Make the Most of Your Merchandise

Be honest, have you ever been guilty of refering your customers to the local hardware store for items they need to make the equipment you’ve rented them work? If the answer is yes, then you need to rethink your approach to merchandising your rental inventory.

The truth is, many rental companies overlook this part of the business. Many simply don’t carry enough or the right consumables, and therefore lose a portion of their potential sale to hardware stores or big box retailers. Others carry the right merchandise, but don’t do an effective job of promoting it.

The first step toward success is realizing the potential business you could bring in from selling consumable items with your equipment. If you rent belt sanders, for example, you should also stock the sand paper belts to go with it, in all the various grits your customers might need. Likewise, offering detergents to go with carpet cleaners is another good idea. Why send your customer to the hardware store for these items, lose the additional sale (and risk them having the sudden realization they could probably have rented the tool they wanted at that hardware store too).

Once you’ve made the commitment to carrying an appropriate amount and selection of consumables, the next step is effectively merchandising your goods. Using the right merchandising techniques can make your selling job easier, and increasing retail sales at your rental operation can boost your bottom line considerably.

Good merchandising does the following:

  • Increases your sales per customer. Even when you serve a customer, an attractive merchandising arrangement will stimulate extra sales.
  • Raises your total sales. You can only wait on one customer at a time, but many customers can serve themselves at the same time from the displays you build.

Relating space to volume

For maximum sales, the amount of space a department occupies should relate to the volume the department generates. You should display what your customers are interested in.

The only way to know how much space you should allocate is to routinely check the store’s record of sales per square foot for each department. The space a store allocates to a department must change constantly. The seasons affect all departments to a greater or lesser degree. Allocate high-traffic areas to seasonal merchandise, regularly changing the display with the seasons.

Make it effective

Good merchandising is not simply an attractive display. Merchandising, to be effective, makes the entire showroom inviting. No store is well merchandised until all areas of its salesfloor are appealing and easily accessible to shoppers. Effective merchandising demands:

A well-planned salesfloor — Assign every department a specific display area.

Fixtures and accessories designed for the merchandise they display — Stores waste space and lose sales per square foot when they do not use the correct shelf profile and accessories for each merchandise category.

Adequate aisle space — The best display loses selling power if merchandise blocks the aisles and shoppers cannot reach it.

Inviting displays — A display is more than merchandise on a fixture. The items must be clean, the display complete (which means you have to restock the fixture regularly) and the backup stock nearby.

Attractive signs and decor — Signs and decor serve two basic purposes: they create a buying mood and help direct customers into all areas of your showroom.

End displays — The displays at the end of each gondola run, called feature ends or end caps, are highly effective.

Aisle space — Never crowd the customer by reducing aisle space. There are three basic aisle types in a store:

  • Main aisles, where major customer traffic is routed, are normally limited to one or two aisles from the front to the rear of the store. Main aisles should be five to six feet wide.
  • Cross aisles, that feed from main aisles to each side of the store, are normally four to five feet wide.
  • Secondary aisles, which run from main and cross aisles into all parts of the store.

Display related merchandise on both sides of an aisle, rather than around a gondola where the customer can see only half the merchandise at a time. Cross-aisle merchandising makes many department’s stock seem more complete.

Shelf space — Shelf space is wasted when a store:

  • Overstocks one item while understocking another
  • Fails to refill bins or shelves when the basic stock is reduced
  • Stocks the same items in several places
  • Uses the wrong shelf profile
  • Does not relate shelf space to customer demand fluctuations

It’s more effective to merchandise vertically. That is, display similar goods up and down, on perfboard and shelves, rather than stretching them out along a gondola. The display is more attractive and it’s a lot easier to reorder and restock.

Wall-fixture profiles — Although the shelf profile is only one element in effective display, it’s an important one. The way the shelf is placed on the fixture is only one element in successful merchandising. How you arrange the merchandise on the shelves is also important. Three quick tips:

  • Show as much as possible. Most large stores try to avoid backroom stock.
  • Display the most profitable items between belt and eye level.
  • Never display a single item. Use the “good, better, best” approach so the customer has a choice of quality.

Information provided by the National Retail Hardware Association and Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors of America.