I was fortunate enough to be able to work with Alan Cash to create this short video about VM Works. It's funny that I'm able to teach workshops about visual merchandising to large groups of people but the moment the camera and topic was focused on me, I felt nervous and self-conscious talking about myself! Luckily Alan was able to work his editing magic to make me sound almost articulate!
The first time I had to dress a mannequin was about 16 years ago at The Gap. I had no idea what I was doing and I'm pretty sure I stretched out the fabric of more than one "favorite tee". Luckily with the help of my peers and through experience, I figured out what worked best for me.
I'm not saying that there's a right or wrong way to dress a mannequin but this is the easiest way (and order) that I've found to work over the years. I also want to note that 6 days prior to when this video was filmed, I had surgery performed on my right hand (nothing serious, just a simple surgery to treat "trigger finger" but it still required stitches). I'm only mentioning that as additional proof that this is an easy way to dress a mannequin, because if I can do it with a busted hand, then you probably can too!
Also I realized afterwards that in the video I said it's a knit shirt but it's actually a woven (oops). Sometimes it's hard to dress mannequins and narrate at the same time!
Socola Chocolatier is mainly in the business of making delicious artisanal chocolate treats but in addition to the confections, coffee, and yummy pastries, they also sell some home goods and branded merchandise like t-shirts and socks. Owner Wendy Lieu is a big fan of alpacas; she even incorporated one into her logo! Harriet the Alpaca is the company mascot and over the years Socola has accrued quite the collection of alpacas. These were scattered throughout the wall along with other merchandise which made it difficult for customers to know which items were for sale and which were on display.
When I first met with Wendy, one of her concerns was how to organize the merchandise wall to make it look more appealing and of course to get more customers to purchase the products. The wall had multiple cubbies with fixed shelves and her inventory was constantly fluctuating so sometimes shelves were empty and sometimes they had extra stock or supplies that they kept in a plastic bin. Because of the furniture arrangement, customers weren't able to easily access the merchandise wall. We were able to come up with a sustainable solution in three easy steps.
Step 1: The first thing we did was to rearrange the furniture so that customers could shop comfortably without disrupting other seated customers. We also tried to set up the tables and chairs to direct the line of people waiting to pay towards the merchandise wall. Placing product next to a line is a good way to entertain people while they wait and to incentivize them to make an impulse purchase.
Step 2: The next step was to give the Socola team a short tutorial on grouping and merchandising techniques. After showing Wendy and her staff a few tips, they quickly grasped the core concepts and were able to apply it each time their inventory changed. The team pulled the items which were not for sale and curated a select number of collectible pieces. These were placed on the top shelf so that the staff could easily let people know that everything on top were for display only. It's always better to display merchandise at the customer's eye level and within their reach. Creating a safer and more comfortable shopping experience for the customer will increase sales.
Step 3: Lastly, the merchandise wall needed a flexible way to store extra stock and supplies. I provided Wendy with a few options and she chose to use 4 seagrass baskets which matched her brand aesthetics and provided a great solution for her storage needs. If she had more inventory, she could remove the baskets and use the shelves to display merchandise. If she had less inventory, empty baskets could still make the wall appear fuller. Customers associate empty shelves with unkempt stores who are going out of business so avoid blank shelves as much as possible.
Here's a look at the subtle but striking differences before and after our consultation:
I'm so proud of the Socola team for soaking in the information and applying it to their business! Stop by their location at 535 Folsom St in San Francisco to admire their merchandise wall, try their famous truffles, and check out the brand new alpaca wall paper in their bathroom! (The chocolates are definitely worth the visit on their own though)
Thanks to a partnership with Townsquared and Mannequin Madness, VM Works was able to successfully (after the 3rd try!) live stream this visual merchandising workshop about Spring presentations! You can find photos of the examples shown on our Pinterest board and if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Rose directly. Happy Spring!
In addition to launching the VM Works website and Facebook page last year, 2016 was packed with lots of new projects, new clients, new opportunities, and new challenges. It was definitely a surprise and an honor to find out that VM Works had been selected to be featured on American Express Open Forum! What a great way to wrap up my first official year of business and propel into 2017!
VM Works is happy to shine the visual merchandising spotlight on Blue Door Beads, a woman-owned business located on vibrant Piedmont Ave in Oakland, CA. Their tagline is "we're so much more than just a bead store" and it's absolutely true. Blue Door Beads also offers classes, rents artist studio spaces, and hosts multiple events! It's clear that Blue Door Beads is less a bead store and more like a haven for the local beading community. Owner Sara Mancini designed a shop environment where customers feel welcome to hang out and create together.
The large unobstructed windows give pedestrians a view of what's happening in the store. Once inside, the space gives off a cozy vibe without feeling constricting. The unfinished concrete flooring makes the customer feel like they're entering an artist studio while the houseplant, large rug, and soft chair near the door reminds them of walking into a friend's living room.
Considering the TINY inventory and VAST array of merchandise, it would be easy for a customer to feel overwhelmed in a bead store; but in Blue Door Beads the categories are well organized and customers easily navigate their way around the store. Tools are all merchandised together, spools of chain are neatly displayed, and beads are color-blocked throughout the store.
It would have been easy for Sara to throw hooks on a slatwall fixture and call it a day but she knew her target customers were crafty people who would appreciate more creative displays. All around her shop, you can find charming household items used to display merchandise from an iron skillet to muffin tins.
The store fixtures are repurposed shutters, dressers, cabinets, and bookshelves. She even used an old door and corrugated tin to build her own cash wrap.
In addition to repeating the signature blue color, Sara also took the time to curate a nice gallery of blue door photos behind the register. The branding message is clear without screaming out the logo. It's an artistic and impactful way to cover negative space in what would otherwise have been a non-productive area of the store.
The door leading to the artist studios and the workshop area where classes are held is painted the signature blue and subtly reaffirms the branding message.
Even more impressive than their attention to branding is Blue Door Beads' care for their customers' comfort. Reading glasses are conveniently provided in the store for those who need them.
It's clear that Sara and her team want customers to feel right at home, hang out, and get creative. There is a large work table surrounded by cheerful green chairs where people are invited to gather and encouraged to use the tools for free. Sara drilled holes into an old spool and used fishing hooks to create a tool caddy.
No matter where you turn, there is something to delight customers in this shop. There is the bust form draped in burlap that is totally aligned with their target customer's design aesthetics (and also makes the chunky necklaces stand out more).
There is effective and strategically placed lighting throughout the store. There is an attractive color story. There is so much that Blue Door Beads is doing right! I have plenty more photos and examples but I urge independent retailers to visit this shop if possible and see it for yourself. Kudos to Sara for being so in tune with her customers and for keeping them engaged at every opportunity!
Blue Door Beads is located on 4167 Piedmont Ave in Oakland, CA. Find out more at www.bluedoorbeads.com
As an independent retailer, you probably have a lot of things on your plate, mostly a lot of P's. Most people working in retail have heard of the 5 P's: people, product, price, placement, and promotion. But there is another big P floating around out there...Read More