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How 3 Lines Can Turn You Into a Merchandising Pro

Anyone can create great window displays.

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At left, a basic pyramid of dog food bags. Note the additional bags serving as risers. At right, black and white is always impactful and says “fashion.” A scratching post makes a great framework for displaying product.

This story was originally published in the January 2018 edition of PETS+.

IT DOESN’T TAKE a professional visual person to do great window and in-store displays. The reality is, anyone can do it. Visual people all follow the same guidelines, which is how they’re able to do great displays in very little time. You can make professional level displays yourself, if you just learn some of the basic rules.

With the exception of apparel, all merchandise visual is based on the “pyramid concept.” Pyramids are used in windows, on tables and valances.

Arrange three pieces of product in a tiered configuration, with each item at a different level. This is your pyramid; a tall central element with a two of three shorter items around it. The buildup has height and brings the display closer to eye level. This is just the start, as you’ll add additional items later to fill out the display. But it’s always the pyramid configuration you’re going for.

A display needs to read from a distance. Itsy-bitsy items create clutter, and aren’t visually compelling. They can be used however, if they are used in quantity — multiples create a larger visual presence. You can also use risers to increase the height of a product. Simple risers are available from retail supply companies. You can also use common items to serve the same purpose. Crates and baskets are good choices, as are wrapped boxes. But keep it simple. You want the risers to be neutral, and not fighting for attention themselves.

Add two or three items to the original three. These will fill out the display. The fewer items you have, the more impactful the message will be. The key here is focus: Don’t add anything that isn’t right on message.

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It’s OK to leave empty space on a display table or in a window. Empty space is not wasted space; it’s a frame for your display. It also makes the product and store look organized and clean.

Always keep in mind that a display needs to tell a story. The idea or concept is what makes impact. Cleverly combining various items also promotes add-on purchases.

Here are some concepts for displays:

Valentine’s Day. This can be set up right after the new year. Although it seems early, Valentine’s is really about love, and not a specific day. Suspend cut-out hearts above your display. But you want to keep it simple and use three to five hearts maximum.

Think Pink. Pull together pink items from different departments; collars, beds, and apparel. Use watering cans as props. Make this your spring statement.

Senior Pets. Combine products for older animals like special foods, supplements and comfy beds. Perhaps a bed full of supplements!

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“Cats and fish” or “dogs and cats.” Pick up some plush animals from the local toy store to clearly define the characters involved. What about a plush cat looking into an aquarium?

Winter. A great way to sell coats and sweaters is to combine them with artificial snow, and maybe a little prop pine tree.

An impactful display is as much about marketing as merchandising. It’s about lifestyle, and a place to make product shine, whether it’s seasonal items, or new arrivals. And it’s a dramatic way to communicate with your customers. Make each visit to your store fresh and exciting.

Tom Crossman has designed entertainment centers and retail stores for FAO Schwarz, Dollywood and Toys ‘R’ Us. He was a featured speaker at Global Pet Expo in 2018. His work can be seen at tomcrossman.com, and he can be reached at tom@tomcrossman.com.

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Digital Marketing Is Great, but It Can’t Solve All Your Problems

You’ve probably been hearing experts talk about digital marketing as if it would be a panacea for pet-business owners, says marketing specialist Jim Ackerman. But for most owners, it hasn’t worked out that way. In this video, Ackerman explains why digital advertising should be just one arrow in your marketing quiver.

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Shawna Schuh

Are You a Seeker or a Conquerer?

The seeker finds success daily; the conquerer attains it only at the top.

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SUCCESS CAN MEAN DIFFERENT things to different people, although the dictionary definition of success is: The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

For me, it’s shifted from a destination to the journey — or what I like to call an adventure — because for me, life, love, pets and relationships are all adventures, usually to undiscovered places or experiences.

As we travel forward in life, we can hold success out in front of us like a carrot for a horse, or we can experience the pleasant feeling of being successful every time we take an action step.

So when you have the aim to learn something, and you do … success!

When you set out to make a customer smile, and you do … success!

When a new concept is presented, and you learn it, use it and excel in it … success, even though the process, the adventure may not be not complete.

When we think and feel successful, we do the actions that produce the results we seek. We also skip the painful process of thinking: “When I reach X, I’ll be successful,” or, “After I have Y, I’ll feel successful.”

We can live more fully, more engaged, energized and creative because every action is a success when we move forward with the right intention.

Let me explain it further with two mountain-climbing analogies:

In one case, the climber is the Seeker: Every prep, every step, every hurdle and every experience is a success getting to the top, and more important, returning from the top of the mountain.

In another case, the Conquerer: Success is only at the top. This permits less focus on getting back down gracefully or safely. So success is measured only by being on top, by taking control and forcing it.

Stop and ask yourself whether you relate more to the Seeker or the Conquerer. I’m not going to judge you. However, in my work with wonderful, successful professionals, I do know the happiest ones are those who seek and experience that happy jolt of success every step, every hurdle and every sale they take or make each day.

How do you become a better Seeker?

1. Set up all the action steps to take you where you want to go.
2. Track those steps so you know you accomplished them.
3. Note your progress and celebrate how far you’ve come.
4. Bask in the fact you are moving in the right direction.
5. Embrace the knowledge that there is no top/end to attain.
6. Revel in being a Seeker because those who seek, find!

This feeling of success is truly wonderful. Being a Seeker reminds me that I am creating the life I live, and if I can do it, so can you.

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Candace D'Agnolo

How Pet Businesses Can Profit From Facebook Live

In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day.

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PET RETAILERS AND MANUFACTURERS all over the country are making big bucks by going live and hosting what I like to call a virtual “Paw Party.”

A “Paw Party” is when you jump on a Facebook Live, have fun with your audience and sell stuff! In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day. Seriously. My clients are seeing crazy results, and I want you to get a piece of the action.

How to Do It

Pick a date and time for your Paw Party. Tell your audience in advance, and do it at a time that you think the most people will show up (maybe at 7 or 8 on a weeknight). You’ll want assistance from two people. One can be helping with the camera and review comments on the video as they are coming in. And the other can help prepare product and be your assistant show host.

The merchandise you feature should have a hashtag written on a card assigned to it. When you show the product to the audience, describe it, share the hashtag and tell the price. To increase the desire for the item, you can offer a limited-time discount or have a limited quantity to sell. If a viewer is interested, they type sold and the hashtag in the comments. There are a variety of ways you can accept payment, so come up with the way that will work the easiest for potential buyers and is something you can easily handle — phone call, website, PayPal, in-store, etc.

How to Make It Interesting

Treat it like a party you’d be hosting or would want to go to. Pick a theme based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Wear festive clothing or have an interesting backdrop to create a great visual. Make it BYOB … Bring Your Own Beverage. You could be toasting the viewers and chatting with them about what they chose to bring to the viewing party.

All great parties have games! Utilize a prize wheel (see Pet Pro Gear on page 23), numbered boxes, a dry-erase board, Post-It notes on a wall — really anything you can think of to help create a game of chance that can hold either a number or the name of a prize. Encourage your viewers when it’s time to play the game to participate with you in the comments of your post. Believe it or not, viewers love this! Have fun with your viewers, engage with them and keep your energy up.

How to Make It Profitable

Sell merchandise that you no longer want to carry. Maybe it’s older than six months. (Yes, you should mark it down and move it out if you’ve had it longer than six months!) While selling something at a discount doesn’t seem profitable, goods that are just sitting on your shelves like they are in a museum will serve you better to take what you can get and replace them with something that your customers want to buy. You’ll be surprised that what they won’t buy in store, they will buy on a live video sale. Why do you think the Home Shopping Network is so successful?

Are the wheels already turning? Here are two examples for inspiration: petsplusmag.com/5193, petsplusmag.com/5194.

Grab your smartphone, head to Facebook or Instagram, and hit that “go live” button! Don’t overthink this! Just hit the button, look at the camera and be your wonderful self. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about taking action! We’re all rooting for you and can’t wait to come to your party!

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Organizations Hitting You Up for Donations? Here’s What to Weigh

Be careful of getting yourself stuck donating to every medical benefit, fundraiser and poker run.

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IT HAPPENS AT LEAST TWICE a year in my store: They enter, confused or looking a bit lost. They head to the front desk and timidly take out a sheet of paper and hand it to the first employee they see.

It’s the dreaded donation/advertising letter.

Whether it’s for a high school yearbook, a benefit to raise money for medical expenses, or a school fundraiser, I’ve seen it all. I’ve been approached by students, their parents, volunteers, a friend’s cousin’s wife’s best friend, a customer I haven’t seen in four years … you get the picture.

I feel a knot in my stomach every time. Do I say yes? Do I say no? Am I going to offend a customer? Where do I draw the line?

I’m all about alternate forms of advertising, and over the years, I’ve tried it all … the cover of the local county map, high school football schedules, even handheld fans for sporting events (never again on that one).

What works and what doesn’t? It depends on where your store is located and who your target audience is. My experience might be different from yours, but learn who you will be advertising to, and it will help you make the right decision.

For example, our retail store and separate doggie day care are both located in a small town of around 40,000. We get our fair share of yearbook ad requests, and I try to hit at least the two biggest. Depending on the price, I’m usually open to at least a half page ad. I try to be creative by putting both businesses in the same ad.

By advertising in the yearbook, I’m hoping that parents still read those (mine did!) and look at the ads in the back. If you are considering yearbook advertising, make sure your ad is clear, neat, to the point, and more important, contains a photo of a dog or cat. That’s the best way to get people’s attention.

I’m much more likely to say no now to athletic schedules and magnets than I used to be. The paper schedules are thrown away as soon as the season is over, if not before. The magnets might have more staying power … at least for that year … but after that, they aren’t as effective. Use your best judgment on these.

When it comes to benefits, poker runs, fundraisers and so on, you might find them to be more troublesome than beneficial.

I donate to the local private school auctions if a representative actually comes in and asks. A phone call isn’t enough for me. Make them work for it! Chances are, the person asking for the donation is a customer, so I do have some obligation already. What I have found, however, is that if you pick the right items, your donation will be sought after at these events. I’ve had customers tell me they look for my items at these auctions because they know there will be a free self-service dog wash coupon, a bag of treats and a small gift card. To me, that’s a win!

If someone who isn’t a customer bids on and wins the item — and then comes in — that’s a win for both of us. They get to see how awesome we are, and we get a new customer … just for donating to a good cause!

But, not all donations bring new customers. Be careful of getting yourself stuck donating to every medical benefit, fundraiser and poker run. If you feel obligated, give something small, like a dog wash coupon or a small gift card. Services are always easier to donate than goods. Or, check with your manufacturer or distributor reps about bags of treats or small toys.

One final piece of advice: Document everything you donate and when. If the entity is nonprofit, it should supply you with a tax letter to give to your accountant. I also recommend asking your accountant about what you can write off as a donation. In my state, I can donate anything (goods or services), but I am supposed to pay tax on any goods I donate. That’s why I hit up my vendors for free stuff and donate my own services like the washes or gift cards. Plus, those services and cards are more easily written off on taxes.

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