Spicing Up Your Inventory

January 27, 2007
Written by Stephen Head
24Garden centre retailing is one of the most demanding environments for inventory management. Displaying in a greenhouse or an outbuilding presents unique challenges. Bright sunlight fades packages and tags, dust gives products a somewhat aged look, and, of course, moisture can make merchandise look weathered – none of which are too alluring to a prospective purchaser. Judicious management can help protect your investment in merchandise and fixtures.

Despite the overwhelming urge to take a vacation before spring, now is a good time to do some housekeeping, take stock and revitalise your merchandise. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• Are products in logical groupings, the way a shopper buys?
• Are products located where they have the best chance of being bought?
• How long have products been in their current location?
• What condition are inventory and fixtures in?
Revitalising inventory is much more than turning packages the right way round; it’s adding zest to displays, products and fixtures, creating an appealing look for shoppers, making the store look new and exciting.

Groupings
All stores group products one way or another, but are they grouped by how the customer shops? Logical groupings bring together products that are end-use driven. Propagation materials, flats, labels, compost and so forth are often purchased with seeds, so it would seem logical to keep them in the same vicinity. Lawn care can encompass lawn fertilizers, sprinklers, lawn tools, edging, etc.
A grouping system needs careful thought and planning in order to enhance the customer experience and boost sales. A good system does on occasion necessitate duplicate product locations to be effective. When done properly, such a system will ensure that selling opportunities are not missed. For example, some shoppers could be looking for sprinklers in the watering group, if you’ve anticipated that, you’ve improved your chances of making a sale.

Location
How the shopper travels a store is influenced by the season, during winter when it’s cold and wet the inside will be more widely travelled, whereas in spring and summer, the outside will see increased attention. In spring, shoppers could well pass through the covered store to get to the outside displays, this change in traffic patterns impacts on how products would be presented between winter and spring.

Impulse products, such as new and seasonally topical items should be located in high traffic areas where they can be easily seen by approaching shoppers. Products that are sought out, “bread and butter” lines, can be placed deeper into the store, as shoppers will look for these. This practice should help generate traffic flow to other parts of the store. As demand wanes, seasonal impulse products are discontinued or moved to another part of the store, freeing up space for new products. Planning locations in this way helps create selling opportunities and can act as reminders to customers.

Duration
We quickly become familiar with things we see regularly, so much so that we often do not notice them, unless they change. This is equally so for store displays. The more accustomed regular visitors become with the layout and merchandise in a store, the more of what is on display goes unnoticed.

As shoppers we are creatures of habit, often going straight for the things we want, often missing many other displays, unless something striking catches our eye. Depending on the frequency of visits, new displays will often sell well for no more than a couple of weeks. Plan for regular changes in key locations to rejuvenate displays and generate interest. Change is an effort, one often resisted, but some change can be revitalizing.

How does it look?
It’s tough to keep products and signs looking good, printing fades, moisture damages packaging, dust gets everywhere, and flowers go over. Walking the store, with a critical eye ask, “Would I buy that?” This will help you decide if a product should be where it is. With the plants that you are offering for sale, ask yourself if they are in a condition you would accept from your supplier? Maintaining consistent standards is crucial in inventory management. 

Successful inventory management requires more than a cursory glance. Regular cleaning of fixtures, display signs and merchandise are an opportunity to keep displays looking fresh and inviting, thereby enhancing sales potential. Rotating of stock by putting the older at the front helps move product through more regularly, reducing waste and limiting maintenance demands.
Frequently walking and observing the store can help you identify deficiencies and give you the opportunity to correct problem areas quickly. Keeping detailed notes and records are also a useful method in identifying patterns and regular problem areas.

Maintaining inventory to keep it looking good takes time and money.  But increased waste, price reductions, and lost sales due to poorly maintained inventory costs a lot more.

Purchasing carefully, researching products to meet customer needs, calculating  inventory volumes and buying a quality product, can all lead to reduced maintenance. Thoughtfully laid out displays and well presented products are intrinsically linked to the success of the customers shopping experience.
More in this category: « Growing Loyalty  |  ABCs of QR codes »

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