Socola Sets Up for Success: 3 Easy Ways to Make a Difference

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)