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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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Shawna Schuh

Assign Tasks with the End Goal in Mind

Ask in a way that will actually produce results.

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THERE ARE MANY TIMES when I hear from my clients these kinds of laments: “I should have said that differently.” Or: “Maybe I used the wrong words …”

When this happens, I’m delighted because that leader is becoming more aware that she has control over those words and how they may or may not land. However, sometimes it’s not the actual words but the intent behind them that makes or breaks the situation.

Let’s dig deeper into this.

Here’s a standard miscommunication:

When you say “Would you please do X task?” your words, in your mind, may be clear and determined.

You are asking them actually to do the task, right?

That’s what you think.

In reality, it’s an inquiry with no clear intent of when it must be complete or even a determination of end result.

When I’m coaching clients, we take it down to the elements that will actually produce results.

First question: What do you want? And let’s go deeper than having the task done. Aren’t tasks the means to an end result? If you are spending a lot of time on “tasks,” you may have a checked-off to-do list and still not have the results you desire.

Ask yourself instead: “What will having this task done accomplish in regard to my big goal or highest priority?”

That question will shift your thinking to shift from “task doing” to “results producing.”

But what do you ask then if not, “Will you do X task?”

You have many choices. and all of them depend on the intent.

Intent one: Get a task completed. To do this, ask it as is with the addition of a timeframe: “Will you do X task by 3 p.m. today?” The specificity will help you both.

Intent two: Get a commitment to a result rather than a task. Say: “To further the goal of X, please provide me with a list of tasks and who is best to accomplish them inside our timeframe.”

This request will allow the other person to take leadership of the goal and either take on the tasks or find those abler to do so. Remember, of course, to include a timeframe.

Intent three: further action on your end goal. Ask a new question: “To make sure we reach X place, what do you think is the best plan or path to accomplish it?”

This will help them buy into the goal and give you new ideas.

As a leader, we usually know the goal and know the steps or actions to take. That doesn’t mean we should do those actions, nor that others know the goal.

When you shift your thinking like this, things in your world begin to improve. I see it all the time in my coaching clients. If you want the same results, the first step is to stop and think, “What is my intent?” and then the words will come easier.

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Columns

Pet-Business Owners, It’s Time to Stop Using Those Outdated Marketing Tactics

The world is changing. So should your marketing.

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IT’S A WHOLE NEW world out there, especially when it comes to marketing and advertising. There are the big, obvious casualties in the advertising world — Yellow Pages and newspapers, for instance. Now, we market using websites, email and social media. But it’s how we use them that I believe is silly.

From observing pet business ads delivered via email, I notice most of them look like print ads that ran in newspapers.

Is there something wrong with that? Well, yes, as a matter of fact, there is …

The medium is email. The name implies that it’s mail, delivered electronically. So instead of making it look like an ad, you might do better to make it look like mail!

Direct-mail tests continue to prove that a snail mail piece in letter form (versus a designed postcard or brochure) will outperform other formats. In head-to-head split-run tests with several of my clients each year, this rule holds up.

Correspondingly, email that looks like a letter tends to be more successful in producing responses in the forms of click-throughs, conversions and sales.

At least try the letter-looking approach in your email marketing: Conduct your own split-run test.

The other area where pet businesses are doing the same old things — just using new media — is in the aim of their ads.

Almost all pet businesses seem to be competing using the same offers to the same prospects for the same reasons with the same-looking ads. We’re all attacking prospects that are ready to buy today, tomorrow or at least this week, trying to get their dollars now.

Problem is, people — millennials in particular — aren’t buying that way anymore. They have changed, but your marketing hasn’t. People take more time to make decisions now. They do their research and they go through a process.

While all of your competition is frantically focusing on the last week or two of that process, the digital age has made it possible for you to get in early and market to these people in the tranquility of an uncluttered cyberspace and an unencumbered mind.

Use both traditional and digital media to drive “suspects” to a landing page instead of your store or even your website. On that page they’ll be able to sign up for a free something that will signal they’re now more than a suspect. They’re now a true prospect.

Before the competition gets to them, you have the chance to establish a relationship, render value, help them establish their own buying criteria that favors you and pre-empts the competition, invite them to make an initial purchase (converting them from prospect to customer) and ultimately get them to make the purchase from you … without ever seriously considering doing business with anyone else.

This takes planning and system development, but it recognizes the digital reality of the new world. It’s a new way of marketing, and while it may take a while to build the marketing program to exploit that reality, it will surely lead to new and higher profits when you do.

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Editor's Note

Better Buying, Thanks to Peers

Here’s to the readers willing to share with the world what works for them.

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EVERY ISSUE IN PETS+, we bring you features designed to help you make better buying decisions, so you can sell more products and services to your customers.

Our Hot Sellers section (page 18) asks Brain Squad members to tell us what sold well in the previous month and why.

Our Favorite Sellers mini-column (page 17), gives space for one reader to share his or her favorite product to sell — and, importantly, why.

Both allow real retailers and service providers to share what works for them and to give credit to the suppliers or manufacturers where it’s due.

We believe there are no better endorsements of products or services than those from people who are in the business of dealing with end consumers every day and of knowing what they need and what suits them best.

In this issue’s Big Story, “Brands Indies Love” (page 32), we take that belief a step further.

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We asked readers to tell us the suppliers who give them the most support — companies that view retailers as partners, not simply as conduits for their products or as accounts in a spreadsheet.

We also asked manufacturers to tell us ways in which they help and stand behind their wholesale customers.

I should point out here that we list these companies regardless of whether they spend their advertising dollars with us — a reminder of our editorial golden rule we have stood by since our first issue: If a story doesn’t help American pet business owners sell more, manage better, or even just sleep easier at night, it doesn’t go in PETS+.

The companies listed in “Brand Indies Love” is by no means exhaustive. We hope to revisit this subject in the future, and we invite readers and suppliers alike to alert us of great things they are doing.

Meantime, see you at Global! Stop by our booth — 4039 — and tell us what you’re buying in person.

Best wishes for your business,

ralf signature

Ralf Kircher
Editor-in-Chief, Pets+
ralf@petsplusmag.com

Five Great Tips From This Issue You Can Do Today

  1. Build in more time for tax prep this year. It may take longer due to the new tax law and lingering effects of the shutdown. (Manager’s To-Do List, page 14)
  2. For even more marketing inspiration, download the 2019 PetPR.com/FWVFetching calendars. (Service Shorts, page 28)
  3. Don’t normally sell online? Try a one-day online certificate sale. (Hot Sellers, page 18)
  4. Running late today? A dozen donuts is worth 1,000 apologies. (Tip Sheet, page 50)
  5. If you haven’t raised your service prices in a year or more, it’s time for some research. (Columns, page 54)

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