Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keeping it New

There's a fine line between keeping things "fresh" and looking like you're becoming a new company everyday. What's the difference? We're talking product-based businesses today.

When you walk into your favorite store, you probably notice two things: It looks like your favorite store. There's something new and exciting or a new energy going on.

That's a tall order as soon as you read it from the standpoint of that business owner, isn't it? You're got a lot going on. You probably don't have a merchandising department or much of a budget for that kind of stuff.

There are a few challenges you have if it's just you and maybe a partner looking at your business:
  • Small changes seem HUGE to you, but your customer may not perceive them.
  • The way you present things is the way YOU see them, not someone new to the store.
  • Perhaps you get ideas of changing things but it would be too great of a departure from what you're already doing.
  • Time slips away and you don't have a plan on the calendar for when you make changes.
There's plenty more, but let's look at these for now. One of the most obvious things is all about working in the bubble that is your brain. How do you gain perspective on what kinds of changes will actually affect your new customer and your regular customer in the best way?

The best case scenario is to really bring in a specialist on a contract basis to give you pointers and set you in the right direction. Instead of hiring a staff person, bringing in someone who really knows merchandising can give you a big lift.

The next possibility is to get to know biz folks (who's stores or sites you like) in non-competing markets and let them take a look and give you feedback.

Have a calendar ready with some idea of when new merchandise is coming in and when you should be doing a big change up and when you're just doing some freshening up. One of the things I see folks wasting a lot of time on is trying to figure out what to do with the cool new stuff that just came in. You should put some time into that, but if there's more of that cool stuff on the way, then make a plan for a bigger change when the rest arrives instead of sweating the little arrival. Basic time management on this one.

I could write loads of posts about image consistency. There are plenty of folks who work only in this area. You have your colors, your logo, your "look", etc. Make sure that whatever else you do is an extension of this in some way. It doesn't need to be "matchy matchy" but it needs to blend and be subconsciously palatable.

If a bigger change is in order, again, think about bringing in a consultant. Instead of giving the consumer whiplash as you flip from one style to the next, plan your moves and find ways to keep it fresh on a monthly basis.

One blog I really love with lots of great retail advice is Nicole Reyhel's Retail Minded. Invaluable stuff on a daily basis.

Step out of your bubble, know who you are, know who your customer is, follow trends and keep it fresh!

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