Where to place your pointe shoe fitting area or the best spot to merchandise fashion leotards are decisions that deserve serious consideration. “The goal of a successful store layout is to draw customers through the store, exposing them to all your merchandise and your brand,” says Becky Tyre, retail consultant and owner of the Retail Details blog.
How do you create a successful floor plan with savvy merchandise placement? We spoke to several storeowners to gain their expert insights. Read on for their tips on how to create the ideal merchandise map for your dancewear store.
Sometimes the decision is where not to put merchandise. Keeping the first 5 to 15 feet of your store—the so-called decompression zone—clean and neutral will draw customers into the store and get them in the frame of mind to shop. If you place any product or important information in this space, customers will miss it. “When people walk in, they’re usually still looking at our window display,” says Holly Bertucci, owner of The Dance Bag in Modesto, CA.
Instead, place a tabletop display just beyond the decompression zone. These displays, commonly referred to as speed bump displays, typically work well with an array of a store’s newest and most exciting merchandise, whether it’s a fitness accessory or a new fashion leotard—whatever’s right for your store’s focus and its target customer.
Bertucci has positioned a nesting table about 10 feet beyond the entrance. “I like to place something cute, new and catchy there,” she says. “Currently, it is the newest bag collection from Vera Bradley, mixed in with new Sugar and Bruno T-shirts.”
Since Bertucci’s store’s name is The Dance Bag, she likes to feature bags on this table. But she cross-merchandises them, stuffing them with accessories like scarves, yoga mats and legwarmers. And she changes them every week, even if she just rearranges current items—so that regular shoppers always see something different. For example, when the weather gets warmer, you’ll see beach towels and flip-flops in the display. During in-store events Bertucci will remove some merchandise and add a plate of cookies and balloons.
Megan Wolfe-Pelletier, manager at Dancingly Yours in Plainville, CT, stocks the front display with hot-ticket items like turning boards, which have been a big seller for the store recently. Makeup tools are also great to display toward the front of the store, she’s found—that’s where the cash wrap is. “The Makeup Applicator and Makeup Eraser are great items to demo in front of a customer to make a last-minute sale,” she says.
Creating a Friendly Vibe Right Away
Carolyn Jackson, owner of Dance Gear Etc. in Lutz, FL, says the space between her front door and her cash wrap, which is about 10 feet, is very important for creating an initial impression. “Customers judge in five seconds how they think their visit will go,” she says, which is why she likes to greet them with a warm smile when they enter this zone.
To create a friendly vibe as customers move into the store, Jackson has placed a round, three-tier shelf in the L-shaped space beyond the entrance. The top tier of the speed-bump display usually has small items such as jewelry, key chains and water bottles. The second tier holds several different styles of shoes that the store carries. (Just to the right, customers can try them on in the new shoe-fitting area.) The shelf is a brand statement for the store: “It shows we are a full-service dance retailer with shoes for almost all genres of dance, ranging from budget pricing to the more popular and higher quality brands,” says Jackson. “Our display shows we have eight brands, more than 20 models and a range of sizes from a child’s 3 to a men’s 13.”
The Power Wall—Where Customers Look First
As customers move further into your store, they typically head to the right first—where many successful retailers draw shoppers’ attention to a “power wall” filled with merchandise that expresses the store’s core brand message. Since this wall is one of the first things customers see, it helps create an overall impression of the store and can make the customer feel ‘I’m in the right place.’ Focus on filling it with new arrivals and the products that are most enticing to your customers. “Returning customers will know to look there first, and newcomers will be greeted with fresh new products,” says Tyre.
Beam & Barre in Cos Cob, CT, sells more children’s leotards than anything except shoes. “Our right-hand wall has a large built-in that stores a majority of our children’s leotards,” says owner Cara Milo. “It is color-coordinated, but every few feet are cubbies that we merchandise with bags, legwarmers and other fun accessories. This shows the customers what else they might like to buy.”
The Dance Bag hangs children’s items on the front right wall. During the cold months this year, Bertucci featured dance sweaters and children’s tutus to attract dancers of all ages. For spring and summer she replaced the sweaters with popular Sugar and Bruno T-shirts. A customer favorite featured a bobby pin and a hair elastic that says, “Let’s run away together.”
Fashion bodysuits are on display at the front left of Gabie’s Boutique in Newmarket, ON. “These are hot sellers with our customers right now, and we want them prominently on display,” says store manager Amy Manning. The store has five body forms and seven waterfall faceouts showing off the newest arrivals. Below the display, Manning hangs other styles of adult and children’s fashion leotards.
A slatwall works well for shoes at Grand Jeté in Saint Paul, MN. As customers enter the store, immediately at the front left they find a comfortable shoe-fitting area and then a wall of shoes on the right side of the store. “We are known for our fitting of pointe shoes, as well as other dance shoes, so this is where the majority of our customers are heading,” says owner Ruthena Fink.
Temptations on the Way to the Must-Haves
Experts have countless guidelines for what merchandise to put where, but every store is different. The overall goal of your layout is to get customers moving through your store, so they’ll see everything displayed on racks.
Independent retailers going for a boutique feel tend to arrange displays and fixtures in a free-flow style. At Beam & Barre, this means creating a layout that encourages customers to linger and shop. “I wanted it to feel like the customer could stay and wander around, so there is plenty of space to walk around and see everything,” says Milo. “I wanted the space to feel open and easily accessible to the eye, so that customers wouldn’t feel like they had to dig for things.”
Mary Ann’s Dance and More in Easthampton, MA, has a symmetrical layout, with the same number of racks on all sides and spinners in the middle. Owner Mary Ann Hanlon places necessities, like tights and basic leotards, toward the back of the store, so customers browse through other racks before getting to what they came in for. “It has a great traffic flow, so that there is room for more than one person to look at a rack at one time,” she says.
Merchandise outposts—freestanding cross-merchandised displays that draw the customer’s eye—keep customers moving further into the store but also get them thinking beyond the shopping list they came in with. At Mary Ann’s, tights are hung on a large slatwall feature in the back of the store. Customers pass by several four-way racks merchandised with colorful tutus and dance booties before they get to the tights.
Dancingly Yours stocks undergarments like bras and body liners in the back of the store, along with adult leotards in black and basic colors. “We try to keep all of our basics toward the back so that people have to walk through the store and see all of the things that they didn’t necessarily come in to buy,” says Wolfe-Pelletier. “They may want to pick them up after seeing all the cuteness.”
Manning locates her shoes, a staple for most of her customers, in the back of the store. Tights are set up nearby in a large drawer unit. “People come in specifically for tights, so it’s not something we need to give up prime retail floor space for,” she says.
After heading right, customers typically loop around the store, ending on the left. This is a good spot to place your cash wrap, and any impulse items you want shoppers to grab before they leave. “There’s a fine balance when choosing items to display in the register area to encourage impulse purchases and add-on sales,” says Tyre. “Point-of-purchase display space is best allocated to merchandise that may be of interest to most of your customers.” This may include a newly released book on dance, required tights for dress codes or related-interest items, like water bottles with catchy sayings or colorful hair bows.
Loube McIver, owner of New Mexico Dancewear in Albuquerque, places accessories and bags—high-margin impulse buys—near the register. Fink merchandises impulse items, such as key chains, small hair accessories and new products, like spray rosin and pointe shoe paint. In addition to stocking the checkout counter with small gifts, Bertucci uses it to promote gift cards, especially around holiday and recital season, she says.
The ultimate key to creating a successful floor plan with savvy merchandise placement is to always view things from your target customer’s perspective. “Every time we move merchandise, I walk around the store as a customer,” says Milo. “Is it visually appealing? Is it too overwhelming? Do I have enough space to walk around? My inspiration always comes from stores that I enjoy shopping in, and I ask myself what about it do I like, and what makes the experience pleasurable to shop here?”
Photos courtesy of the retailers