If you’re thinking of opening a bricks and mortar store, or if you already own one that needs a bit of help, or perhaps you fancy a pop up shop one of the most important things you’ll need to consider is ‘sales per square footage’.

Your space whether it is big, small, permanent, semi permanent has to be your top sales person. Period! It’s got to be artistically, creatively and stylishly designed to draw people in. It’s got to engage, tantalize and cause many jaws to hit many floors. It’s got to make people happy and it’s got to make people spend. A big ask I know as its tough to do. However fear not, that is the whole point of this column to demystify and break down the retail biz so you can get to run the same successful business that I do. Here’s what we’ve done and why it’s worked!

Only have minimal storage on site

Almost every square inch of your space should be selling space, not storage space. You don’t want to be paying rent and zoning off a large proportion of the space for stock when you can outsource your warehousing somewhere way cheaper. We don’t, Debenhams don’t, Liberty’s don’t hardly anyone does. Stock gets brought in regularly from warehouses which are cheap to rent which means we can optimize every single area for selling! Biggest tip I can give you.

Tantalize all the senses

The secret in creating a space that customers want to linger in and spend time in is to create a muti-sensory experience, or if I’m talking industry spiel then ‘sensory branding’.

Ask yourselves this, is your customer going to be visually intrigued when they walk into your space? Something I teach in my Retail Classes is that you don’t want all your stock around the edge of your store, because it reads as a big yawn. Same principle as decorating really. If all your living room furniture is lined up against the walls with nothing in the center of the floor it reads as dull, (like ditchwater)! Move it in I say

As odd as this sounds put things in the customers way. I know it sounds bonkers but here me out, Anthropologie design their layout like this and so do we. There is not one direct path or aisle a la Ikea. When the customer creates his or her own path they automatically feel more engaged. It’s why when you walk into our store you’ll find a sofa in your way and you have to choose which way to go round it. Or in Athrop’s stores there will be tables in your way. You want your customer to plot his or her own course. Still not convinced? Think of it like this, if you’re walking in a forest it automatically feels exciting and interesting because you can’t clearly see the path in front of you. Conversely if you’re rambling through a flat field where the line of sight goes on forever it feels boring. Biggest, most secret retail tip I can tell you and not enough retailers do it because they dismiss the power of engagement and instead get all practical. Don’t be practical I say! You’ve got to create this sense of discovery in your store and if everything is lined up slap bang against the wall what does that say other than how dull! You can read it in an instant, your customers won’t linger instead they will be out in a jiffy. If you can’t clearly see what is around the corner or if your vision is tantalized with things in front of you automatically you feel more intrigued and linger longer. Make sense?

The music you play is also important, (we had one member of staff once who would change the music every time one of us left the store) taking it from lounge to rock. Not good! Finding the right staff is a whole other post, don’t get me started on that one! Having many tactile elements for customers to touch and feel is important, as is the power of smell. Don’t neglect them, the senses are big game changers!

Create vignettes

Show customers what they can do with a lamp rather than plonking all the lamps in the lamp section for example. Put it on a little table, with a vase of flowers, a book even, style it up. This is basic 101 merchandising, customers need to be able to identify and imagine how it would look in their own home. Once they do that – item sold!

It’s actually called lifestyle merchandising, whereby products are displayed in a roomish type setting so you are cross merchandising products and elevating them at the same time. Don’t worry if you are not a stylist, drill down into lifestyle magazines and work out why you especially love a particular room. What is the formula. Why does it work? Is it because all the objects are grouped in such and such a way? Or is because the colour palette is reigned in. Don’t let anything stop or put you off, your destiny is in your hands and you (only you) have the power to take your business wherever you want it to go. Exciting no?

The rule of three

Odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye than even so group things in three’s (basic styling trick). Anything too symmetrical and balanced reads as boring the more asymmetrical your displays the more tantalizing it will look to your customers. Same principle again with decorating!

Don’t forget the lighting

Ambient orgeneral lighting of course is a must but so also is decorative lighting to highlight specific things. The way you light your store will totally affect the mood you create. Now its coming into fall we are cozying things up with lots of t-lights quietly flickering away, more lights are turned on creating glowing little pockets of warmth so when you enter everything looks beautiful.

You can totally increase sales according to how you merchandise. Bottom line you’ve got to create an engaging experience. Not enough stores do it and that is one of the reasons so many go out of business so fast because they are all too practical, they don’t concentrate enough on delighting, tantalizing and intriguing their customers.

Walk your store regularly; Gem and I do it each week in the earliest of hours. Constantly swap things around, switch things up, stay fresh and keep on your toes. Do that and you might be googling chateau’s to buy in France by the end of the year (wish)!

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