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Marketing Lowdown: Five Steps To Better Retail Displays

A recent poll asked average Americans which of their five senses they would least be willing to lose. The result? Overwhelmingly, the eyes have it.

Perhaps it's our innate curiosity—our never-ending quest for information—which causes us to value our eyes. After all, we learn 90 percent of what we know by seeing.

But before we can learn anything with our eyes, we must be interested enough to look. Our attention must be captured.

Let's tie this back into marketing—specifically, the topic of retail displays. One obvious way to sell more is to design displays that grab attention, while still fulfilling a functional role. How you design the shelving and display areas of your store can have a dramatic effect on your sales.

Here are five simple steps to help you in your efforts:

1. Flexibility. Form follows function. No matter how pretty it is, it doesn't work if doesn't fit your needs. Ask yourself, how often will this display need to be moved? What size are the items we need to display?

Later, will other items of a different size be used with this display? If the display requires electrical hookup for lighting, can this be simply plugged into a handy outlet, or will more permanent electrical work be required?

More flexible, modular systems are available which fulfill a variety of functions. Mix and match pieces to suit your unique situation. Then reconfigure the pieces as your needs change.

. Eye appeal. Recess upper shelves, tilt lower shelves. The ideal display shelving should appeal to the shopper of average height. Lower shelves should be at least 30 inches from the floor and, if possible, tilted slightly toward the viewer. Upper shelves should be recessed to allow visual access to the lower shelves.

3. Color. Another way to attract attention is through the use of color. Incorporate the store's colors when possible. Build in the company's logo whenever you can, too. It's one more way to build awareness of your name.

Certain situations may lend themselves to special colors, however: a black background for high-tech items, bright colors for children's products, and khaki for younger adult shoppers. Khaki seems to be the preferred color of Gen-Y.

Color has many applications in display design. It can be used to direct the eye from one group of items to the next. Alternately, it can be used to divide items: the red area may be for one set of products, the green area for a group of different products, and yellow for yet another.

And of course, color can be used simply to grab attention.

4. Storage. Don't forget the all-important storage area, one more way your displays can work for you. That lower 30-inch space beneath your lowest shelf makes an ideal cabinet for storage.

Either open (for easy access) or lockable (to deter unauthorized rummaging and pilfering), store extra items of a particular size or brand right on the floor. This allows for instant restocking when necessary, rather than lugging replenishment inventory from some storage room in the back.

5. Price. How much you pay for your displays depends upon two factors—labor and materials. There are three primary materials used in the construction of displays:

1. Laminated wood.

2. Plexiglass.

3. Metal.

Laminated wood is by far the most popular choice for displays, the most flexibility at a reasonable cost. Displays are solidly constructed, can have interchangeable shelving, and are available in a wide variety of colors.

Cleaning is simple (a quick wipe with a wet sponge, much like your kitchen counters at home) and maintenance is minimal, making this choice a popular one for most retail stores.

Plexiglass must be molded in advance. Many popular designs are available, but if those designs don't exactly fit your needs, custom refitting can be expensive. One key advantage is eye impact. Plexiglass offers a high-tech appearance and comes in a multitude of colors.

Metal makes the most durable displays. Like laminated wood, metal can be fabricated in a variety of custom designs. Working with metal is more difficult though, so expect to pay a bit more because of higher labor costs. Cleaning and maintenance can be a bit of chore. Expect to repaint every three years or more, depending upon wear and tear.

These five steps make for a short walk to better displays. Simply follow them to make your retail space more eye-appealing. Your store will be more attractive to your customers, and your customers will thank you by spending more in your store.

Robert Grede, author of "Naked Marketing—The Bare Essentials," is president of The Grede Company, consultants in marketing and strategic planning, (www.TheGredeCompany.com) and is a frequent speaker at universities and corporate venues.