Nobody walks into a Walmart and thinks she is in Target. She may be looking for the same brand of paper towel or hair color, but she knows which mass merchant's store she's in the second those sliding doors glide open. You might think this is about layout and lighting (and it is), but mostly it's about Merchandise Point of View.
If you were blindfolded and led into a Yonkers, deep between the clothing racks, once you took off the blindfold you may not know immediately where you were, but you would definitely know that you weren't in Neiman Marcus. The two department stores have a very different Merchandise Point of View.
Both Radio Shack and Best Buy sell computer cables, but despite certain product similarities, the Merchandise Point of View is decidedly different.
Behind every successful retailer is a clearly defined Merchandise Point of View. Struggling retailers may struggle for many reasons, but nearly all of them have failed to define their Merchandising Point of View.
So what is a Merchandising Point of View?
Your Merchandising Point of View is your declaration of identity to the world of consumers, it is what your store is all about, it screams come in if you like these things and move along if you value those other things because that's just not what we're into here. A Merchandising Point of View both includes and excludes - because you don't need every customer to be successful. You just need the right customers.
The Merchandising Point of View often starts with what the owner of the retail store loves and values, but if it doesn't expand quickly to determine which customers those things matter to and whether or not there are enough of those customers, the Merchandise Point of View is not sustainable.
Strong merchants (retailers) define their best customers - they know what their customers wear, how their customers spend their time, how their customers spend their money, how they align themselves within society, and what matters to them. Strong retailers know how to keep their customers engaged, and they do this with many elements, including excellent sales staff, desirable environment, promotion and marketing. But the most powerful way to keep customers engaged is to keep bringing them new and interesting products that appeal to them. The best way to do this is through a crystal clear Merchandise Point of View.
So how do you develop a Merchandise Point of View? You ask and answer these questions:
- Which customers do we want?
- Which types of products matter to the customers we want?
- How do I want my customers to feel when they walk into my store?
- Which adjectives do I want customers to associate with my store?
- What is the unique story or experience of our store, and how do we express it - through words, colors, lighting, communications, customer relationships, design features . . .
Once you ask and answer those questions, you can select merchandise that not only fits with but also advances your store's unique story. This marriage of merchandise, experience, and physical (or graphical) space is the Merchandise Point of View, and like all marriages, it requires constant nurturing and attention to blossom and to be sustained.
What's your Merchandise Point of View? If you can't answer this question, it's time to get cracking! The profession of retailing changes daily, and you can't afford to get even one step behind.