By Josh Strutt
Associate Director – Deployment, Retail Doctor Group

William Shakespeare famously said:

All the worlds a stage and all the men and women merely players.

This rings true in the world of retail where your store is your stage and customers, and staff are your performers.

Many years ago, I worked with a retail entrepreneur who always said that our shops are like theatre and each morning when the curtains lift it is “Showtime.” 

Nobody builds a stage set or visual image better than the professionals of theatre, and just as we recommend stage lighting designers for retail lighting, similarities also exist between visual merchandising, set design and great visual impact in retail.

We are now approaching peak Christmas trading and you can expect a significant increase in customers walking past and entering your store. With the help of Greg Allen of the neo futurists, (Which we have adapted) we present some fitness tips for magnificent, awe inspiring, jaw dropping “fit” window and merchandise displays to excite and delight your customers this Christmas.

  • Don’t create good theatre. You must intend to create great theatre. We don’t need any more perfectly good productions of perfectly good standards. You are setting out to do something great or it’s not worth doing.
  • Create the window and merchandise display you believe in. Become consumed by its uniqueness. Create your own show. Make it true to your brand and what you have to say.
  • Know why you are creating the show. The display you create must be the expression of your unique business. Take a strong stand and challenge yourself to express it. Include your customers in this aim.
  • Know your performance space and use it. All great displays should acknowledge, utilize, and endow the space where it is performed.
  • Know your audience. Have some idea who you are creating the show for. Displays for “for everyone” are bland theatre and will not target your customer segment effectively. Provide entertainment that your target customers will remember and look forward to coming back to see year after year. Gain feedback from your audience, find out what they really want to see and create a show just for them.
  • Contradict the assumptions of the audience. Don’t cater to your audience and what you think they would like to see. Draw them to the theatre with something that will attract them, but then, once they are drawn to your shop window, challenge them and make them think and feel. Never back pat or condescend your audience.
  • Make sure no two performances (displays) are the same. Make sure the show is an unreproducible event – this is what people have come to see and your loyalists will return to see the next production.
  • Include a surprise. No one should be able to know what’s coming next, including the performers. Surprise keeps theatre a live event. Multiple surprises make great theatre.
  • Create a gift for the audience. Make sure everyone in the audience has an individual experience of the show to take out of the theatre and share and discuss afterwards. Think of the wonderful department store windows at Christmas time as a holiday destination as people enjoy the gift of Christmas.
  • Change the material world. Keep your merchandising fresh and exciting for your customers and they will keep coming back for more. Make it clear when new lines and items are in store by promoting them in your window.
  • Include music. There’s nothing better for introducing new music to people than having it accompany stage action. Take the opportunity to re-contextualise known music through performance.
  • Establish ritual through repetition. Give the audience a ritual or repetitive pattern with which to identify. Create a shared history for the audience. Once a ritual is established, you can speak volumes through tiny variations on a theme. The art is in the details.
  • Break the rules. Don’t do what anybody tells you. Make your own theatre, find your own way. Create your own art. Build great displays from the customer perspective that entertains and inspires, (form) not from the traditional product assembly (function).
  • Create excitement around your promotional products. Types of actions around promotional product could include:
    • Is the latest promotional material positioned in agreed place?
    • Are the promoted product lines in a prominent and agreed position?
    • Are all products in stock, faced up and well presented?
    • Have all rostered team members been briefed on promoted lines and product benefits?
    • Do we have enough stock to exceed sales targets?

So now that we have enticed our customers to connect with our retail offers through exciting theatrical displays and events, we mustn’t forget the reason we have them there… Sales! And here are some tips on how to ensure your store makes the most of this exciting Christmas trading period.

Key staff rostered on for high traffic trading times of the week – rosters need to change in the Christmas trading period to correctly reflect the shift in trading hours and customers buying patterns. This is a big one! If your key people are not on when the traffic is at its highest, you will not maximise your potential. 

Stock up before and after store trading hours – you want the team to be 100% focused on selling, not task. Have a ‘no cartons rule’ during trading times which keeps the store clean, and team focused on customers. 

Organise your storeroom – make it as easy as possible for the shop floor to be restocked and know what to reorder before it runs out. If you don’t have an IT system to handle in store inventory, a simple exercise book listing stock in storage with quantities adjusted when stock removed can do the trick. 

Have a feature add on sale product around the register – make it as easy as possible for your team to add on sell. Pick a product that complements the majority of your product range, keep it at a lower price point and make sure you have plenty in stock. 

Gift pack products – beautifully packaged multiple products are an easy way to raise your average sale price and make Christmas shopping a little easier for the customer. Have a few different price points for broader appeal. 

Call poor performance – it only takes one team member to bring down the morale of a team. Don’t accept mediocrity and only keep champion service providers. 

Be first to open and last to close, imagining if you opened at 8.30am when all your competitors opened at 9.00am. Be there when the customers are there and adjust your rosters accordingly. There is nothing worse than a roller shutter being pulled down on a customer. 

Be on sale even when the store is closed – if you are in a strip site leave the store sparkling and faced up to sell even when you’re not there. Have your website reflect your store messaging to be a truly fit multi-channel retailer. 

Have fun – Keep the shopping experience fun and keep them coming back. Find a way to bring your store to life in a way that other retailers can’t or aren’t. 

Support office need to be on to – for a multi-site retailer, the support office must be available throughout the Christmas trading period to support those serving the customers. This is not the time for HO to take leave. 

Have daily start up meetings with your sales team to reinforce targets and goals and keep them up to date on new products and promotions in store. Review each week until the post-Christmas period with the following:

  • What is the promotional message/campaign on a weekly basis? (Is our point of difference reinforced through this messaging?)
  • What are our hero products each week and daily as we approach Christmas Eve?
  • How are we promoting and managing these hero products (depth in relevant range)?
  • What is our in-store messaging to support these campaigns each week?
  • Have we got effective props and in store vibe (including relevant music and fragrance)?
  • Are our windows simple, powerful, fresh, and compelling?
  • What is our weekly customer value proposition? 

I am reminded of the words of TS Elliott who said: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. To be truly innovative and inspired we must gain our inspiration from the most unusual and unorthodox of places.”

Happy Fit Christmas retailing 

Our Deployment team can help you maximise the efficiency of your window displays to drive sales and conversions. For more on Retail Doctor Group’s retail consultant services driven by our “fit for business fitness™” programs, email or phone +61 2 9460 2882.