Natural Foods Merchandiser

Personal care guide: Merchandising tips from the mainstream

You know the feeling: You’re walking through a mall and are stopped by the urge to pop into an unfamiliar store. Or you nip into the grocery to pick up a jug of milk and find yourself browsing in the cosmetics aisle. Or you commit yourself to window shopping but walk out with a bag of goodies nonetheless.

How do they do it? We asked two mainstream personal care retailers—LUSH and Origins—and a prominent industry consultant for their top merchandizing tips.
Be a spectacle. With economic woes prompting shoppers to pull back on luxury items, visual appeal is more important than ever. “Unless it is really visually stimulating from far away, there is no way a customer is going to approach a store or section from afar,” says Sonia Sangha, senior store designer for LUSH. She says retailers should identify their personality (elegant, whimsical, earthy) and boldly design around it. For LUSH, that has meant handmade furniture, handwritten chalkboard signs and unique, interactive displays in all of its 600 stores. “There is no other shop you can walk into that looks or feels like a LUSH store, and you can go anywhere in the world and it will feel like that,” says Sangha.

Keep the discounts coming. “Sales have become expected, and many consumers are only buying if they feel they are getting a good value,” says Melissa Knapp, vice president of Origins Global Creative. Pick your products for the value they offer customers. In naturals, value means more than mere price point.

Get fresh and naked. When LUSH designers envision stores, they have old-timey local delis in mind (picture a fresh chunk of cheese on display and a salesperson nearby to cut off a slice for you). Sangha says retailers shouldn’t be afraid to take soaps or bath balls out of the package and put them out where shoppers can smell and interact with them. “There is nothing behind a glass shelf in our stores.”

Keep it simple and clean. Sangha favors a few big, impressive and interactive displays over lots of little ones. One of the worst things you can do, says Knapp, is have an untidy store.

Step out of your section. “Those consumers who shop at department stores are also the shoppers at the Whole Foods markets of the world, yet they never go into the personal care department,” says Colorado-based Lynea Schultz Ela, of consulting firm A Natural Resource. “Go out and get them.” She recommends hosting product demonstrations in other areas (a food-based skin-care sampling in the produce aisle or mini-makeovers near the front door). The same goes for product displays, says Knapp: “Merchandise a sampling of personal care items in strategic places within the main food section, for example on endcaps or on freestanding units at the ends of aisles.”

Have a party. Make your store or PC section a fun place for everyone. Sangha advises frequent product-sampling parties so employees learn to love the products and enjoy turning customers onto them. “People should be able to come in and have fun and experience great demos and leave with a big smile on their face,” she says. “Be a party!” –L.M.

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