5 Reasons Why Brick-and-Mortar Retail Will Rule Holiday Shopping This Year

It’s November 11 and many retailers are already in full holiday swing. From the television commercials to a certain popular coffee chain rolling out solid red cups, retailers are looking right past Thanksgiving and on to the holiday season.

One reason retailers are able to transition so quickly from Halloween to the holidays seemingly over night is that technological advancements in campaign planning, merchandising and execution has allowed retailers to complete campaigns in days as opposed to weeks or months.

What’s more, new research from the International Council of Shopping Centers notes that 95% of all holiday shopping will take place in brick-and-mortar stores with top reasons being that they want to try on merchandise before they buy and not pay for shipping costs that can drive ecommerce purchases higher.

With stores able to reset each location with their holiday-focused campaigns faster and the fact that the vast majority of holiday shopping will take place in those stores, brick-and-mortar is poised to have a strong Q4.

Check out our infographic below for the top 5 reasons why brick-and-mortar will rule holiday shopping this year.

Holiday Shopping Trends 2015

visual merchandising for ecommerce

How to Achieve Visual Merchandising Success

Visual merchandising software is a game-changer, because it does away with multiple tabs, Excel spreadsheets, and complicated streams of information and puts all of the information that you need to know in one convenient location.

However, it can be a massive undertaking for any online business to implement. In order to do it well, you need to stay on top of inventory, customer feedback, and various social media channels. All of that up adds up to one thing: time. Many small businesses and ecommerce startups don’t have the resources to properly maintain their online merchandising. That’s all about to change, as long as you get the right assistance with the implementation.

Visual Merchandising execution in ecommerce

For those of you who’ve just launched your ecommerce website or are in the process of making changes, you’ve probably figured out that online visual merchandising is a long-term game. It’s not enough to simply create a site and throw a few items up for sale. Successful online merchandising requires constant management, inventory upkeep, creative know-how, and an eye for design. Let’s delve a little deeper and take a look at how you can take your eCommerce site to the next level and increase conversion rates in 2015.

Successful online merchandising starts with getting your customers’ attention. It can be tricky choosing which items to put front and center. If your business is known for a particular product, try placing something else on the homepage. Shoppers respond to items that they want, not things that they already need. New items and fresh creations make great headliners. You should also showcase some of your most luxurious products upfront. Products with bright contrasting colors will catch their eye. Remember to rotate your promotional products at least every month or so. Frequent shoppers will want to see something new when they click on your site.

When it comes to listing products, keep underperforming items at the top. You can put surplus items next to more popular products. Items that are nearly sold out should be placed at the bottom. No one wants to get an “Out of Stock” message on the first item they see. Try mixing up colors on your product page. Put vibrant, contrasting items next to more neutral pieces. You should also group certain products together if they fall under the same category. This makes your ecommerce site easier to navigate and more user-friendly.

This article has been contributed by Smart Merchandiser , who is helping businesses take control of their ecommerce websites. They create an easy-to-use interface that replicates the look and functionality of your ecommerce site, one that also tracks inventory, abandonment rates, conversation rates, views, and customer satisfaction. Increase your ecommerce team’s productivity with merchandising software. Work smarter, not harder.

online returns versus brick and mortart

Online Retailing Hurt By The Other ROI

eCommerce is growing at an astounding rate, 14% in 2014 alone, creating a $1.5 trillion industry.

Unfortunately for online retailers, ROI can mean Return Of Inventory more than it can mean Return On Investment.

This holiday season, Deloitte projects online returns will EXCEED 30% of all purchases, which does not bode well for businesses counting on online sales to drive profit margins higher.

Contributors to the high rate of returns include:

  • items do not fit
  • the incorrect item was shipped
  • the items arrived damaged
  • the product was not what the buyer expected

Conversely, brick-and-mortar retail stores see less than a 9% return rate on average, due to the ability to see/touch/try on merchandise before they purchase.

The infographic below explains in more detail the benefits brick-and-mortar stores provide over online retailing that contribute to the delta between return rates for both channels.

online returns for holiday shopping

Battling In-Store Merchandising Zombies

Battling The In-Store Merchandising Zombie

In a couple of weeks it will be Halloween, and here in the US scores of young children at our doors will shout “Trick or treat!”. Imagine if the response was “Hmmm, we don’t seem to have any candy here in the foyer, but let me check in the back”.

For many physical retailers this scenario happens every day due to poor merchandising execution. At RBM, we were curious about the details behind this issue, so we commissioned a study with RIS News, and found that only an estimated 65% of retail promotions were executed properly, and that number has actually DECLINED in the last 10 years.

Omni-channel consumers are as demanding, impatient, and powerful as a Halloween 8 year old after 10 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and if retailers are serious about improving the in-store experience to remain relevant in the omni-channel world, they need to improve merchandising execution. So why isn’t merchandising quality improving?

  1. ‘Omni-channel’ retailing has massively increased merchandising velocity – In the last 10 years, retailers have significantly increased the number of promotions and SKU counts to align with online efforts.

  2. Sophisticated assortment planning significantly has increased field execution complexity – In the last 10 years, retailers have invested significantly in store clustering and optimized merchandising and assortments to improve inventory turnover.

  3. Technology transformation in the “last mile” of retail execution has been light – 62% of respondents in the current study still identify email and Excel spreadsheets as their execution tool for in-store merchandising initiatives.

Simply put, consumers are demanding more, the in-store environment has become significantly more complex, and yet many retailers have yet to put world-class digital tools in place to help retail teams cope. Over the next few years this will need to change, and the report provides great insight regarding the places retailers need to focus. Give it a read, and get your candy ready!

Storefront, Harrod's London, Visual Merchandising

Window Displays from Around the World

Window shopping is a favorite past-time of both casual and professional shoppers alike. Nothing beats walking down Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and staring at the myriad of merchandised windows.

That is all fine and good if you happen to live in Manhattan, or have a vacation planned soon, but what if you wanted to check out stores in various cities across the globe, all from the comfort of your laptop?

Storefront, Christian Dior, New York
Christian Dior, New York

Enter Shop Windows of the World, a site that allows you to do just that. Using what we believe is Google Street View, this site allows the user to check out a wide range of retail stores in a randomized fashion using their singular “Take Me Somewhere New” button.

The site works well and has some interesting stores showcased and although there were more repeat stores appearing than we had liked, all in all it was great to see how some well-known brands are represented globally.

You can start your window shopping experience at

Storefront, Tim Horton's Dubai, Visual Merchandising
Tim Horton’s, Dubai
Storefront, I Love NYC Gifts, New York
I Love NYC Gifts, New York
Storefront, Hermes Paris, Visual Merchandising
Hermes, Paris
Storefront, Schuh, London, Visual Merchandising
Schuh, London
Walgreens Boston Store redesign

What to Look for When Performing Visual Merchandising Audits

Merchandising audits provide regular checkups on retailers to ensure stores are carrying out merchandising objectives as directed by headquarters. In a article by, there are two basic categories of visual merchandising audits: shelf audits and seasonal/promotional audits. Shelf audits ensure planogram and pricing compliance while seasonal/promotional audits ensure that special promotion items are displayed and priced correctly. When performing shelf audits, there are several things the field rep should look for:

See the tips below from the article:

  1. In-Store Location: Is the product in the correct part of the store, as agreed upon with the retailer? This location should have been set during initial negotiations, so make sure that your products are in the right place.

  1. Shelf Position: Take note of the adjacent products. Knowing where your product is in relation to other products gives you a better idea of what type of marketing to use to compete with these neighboring brands.

  1. Facings: Studies have shown that a doubling of facings leads to a 20% increase in sales. You can choose to purchase more facings for your brand, but you should carefully weigh the cost of these extra facings with the projected increase in sales before making a decision.

  1. Product Holes: Are there open spaces on the shelf where your product should be? Check if those products are out of stock or if the retailer hasn’t restocked the shelf yet and the products are still in the back. Be proactive to ensure that these product holes are taken care of.

  1. Out of Stock: This is one of the most important things your field rep should be looking for while auditing. OOS causes major issues for distributors and retailers alike, and can result in a loss of up to of $75,000. It is vital to keep an eye on the availability of your products in order to prevent OOS, and audits can help you collect data to better predict and prevent OOS.

Retail Localization and Profitability

Seasonal and/or promotional audits:

  1. In-store Signage: In any promotion, awareness is the initial phase. It is important that customers know about the sale. If you paid for in-store signage, then you should make sure that it is optimally placed and is broadcasting the sale to the majority of customers.

  1. Special Ads and Displays: Once customers are aware of the sale, they should know where in the store to find the products, as well as what products are part of the sale. Displays are important especially at the point-of-purchase because they play a large part in consumer purchasing decisions.

  1. Seasonal/Promotional Pricing and Labels: If there is a disparity between what your sales promotions claim and what the pricing labels say, customers will not only be confused, but upset as well. This can result in lost sales if not quickly fixed.

  1. Employee Knowledge: This is perhaps the hardest aspect to measure but is important during promotions, as customers will typically ask the salesperson more specific questions. Therefore the employees can help boost your sales or cause you a loss in sales, depending on the extent of their knowledge.

Finally, there are Visual Merchandising Tools to ensure in-store compliance of products and POP. These Visual Merchandising Tools can be used by store staff to view updated planograms and communicate compliance back to headquarters through photo compliance. These tools provide an increase sales and reduce costs.


5 Creative Merchandising Strategies to Maximize Retail Opportunities

The beauty and personal care industry brought in $426 billion in 2011, that’s a lot of lipstick and shampoo! With some retail outlets carrying up to 25,000 beauty SKU’s, retailers are trying to find the best merchandising strategies to get a piece of multi-billion dollar a year industry.  In this month’s issue of Skin Inc. magazine, retail expert Charles Compton, gives readers 5 creative merchandising strategies to increase the likelihood customers will make a retail purchase.

From the article:


1. Scent

Emotionally connecting with clients can have a huge impact on selling success. Scent is widely considered to be the most emotionally connected sense. Scent can trigger powerful memories, and can subconsciously affect cognition and behavior. According to the Scent Marketing Institute, scent can be highly effective in helping distinguish one product from another. It can trigger a memory or desire that influences a purchase decision. Alternatively, scent can remind people of pleasant associations, whether that is their home, the beach or a meadow—helping to create a comfortable environment, which impacts a client’s decision to stay longer and purchase more. Some of the top scents that influence consumer behaviors and the emotion they reinforce are lavender, vanilla and chamomile, which remind of relaxation; and peppermint and citrus, which encourage alertness.

How to merchandise. Always have a candle burning in the reception area to make an impression and encourage retail shopping—and to help sell more candles. Also consider selling the fragrances you scent the other areas of the spa with, such as the scent diffusers used in treatment rooms, or body washes and sprays available in the locker rooms for clients to create a take-home spa story.


2. Product placement

Merchandising and display can have a huge affect on sales. Take advantage of the fact that most clients tend to gravitate toward items on the right side of shelves at eye level by positioning newer and higher-margin items in that space. Create discovery stations and touch points in the retail space, relaxation rooms and treatment rooms. Use the front desk for impulse items with higher margins, such as accessories and jewelry. Increase appeal with signage, lighting and interactive elements.


3. Perceptions of value

Shopper reward cards are an effective tactic for selling more and earning repeat clients—bargain promises are hard to resist. A visible sale sign in a window entices clients to view products even if they aren’t looking to shop. If it’s a limited-time sale, the urgency encourages them to buy more, without too much deliberation. “Gift with purchase” has long proven to be effective in cosmetics departments, and are a great way encourage clients to try samples with the goal of having them return to purchase larger sizes.


4. Music

Creating an atmosphere of retail theater puts clients in a mind-set and affects purchasing patterns. The type and pace of the music has been found to encourage purchasing—slower music makes shoppers relaxed and more likely to browse longer, and loud, fast music raises heart rates and increases per-minute sales.


5. Display

Regular clients have a tendency to look past merchandise they believe they have already seen, so rotating inventory and changing displays weekly is essential. Use seasonal themes to keep a fresh look, but make sure they are authentic to the overall brand strategy. Display props and mannequins can show off multiple items and attract clients into the retail space.Signage is also important to tie the story together. Utilizing residential-type props, such as picture frames as sign holders, trays to hold small items together and flowers in vases sends a message that the client is welcome and should feel comfortable spending time in your retail area.

By utilizing consumer science, skin care facility owners can appeal to clients’ senses, creating a warm and welcoming shopping atmosphere that will increase the time and money spent in retail areas.

Art of Window Displays

The Art of Window Displays



Window displays are like billboards for retail stores. Agreed on by experts,  attractive window displays and well-planned shop floors are key to driving sales. Below are samples of some of the most impressive window displays from top brands and questions just why they are so effective.

Infographic produced and created by ShutterCo



The secret strategy of TJX


On the surface, what TJX does is straight- forward: Its various chains sell mostly name-brand goods at a discount to traditional retail prices. How it continuously makes money doing this when so many others have failed is another tale—and that’s the mystery Fortune Magazine has set out to uncover. Fortune spent months talking to 50 former TJX employees and other retail insiders—including analysts, consultants, suppliers, and competitors—to re-create the company’s secret playbook. Here’s what they’re found.

Play No. 1:

Sell “new,” not a “sale.”

TJX shipped over 2 billion units this year. Their secret – keep merchandise fresh and create demand by controlling and limiting supply. Brand consultant Bill D’Arienzo calls the “buy now or cry later” mentality,  which gives customers a sense of urgency and entices them to buy.

TJX is selling hot new items at a lower price, instead of selling last seasons items at a “sale” price.

Play No. 2:

Put real treasure in the treasure hunt.

TJX’s off-price chain model for product placement is much different than normal retailers. Instead of new products being displayed in the front of the store, followed by a massive marketing campaign with print, social media, advertisements; a $1,250 Stella McCartney dress would be tucked back on a rack somewhere sold for $499.99.

Fortune explains, TJX makes a point of hiding gems for the well-heeled as well as the middle class. TJX is trying to create an experience sort of like a “treasure hunt,” where customers feels the rush when they find an item they might not know they’ve wanted, at a price point that feels like they are getting a steal for.

Play No. 3:

“The money is in the buy.”

The company’s buying organization is considered one of the best. In order to develop an expertise in a specific category of goods, TJX’s buyers focus much more narrowly than their department store counterparts; rather than be responsible for accessories, a TJX buyer might specialize in just handbags.

TJX buyers spend years perfecting their craft, and go through a rigorous training program. All because buyers are negotiating millions of dollars.



Play No. 4:

Have the vendor make it for you.

One of the biggest myths about T.J. Maxx is that the retailer sells merchandise that department stores or designers couldn’t sell. TJX finds some of its deals through other retailers who routinely return or cancel orders from manufacturers,

Surprisingly, many suppliers purposefully create excess merchandise for T.J. Maxx to buy, according to Fortune.

T.J. Maxx produces its own merchandise, too. About 10% of merchandise is under in-house labels such as Frou Frou for pet products or Mercer & Madison for leather handbags.


Play No. 5:

Take it all

Even though TJX is buying upfront, it can still secure a good price, because of the volume of orders it places for its thousands of stores.

“The magic sentence manufacturers wants to hear is, ‘We’ll take it all,’” a CEO of a rival retailer told Fortune.

“Outside of true luxury brands, anyone who tells you TJX isn’t one of their top five customers is either lying or doesn’t have a successful business,”Paul F. Rosengard, president and CEO of supplier Boston Traders. Some vendors actually make more money selling to TJX than to the other retail outlets.

Play No. 6:

Suppliers aren’t used-car dealers.
One reason the supplier relationship with TJX is so strong is that it has gotten so bad with the department stores. Department stores want concessions for advertising and markdown allowances. They want money for delayed deliveries and returns. Suppliers have given department stores hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in markdown money to a department store for a product that didn’t sell.

Fortune says the buyer-supplier relationship with TJX has historically been more of a partnership. TJX buyers are taught to make the vendor feel like it’s a win-win and to leave the door open if they can’t come to an agreement this time around. TJX also pays on time, which seems like a given, but suppliers can go out of business because they don’t always get paid.


Play No. 7:

Find a CEO who gets retail.

Carol Meyrowitz is no stranger to retail, growing up her father was a wholesaler and Meyrowitz started her career in retail as an assistant buyer straight out of college.

People who have worked with Meyrowitz say she has an intuitive sense of the business because she’s been on the frontlines.

“She’s one of the few executives that could do almost any merchant job in the company,” Sweetenham says. Meyrowitz has upgraded the stores, taking merchandise out and replenishing more frequently so they’re not as messy.

She’s also raised the stores’ taste level, expanding T.J. Maxx’s Runway collection; expanding into European market and introducing the retail giant to the world of e-commerce.

This story is from the August 11, 2014 issue of Fortune. Click here to view the full article