There is great news for sporting goods retailers: people are spending more and more money at your stores. We can see this in the National Sporting Goods Association’s recent release of its 2013 Sporting Goods Market Report.
NSGA Director of Research and Information Dustin Dorbin said, “We have seen steady growth in the sales of sporting goods apparel, equipment and footwear in our research over the last three years. The data we are reporting today shows continued evidence that consumers are not afraid to spend on sporting goods, which is a positive sign for our industry moving forward.”
Catering to a thriving market is one piece of the puzzle; getting people to choose your store over your competitors is quite another. According to the NSGA report, specialty stores led as the most popular places for consumers to buy equipment, so niche stores are doing well right now. Part of this has to do with the boom in hunting and firearm equipment sales, so following trends will help, too. However, whether consumers find your store appealing plays a huge role in their future shopping decisions. By creating an attractive environment, retailers breed more loyalty in consumers. So the question is: what makes a store attractive?
Retailowner.com published an answer to this question in its article “Rating your Store from a Shopper’s Perspective; 25 Ways Customers are Rating your Stores.” The page points out that retailers can have a blind spot when it comes to their own stores, and appeal happens on a subconscious level, too. Here are the 25 things to add to your checklist to make your store more attractive:
- The store should be as accessible as possible. If it is in a hard-to-find location, include directions in your advertising. Also ensure all employees can give clear directions over the phone.
- Have a consistent advertising style, and be sure to make a connection between outside advertising and in-store appearance. Consumers should be able to easily identify which items were advertised (as it may be what they came in for.)
- Keep an eye on your shelves and make sure the basics are always in stock. Products should be organized and easy to access. You never want a customer to leave the store because you were out of something six other stores carry.
- Make sure your bathrooms are clean! Bathrooms are a basic part of customer service. Make sure yours are routinely inspected for cleanliness, stocked supplies, and even lighting.
- On that note, cleanliness and tidiness should be an ongoing theme in your entire store, including the parking lot.
- Prices: retailowner.com points out that while 20% of people will only buy the best deal, the whopping 80% leftover look at total value. If your store offers more by way of customer service, selection, employee knowledge, etc., this will attract that 80%.
- Use communication methods that consumers care about. Ask your customers at checkout if they want to be on your mailing list. Use that list to offer updated and quality information that they will find valuable.
- Keep your displays timely, new, and eye-catching.
- Fixtures should be durable, practical, and not take attention away from merchandise.
- Use flooring to look better and to direct traffic. You’ve seen stores that use tile flooring in some parts of the store and carpet in others? There’s a reason for that. Carpet adds class and comfort. Hard surfaces keep things flowing in high-traffic areas (and are much easier to clean.)
- Use signage with a clear, immediate message that directs attention to the products. Signage should draw attention but not distract from your merchandise.
- Adequate and deliberate lighting makes a difference in appeal. Keep the store well lit and showcase your featured items.
- Store location is still a major player in attracting customers. Be where the people are.
- Arrange merchandise and displays so that it’s obvious who the products are for.
- Having a wide selection can make you competitive, but don’t clutter your shelves and overwhelm the consumer with too much selection. If necessary, keep certain stocks out of sight, but make sure it is easy for the customers to access them if they want to. Signs, available employees, and online lists/links can make stored items visible.
- Make sure your music is chosen for the customer and that it is not so loud that it impedes conversation.
- If the name of the store doesn’t clearly convey what you sell, create a tagline (for example) to indicate exactly what products you offer.
- Keep a clean, clearly marked, well-lit parking lot.
- Convey the quality of your products. Use hang tags, displays, and the like to showcase guarantees, quality assurance, and anything else that lets your customer know the full value of the products.
- Pay attention to the smell of your store. If there is an unattractive scent present, figure out what it’s coming from. Some stores use mild fragrances to improve how a space smells. Be careful with this, though; more and more people are sensitive to fragrances these days. If your store gives someone a headache, he or she will never return.
- Make sure your customers know about any extra services you provide. Whether it’s in-store pickup, free delivery, free shipping, or whatever, every customer in your store should know it’s available.
- All the pieces should fit together. Your signage, advertising, displays, music, lighting, and everything else mentioned above should consistently give the same message about your store. This is how you develop an image.
- Keep your storefront clean, tidy, and updated (especially with displays and signs.)
- Your windows should be inviting. Check whether your lighting is casting unwanted shadows.
- Finally, as it is your last in-store impression, keep your cash/wrap counters organized, neat, and clean.
While some of these items seem like common sense, each of them is significant to overall appeal. If you read online reviews of stores, you will find that these kinds of qualities come up all the time, especially in negative reviews. Don’t fall short on these 25 points; appreciating your customers means caring about their entire experience in your store.
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