Merchandising is just one of the many skills needed to run a pet specialty business. It’s no secret that a strong in-store experience for your customer can boost your bottom line.

It’s easy to ignore dusty shelves and an old window display, but don’t. A visually appealing and clean, well-lit store is essential to your retail success. Start with the five senses when selecting merchandising projects. Sight, sound, smell, touch and taste can help you pay attention to the environment you may take for granted day after day.

Walk up to your storefront, step inside and try to see it all from your customers’ eyes. Take photos of the interior and exterior with your phone to review in a low-stress environment. What do you see? How can it be improved?

• Signage

Readable, colorful signs can lead customers to promotions. Signage that takes them to store sections can reduce the time they spend looking for their primary purchase and may allow them time for impulse buys. A fun, trendy idea is to install chalkboard on your walls and have someone with good handwriting and/or illustration skills note specials, store sections or new products.

• Endcaps
Endcaps should highlight products that are new, seasonal or unique. They can be the lead-in to an aisle of products or promote a special segment of pets, such as senior pets or puppies/kittens. Consider tracking sales data on endcap products to evaluate their effectiveness.

• Counter Displays
When a customer comes to your cash register, a counter display can prompt impulse purchases. One or two displays of low-priced products (even candy or snacks for your human customers) can interrupt the transaction and have the customer reach for the “add-on” product. Keep the display simple with a short message like “Today’s Deal” or “Great Value.” A manufacturer’s counter display will typically need no additional signage. Avoid cluttering your counter with too many display products, offers or clearance items.

• Lighting
Good lighting can influence customers to spend more money. If the store and your products look attractive, customers will feel good about being there and will spend more time in your store. All areas of a store should be well lit. Warmer lighting can make customers feel relaxed. Brighter lighting can help your customers see the products better. Spotlight and accent lighting and backlighting can help promote certain products. If you’re not sure what atmosphere you want to create with lighting, walk through competitors’ stores and see what vibe you get when you pay attention to their lighting. Then decide what type of lighting will define your brand and best serve your customers.

• Fixtures & Shelves
Your product displays should be visually appealing and functional. Customers should be able to easily reach and handle the products. They should be able to navigate your store without bumping into products bulging from your fixtures or shelves. Store flow should be defined by fixtures and shelves, and developing clearly defined product sections is essential. So is changing out merchandise easily with wire walls, wire racks and grid walls. If you are purchasing new fixtures and shelves, consider their style and how they match the brand you are developing.

• Curb Appeal
If you have a store window, change the display regularly with an interesting group of products that reflect the season. Follow the “Rule of 3” product display to create balance and symmetry. Other ways to enhance curb appeal are through attractive outdoor store signage, outdoor seating and attention-grabbers like flags, planters and balloons. Keep a broom handy to keep sidewalks and entryways clean.

• Shopping Carts
If your store is large enough, a small shopping cart is appealing to many customers and may lead to sales beyond their intended purchase. Baskets with handles are another option that can be available near your front entrance. Clean and disinfect your shopping carts and baskets on a regular basis.

• Cleanliness
Time spent cleaning can impact sales. A dirty store may give customers the idea that your products are not quality. Clean windows and doors frequently to remove dirt and hand/fingerprints. Each day, wipe down high-touch areas like counters and certain displays. Dust the entire store regularly, and don’t forget the ceilings and light fixtures. Keep your public restroom sparkling, including the floor corners and behind the door!

• Declutter
Be diligent about keeping merchandise off the floors and out of the way of customers. Try to create clean sight lines for your products. If you have a small space and can’t display all sizes of dry dog food bags, for example, put up signs as to what is available by asking a salesperson. Keep your shelves straightened and well stocked.

Enhance the store experience with music. If most of your customers are baby boomers, then rock ‘n roll from the 70s and 80s should be your go-to on Spotify or Pandora. If your customers are younger, consider whether Top 40, country, R&B or Latin beats would appeal to them. Be sure not to broadcast music with explicit language or potentially offensive lyrics. If you connect to your customers through music, they may be more likely to stick around your store and browse.

Is the smell of dry dog food overwhelming when you walk in your store? Do you get whiffs of mold or must? Bad smells can instantly turn off customers. Determine that source of bad smells and fix them by cleaning or making repairs. To mask the smell of pet foods, place diffusers and scented oils in strategic locations in your store, or make a larger investment in a scent delivery machine.

Customers are more likely to purchase items they can touch. Build your displays so that it is easy to reach out and pick up products. When helping a customer with a product, pass the product to the customer once you pull it from your selection. Give the customer the opportunity to read the label or explore the product.

This one is easy. Offer treats to your canine customers as a way to engage with your human customers.

Merchandising that impacts revenue requires consistency and focus. For your staff, consider the free online course, “Merchandising Fundamentals” provided by Pet Store Pro (underwritten by PIDA). Then mark your calendar to revisit your in-store experience on the first day of the month, and use the five senses as your guide to increased sales.

Phillips Pet Food & Supplies