A Penney For Your Thoughts

The Importance of Retail Merchandising

JC Penney. Again. Again clogging up our inboxes, our newsfeeds, our conversations. And for lack of a better saying: #SMH (shaking my head). Can you say retail merchandising catastrophe?

We get it Penney’s…you’re trying something new (again.) You didn’t get the inside out approach the first (couple) times around. You drove people into unchanged stores. Your customer service didn’t change. Your pricing model was still confusing. And now you’re bringing on a new CEO who understands the customer experience. Kudos! But, we have noticed he is lacking a critical background around product. Not to be a Debbie Downer, or anything.

Why Product Matters

Why do we bring up product? Ultimately, it’s what brings people into stores. It’s what makes consumers brand fanatics. It’s what grows brands and starts trends.

Look at Lululemon, Trader Joe’s, Johnny Cupcakes, and Sweet Green. Yes, they have outstanding customer service. Yes, they have identifiable brands on social media. Yes, they are omnichannel retailers. But, they also all have things customers WANT to buy, that customers can’t find elsewhere.

Stop Trying To Sell. Start Selling.

The brands mentioned above are all outstanding retailers. They all had to start somewhere, and they started with product. Outstanding retailers have fresh and unique products that consumers can’t find everywhere. They have products that fit with their brand and will resonate with their target customer. They pay attention to telling a product story (cough, cough, CURATION!), and make sure customers have something new to look at, every time they go into the store.

These retailers have evolved product lines. They have both basic and fashion components. They have their staples but they are also willing to take risks and try something new. And, if it doesn’t work out, they accept it and move on. They don’t dwell on their failures but capitalize on opportunities and chances. Just look at Lululemon as an example. They started strictly as a yoga brand and carefully tested the waters in both running and lifestyle apparel, thus growing their brand strategically from the inside, out.

How Does This Apply To You?

As a small business, it’s easy to sit back and play the blame game. Pity parties *can* be fun but aren’t particularly productive. You may be the best marketer, have the most beautiful store, and the best employees in the world, but if the customer can’t find something they want to buy then none of that matters. It’s important to constantly be looking at what you have in inventory. Is it working? Are customers coming in looking for it? Can customers find it a bunch of other places? Are my sales disproportionate to my inventory levels? Do you take markdowns if a product isn’t working, or do you dwell and sit on the inventory? Think about these things, and then, let’s talk.

Great customer service, social media, store design, etc. are all well and good but are irrelevant to success if you don’t have the right product at the right time. Go on! Get thinking about product!