Making the Most of Your Space

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How is your dealership conquering the battle for square footage?

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Trends of our times factor in the slow economy, the rising price of real estate, high prices for fuel and the unsure investors market. This not-so-rosy picture may have some dealers pushing back plans to expand, build out and move to new locations indefinitely. But what happens in the meantime, when you are operating in a cramped retail space?

I have seen many examples of what it looks like when you cram 50 lbs. of potatoes into a 5-lb. sack. You can fill every nook and cranny, stack items floor to ceiling and hang products literally from the rafters, but the outcome does not leave your customer with a satisfactory shopping experience. Instead, they probably will have left without buying, simply because they can't find what they were looking for. Product is in your store, but the presentation, organization and clutter are getting in the way of consumers finding what they need. They suffer from visual overload and shut down as a shopper. What can you, as a space-challenged retailer, do to remedy this type of situation? Read on for some tips.

EVALUATE YOUR INVENTORY

A visual floor audit of your products and a ledger pad will be a good start. Walk each department and take a survey of what products are in each department that are actually current. Identify by the fact that if the customer cannot self-shop an item without staff help, then it doesn't need to be on the showroom floor and can go to a space in the backroom or behind the counter. You can also make a list of parts and accessories that are out of season. Remember, you are trying to free up space and rid your store of clutter for items that need to sell right now.

Your floor space fills up quickly in the ATV department. If ATV is a year-round hot pick for you but if you are still working to find space for the summer riding season (which you need to stock and sell in about 120 days), my suggestion is to cut the ATV area down in size by displaying one of each item. You might load up a unit with lots of goodies and show the items that way. That will save space and be a great selling aid. If you happen to sell that one, accessorize another one. I am sure the vendors will be happy to sell you more ATV stuff. When ATV is in-season (fall in most parts of the U.S.) expand the department again to offer multiples and self-shopping of accessories.

SCRUTINIZE YOUR FIXTURES

Most of the time, space is not the only issue. It is the fixture choice which is not the most efficient for the product type. For example, every store needs staple goods like oils, lubes, chemicals and cleaners. Are they placed where they need to be, or are they housed on some fixture that cannot be relocated? Consider moving them onto one of my favorite fixtures in the industry: the "LiL Joe" by Rock Eagle. This little workhorse not only holds 1,200 lbs. of weight, but its retail footprint is only 36" and it is round and low. You can see over this fixture, and it offers 360 degrees of self-shopping. Fill the shelves and back stock the rest. You can restock as needed. Your consumers do not have to see that you house 1,000 bottles of oil; they just need to find one.

Another space saver is to acquire small "H-Unit" fixtures for apparel and parts and accessories. This type of fixture allows four-sided shopping in a footprint that generally is about 5' long and 3' wide. By incorporating shelves along with your slat pegs for packaged items, you can display some of the boxed items that may look awkward on your walls. For apparel, using hangrails and straight outs, and adding topper shelves on each side, gives a home to add on sale accessories like folded casual wear, ball caps, and other small items. You can show a helmet to match the riding gear in the same color way presentation being shown. This helps package related items and offer "good product adjacency." This is a consumer desired expectation.

LIMIT YOUR SELECTIONS

One game plan in a small retail floor plan is to exercise some restraint in your product offerings. No one has enough space to carry all vendor and label brands, in all styles. Buyers have to make choices on the number of style selections, colors and sizes they can purchase. Another consideration is, will the product be open for reoccurring orders, or is it a special or limited run? You certainly need to offer today's savvy consumers some choices. Even the motorcycle riding community entails many personalities and body types. To better use your space, clean house on your style offerings. Decide what is core and what stays, and select the styles that you need to get rid of through creative marketing, markdowns, clearance, Internet sales, etc.

You can accomplish a clean, organized, uncluttered and professional retail image and by doing so, increase your inventory turns at the same time — even in a smaller retail environment.

Christy Michaud is an independent retail consultant for the powersports industry. E-mail questions and comments to Michaud via editors@dealernews.com