Merchandising Dos & Don�ts

In the course of writing this month's cover story on pet store redesigns, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynn Rosenbaum, director of environments, and Jay Highland, director of brand communications, of Chute Gerdeman Retail, a Columbus, Ohio-based strategic retail design and branding firm. Both proved to be great sources of information on store design and merchandising strategies, and how these elements contribute to a store's overall brand.

In addition to providing some great quotes for the article, Rosenbaum and Highland offered some useful merchandising tips. Unfortunately, space constraints made it impossible to include these tips in the print version of the magazine, but we still wanted to share them with our readers. Thank you to the Chute Gerdeman team for the following...


Attention-getting store design and visual merchandising can give you a major advantage over your competition.

You may not have deep pockets (who does these days?), but creativity, initiative and a sense of humor don’t carry a price tag. To help you get started, we checked in with the experts at Chute Gerdeman Retail, the Columbus, OH-based retail branding and design firm.

Here they share some Do’s and Don’ts to help you take a critical look at your center and prepare for a successful Summer season.

• Cross-merchandise items that “make sense” together and go together. Convince the customers that they need all the products even though they may not. This works very well in pet merchandising (food + dish + waterproof mat = more sales).

• Look for interesting pieces that can act as fixtures while adding personality to your space.

• Try spot lighting to emphasize new or promotional merchandise. Focus the spot lights on the product and crisscross the beams of light so that lighting hits the merchandise evenly. Make sure that the lights are not aimed to shine in customers’ or pets’ eyes.

• Re-arrange product displays every few months (or more often) to freshen up the store—especially at the storefront.

• Bring residential fixtures or furniture into the store. Baker’s racks, picnic tables, rocking chairs all work to help your customer feel comfortable.  

• Vintage is in and retailers are going to tag sales, coming up with clever and inexpensive ways to display merchandise. An old doghouse or birdcage could be fun and add visual interest. Even using ladders to hang dog leashes on is unexpected.

• Why not add a large blackboard calendar to the wall and populate it with timely tips (“time to groom your dog for summer heat,” or “obedience classes begin”). Of course, what better area to display grooming implements or training aids tied to your calendar items!

• Give ‘em space. Make the circulation route easy to follow and as expansive as the space will allow.

• Appeal to all the senses. Enhance the mood with music and scent. Add TVs and keep them tuned in to Animal Planet!

• Add entertainment. How about a spring pet parade? Or have a training expert in to talk about easy training tricks.  Photo ops are a fun way to get customers in to your store—think photo with Santa Claus for pets.

• Accommodate the customer’s non-shopping companion. Give them a place to hang out. This could be as simple as a comfortable seating area for the customer’s spouse, child, parent or friend. Make it look homey and residential.

• Don’t assume your customer knows the first thing about pet care. Blend the shopping experience with an educational component that both broadens product knowledge and fosters brand loyalty.

• Don’t assume products will sell without enhancing the display with appropriate props that make sense.

• On the other hand, don’t overpower the merchandise with visuals and graphics. The merchandise should always be the hero and visuals and graphics should enhance.

• Don’t take it all too seriously. Have fun, and let it show in your store displays.

About Chute Gerdeman Retail

Founded in 1989, Columbus, Ohio-based Chute Gerdeman Retail is a retail branding and design firm. The firm’s client list includes Mattel, M&M’S/Mars, Target, Levi Strauss, Tween Brands, Shopko, C&A Brazil, Kohl’s, and PETCO. In addition to its recognition as one of the industry’s “Most Exciting Design Firms” by the readers of DDI magazine for 12 years in a row, the firm has received numerous awards for its design leadership. For more information, please visit