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On Merchandising: The Gift of Ideas




On Merchandising: The Gift of Ideas

Help your customers — and your sales — with specific gift selections.


Published in the February 2014 issue

In November, I had reason to go into the local Lowe’s home improvement store near my house. I was struck by the way the main aisle was filled with holiday gift ideas. Wooden birdhouse kits for the kids, toolboxes, saws, all kinds of items all lined up, with special signs suggesting these choices as “great gift ideas.” Price points ranged from $8 to over $100. A clueless shopper did not have to wander all around the big store looking for the right gift, Lowe’s had done that for them and identified these items as great gift ideas. Traffic around these items showed the strategy was working.

What have “pink-handled tool sets for her” got to do with selling jewelry? Lots, I think.

Shortly before the recent holiday, I was in North Carolina redoing a store, and I suggested a similar merchandising plan. We identified “The top 10 great gift ideas for her.” These were pieces that were a popular style and a good value at our full markup. We made up small signs identifying each of the 10 ideas in their respective cases.

When a customer enters the store and says he is looking for a gift, the salesperson simply says the store has already identified 10 great gift ideas, and adds: “Let me show these to you and see if one of them will work.”


Maybe the customer chooses one of the 10, or maybe it prompts discussion about another item, but the salesperson has established the impression that he has listened and understood the challenge, is there to help and has provided a solution to the client’s problem.

We placed each of the Top 10 gift ideas on a red paper gift-wrapped box in the center of the showcases. We made sure that the price points of the 10 ranged from $ to $$$. We had a “Top 10” item in almost every showcase around the store (diamond fashion, diamond studs, diamond crosses, pearls, watches, color, silver, etc.) to be sure the client saw the range of merchandise offered. By spreading out the items in the store, shoppers were motivated to at least look at this one item in every showcase. We chose only items we knew could be replenished quickly if sold out. We made sure each salesperson knew the 10 items thoroughly.

We rolled out this strategy in mid-October. Sales of all the suggested 10 items were very strong and beat expectations. There were many instances of people “spending up” and buying bigger pieces prompted by the suggestions. Sales staff said the concept made their jobs easier by allowing them to offer good ideas earlier in the sales presentation. Customers commented that the store had “lots of great gift ideas to choose from.”

We quickly decided to repeat the “Top 10” or “Top 5” strategy in the weeks before Valentine’s Day, graduation and Mother’s Day. With this strategy, you’ll not only make the customer’s search easier, but you’ll find sales staff have time to talk to more people. P.S. My wife loved the pink-handled tool set.



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