How does a retailer develop an effective display or visual merchandising program? One way is by trial and error. Another, and much better, way to approach this important subject is to follow the example of a successful industry leader. [In 1981,] Draperies & Window Coverings asked Ted Korda, [then] group visual merchandiser at Sears Roebuck and Co., Chicago, IL, among the nation's leading retailers with more than 800 window coverings departments, what are some of the best ways to approach visual merchandising.
"The main thing to consider is that the customer has a good experience while shopping," Korda said. "Next, make sure that the display helps the store's personnel as much as possible to make the sale."
"Visual merchandising is like advertising to the customer walking into the store. It reflects the entire image of the company," Korda said. "It is most definitely one of the keys to overall sales success."
An effective display is, in effect, a silent salesperson. In today's economy, this takes on added importance as there are fewer personnel handling the job of direct sales. Korda noted, "A store's display and salespeople must work well together." This is particularly true in the decorating department where the customer needs the help of the salesperson to enhance his knowledge of what he wants to do. Korda said, "On the other hand, the salesperson needs a visual merchant to tell the story and excite the attention of the customer."
In evaluating displays, or in testing a new visual merchandising approach, Sears particularly considers the feedback of sales personnel, Korda said.
How, then, does a dealer plan visual merchandising? Korda advises: "Don't rush into building a fixture without first knowing what you want it to accomplish. Ask, What is my market?" In deciding what merchandise to feature, Korda stressed that it is important to know what the economic level is of the majority of your customers. What are their tastes? Are they conservative or do they follow the whims of fashion?
Research has shown that customers are not always sure of their own judgment and want to see how a drapery or window treatment looks in an end-use situation.
Years ago, stores like Sears built large, elaborate room-look displays. Today the look still is being created, but with space at a premium, it is now in a condensed version. Full-color photographs on the packages of window covering products are taking the place of actual display window treatments.
A custom drapery retailer could adapt the same idea to a photo gallery of various window treatments, Korda said. "However," he warned, "don't forget, when using photos make sure swatches are available also. When a customer touches the material, a sale is much closer," Korda said.
Signs, too, are important tools of the silent salesperson. Make them bold and visible, Korda advised. "Keep your display looking fresh." A key item of merchandise may be changed in color or put up in a different manner for variety, Korda offered.
All of these points are time-tested and proven success-makers, Korda said. "Times change, but if anything, today, effective visual merchandising is even more critical in light of the tougher competition for a sale. At Sears we have tightened, honed and sharpened our entire selling approach to make our operation more efficient and space-economizing."
This would seem to be good advice for the success of any size operation. REMEMBERING 1981
•January 20: Just moments after Ronald Reagan is sworn in as president, Iranian revolutionaries free 53 Americans held hostage for 444 days.
•March 30: John Hinckley, Jr. attempts to assassinate President Reagan.
•April 12: The first U.S. space shuttle, Columbia, lifts off from Cape Canaveral.
•May 13: Pope John Paul II is shot by Mehamet Ali Agca.
•July 29: His Royal Highness Charles Philip Arthur George, Prince of Wales, marries the Lady Diana Frances Spencer.
•October 6: Egyptian president Anwar al-Sadat is assassinated.
ALSO OF NOTE:
•Academy Awards Best Picture: "Chariots of Fire."
•Grammy Awards Best Album: John Lennon & Yoko Ono, "Double Fantasy."
•DMC DeLorean sports car debuts with a list price of $25,000.
•MTV, the 24-hour music video channel, broadcasts its first video: Buggles' "Video Killed The Radio Star."
•IBM starts making personal computers.
•The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the New York Yankees four games to two.
•Sandra Day O'Conner becomes the first woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.