Enhancing the Retail Experience

To maximize the potential of their business, pet product retailers must pay close attention to four key areas of their stores.


How can you increase your “Retail Readiness“ in today’s ultra-competitive marketplace? Let’s start with a baseline comparison of your store and what things you can do to raise the bar with store design, customer service and merchandising. Start by asking yourself if you are doing the following on a consistent basis:

• Do you have a merchandising plan that has a promotional calendar?

• Do you change your endcaps regularly every two weeks?

• Do you have a “WOW” factor when you first enter your store?

• Does your front-line staff have set goals and expectations each shift?

• Do you have three layers of lighting in your store—general, accent and task?

If you answered no to any of the above questions, your customers are walking out of your store, and you are losing sales.

Traffic flow is the lifeblood to sales, and customers need to be entertained visually and emotionally when shopping. Pet retailers need to do what the big-box stores and online merchants cannot do by offering a better shopping experience. Customers are exposed to four basic areas of a retail store, and you need to be aware of how these important areas affect shopping habits.

The four key areas of a store that you need to understand are as follows:

1. Exterior = Curb Appeal

2. Interior = Store Appeal

3. Merchandising = Product Appeal

4. Staff = Customer Service Appeal

Retailers need to look at what they are doing in each of these areas every day to figure out if any needs help.

Curb Appeal
Remember, traffic flow starts outside. What are you doing visually with the exterior of your business to get customers to come in and shop? Window displays, super graphics, neon, events, vehicle wraps, street-side canvassing, and even just propping the door open can help traffic flow, weather permitting. Some stores are going as far as adding topiary animals to their storefront with LED Christmas lights that can change easily to the seasons, events and holidays—red for Christmas and Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, orange for autumn and Halloween, and white for most other days.

Store Appeal

The store interior is also part of retail’s first 28 seconds, since customers often enter your store, take three steps, look left and right, and immediately form an opinion about the business. Smell can cut the impression in half. So what kind of first impression is your store giving customers, and what can you do to enhance it? Just beyond the entrance should be what we call the “Decompression Zone”—about a nine-foot-by-nine-foot clear area to give the customer an inviting space. Beyond that space, try adding a wow factor to grab customers’ attention and trigger impulse buying. Products you would feature can range from new items to loss leaders, special-price-point products and services. Unique displays using mannequins, movement props and fun first-impression items set the stage for the rest of the shopping experience. This wow-factor display should change monthly and should be on your merchandising promotional calendar.

Product Appeal

A pet retailer’s merchandising intent should be clear and concise. Do you have a planner or photos detailing how the store’s shelves should be set up and maintained? Do you have set merchandising rules for staff to follow on a daily basis? Setting non-negotiable standards for staff is a great way to keep your store looking great, day in and day out. Face and front merchandise continually, and spread to fill so the store looks abundant and full at all times.

Customer Service Appeal
Last, but not least, is your staff and customer service. Owners and managers need to set goals in areas such as daily or hourly sales, average ticket sale and number of items per ticket. It is important to add or subtract sales trends and set attainable goals. Advanced retailers even track door count and conversion rates based on a monthly basis of transactions per traffic count. This method of tracking holds staff accountable on what percentage of people who walk into the store and make a purchase. Just by setting expectations of staff, they can and will be more aware of what needs to be done every day. All job descriptions should read, “Make money for us!” 

Chris Miller is the president of Pacific Store Designs Inc. His extensive industry experience draws on Pacific Store Designs’ full suite of services, including design, fixtures sales, custom cabinetry, vented animal enclosures, general contracting, architectural services, professional installations, merchandising assistance and training.  He has designed 3,000-plus retail stores, has written for trade publications and offers seminars at many retail pet shows.

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