointing. If you have interesting and well-presented merchandise at the end of an angled aisle or fixture, it will be noticed and potentially purchased.

I consulted for United Rentals some years ago, and in one store they had never sold any generators that were displayed on wall shelves perpendicular to the aisle. All the floor generators faced the aisle, so as people walked past, they saw the floor generators but never noticed the wall. I took two minutes to turn each generator to the same angle so the eye would be drawn to the side wall. They sold a generator from that wall within a half hour. It was simple, free and effective.

Not Free But Affordable

When the owners of Crate & Barrel opened their first store, they didn’t have the money for floor fixtures, so they used the crates and barrels that the products were shipped in. Their concept was for customers to walk through the space and see something new and exciting with every turn. This merchandising concept worked for them as they now have over 100 stores in nine countries worldwide.

While reworking your entire sales floor may be the last thing on your agenda right now, you might consider modifying this concept for new product displays. Instead of a crate or barrel, a modern equivalent is a grouping of painted wood or MDF-covered cubes at varying heights. This grouping would display a new product, and each cube top would hold one size of that product. If you don’t have space for a cubelike display in your accessories/chemicals area, consider putting it near an indoor RV or just beyond your decompression zone as customers walk into the store. Your decompression zone is inside your store, about 6 to 8 feet in front of and on either side of your front door.

Another way to showcase new products is on a small table you can buy or easily build. Look at home and furnishing stores for clean, modern small tables. The top of the table holds a few samples of the new product with a “New Product!” sign. If appropriate, open one box and pull the item out so people can touch and see it. Stock the rest of the inventory neatly underneath the table. Customers will figure out they can buy what’s below.

Free But Potentially Annoying

Clear the clutter. This is a free way to increase sales immediately. It can change how your store is perceived and shopped. Start with the areas customers can’t see first. If your stockroom is filled with old fixtures, donate, sell or give them away. Give yourself a week to get rid of them. Then clean up your shelves and toss whatever you haven’t used in years. You may also find some important things you thought were lost forever. Next, clean up the floor area around the checkout counter. Move into the corners of the store, and get rid of all the accumulated junk that’s been “hiding” there.

The other night I went to my favorite Thai restaurant in Portland, Oregon. The food is excellent, and the whole place is decorated beautifully. About four months ago, I noticed some used boxes starting to collect in front of their back wall. Two nights ago, I saw that it had mutated into a mountain of empty boxes resting on bags of rice. After complimenting the woman serving us on the food and décor, I asked her why the boxes were there. She said they were used for takeout. When the small number of boxes were ostensibly overlooked by customers, the owner (possibly unconsciously) stopped seeing them as messy and now in a convenient place. It was shocking to see boxes piled at least 4 feet high, covering some of the lovely wall art.

Is this an issue in your RV dealership? Little “conveniences” can become visual annoyances to customers. A hot tub store in Oregon did a great job on a renovation but started stacking broken-down cardboard boxes between their swim spa and front window, perceiving it as an “empty” space. So, what do customers see as they walk up to the front door? Lots of cardboard. Not a great visual next to a $17,000 swim spa or, in your case, a $220,000 RV.

Free: You’ve Got to Move It

I gave a seminar on visual merchandising at a trade show, and a woman raised her hand and told me that every morning she’d walk into her store and touch three items. And every day, those three items would sell! I joked that everyone would go back to their stores and touch everything from front to back. Joking aside, touching an item does several important things. First, you notice (hopefully) if it needs dusting. Next, if it’s out of place or the label isn’t facing front, you turn it so it looks better. And last – the woo-woo part – you transfer energy from your hands to the product. Whether you believe this or not, try it. It’s worth a shot, and in many cases, it works. When you move something or change it, it gets energized. Move the merchandise on one shelf, cleaning as you go, and see if the sales improve in that area over the next two days.

Not Free: Refresh Your Signage

Do you have more signs than you need? Are they current, clean and in excellent condition? Get rid of anything out-of-date, faded, curled, torn or irrelevant.

If you have the same signs you opened with – and you’ve been open for more than three years – it’s time to refresh them, and it doesn’t need to be overwhelming. Is it time for a new font? Are your signs easy to read? A computer program can churn out updated signs that fit into your sign holders. Use heavier paper and the signs will look 100% better than regular copy paper. Dust all your dimensional signage. Make sure your lights are directed so that each wall sign pops. Are your signs in the right place? If the merchandise has moved but the signs haven’t, they are misleading to your customers. Put them where they belong.

Free: Feng Shui Principles in Your Store

I wrote the book “Feng Shui for Retailers” a while ago. It simplifies complicated concepts that genuinely help people create healthy and prosperous environments. A few ideas: Get rid of anything that blocks your entrance, including overhanging branches, garbage cans, boxes, bunched up entry mats or too high/large fixtures. Remove sharp corners in tight spaces.

Any one of these ideas will make a difference in your dealership. Try one, and if you like the results, keep going through the list and enjoy the benefits!

Linda Cahan

Linda Cahan of Cahan & Co. has a proven track record of helping retailers of all stripes to look better to sell more. She consults with retailers of all sizes and categories to improve their bottom line through creative, affordable and appropriate visual merchandising, store design and retail renovations.

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