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Small Shop Lessons From Retail’s Biggest Names

By Meg Glasgow, Industry Expert

Though the retail industry continues to face pressure from e-commerce, several brands have done a great job of enhancing their businesses and their brands through bricks-and-mortar visual merchandising. Major brands like Starbuck’s®, Pottery Barn® and Anthropologie® have survived and even thrived by creating a particular aesthetic in their physical space.


These retailers have the strength of dedicated merchandising teams, but that doesn’t mean that small independent stores can’t borrow some of their best ideas. I regularly look to brands like these for inspiration and ideas.


Here are some ways owners of independent custom frame shops, like myself, can incorporate merchandising tactics used by some of the country’s top retailers.  To get started, begin with your target customer in mind to help you develop a framework to work from.  Develop a customer profile in writing and include which big brands also target this customer. If you need help identifying your customer,  we recommending the post Who Your Customers Are…And Who They Could Be.



1. Source your inspiration


Once you’ve decided what brands fit your target, look for how they are reaching out to their customers with visual imaging. Many big brands are on visual social media accounts on Facebook and Pinterest, which allows you to organize the images that most inspire you. Do your research offline with catalogs and store visits, and make note of how their merchandise works in their space.



2. Avoid the cluttered look


Researching the big brands, you’ll noticed that their merchandising tends to be well organized, with consideration given to spacing, color and movement throughout the store. Keeping displays uncluttered is a good rule of thumb for any custom frame shop.



3. Light the way:


Consider how you are using lighting in your space. You can do so much more than just lighting up the space. Accent lighting is a great way to set a mood and provide focus on a particular display.


Painting an accent wall is a great way to bring color and emphasis into your shop. Choose a color that is re ective of your brand and establishes the kind of image your want to portray in your physical space. Catalogs from Pottery Barn or higher-end furniture stores are a good source of ideas.



5. Change your merchandising regularly


My rule of thumb is that each time a customer comes in, he or she will see something new. This means making changes every 10 days, about the length of time covering a visit to the shop to drop off a project and one to pick it up.


When we worked together on her retail makeover, contest winner Sheri Wright modifed this advice to t the business model of her shop, which includes a sizable gallery component. With art for sale, she builds in extra time to keep it on display given the longer purchase cycle art buyers in her community typically have. She still makes changes on a schedule of once every four to six weeks and ensures that she has something new to be seen during the monthly art walks she participates in.



6. Keep tabs on trends and marketplace changes


Target® may offer low prices, but it stands out from its competition due to its focus on trends. Anthropologie, a home and women’s clothing retailer, is very conscious of changes in the marketplace and is known for being a trend-setter, getting ahead of what it anticipates will appeal to its audience. Find retailers whose look and feel influences your audience and stay abreast of what they are doing. Visit stores, subscribe to catalogs and look through magazines that target your audience for inspiration that you apply to your store merchandising.



7. Don’t be afraid to show off


If you visit places like Nordstrom® or Pottery Barn, their most impressive products take center stage, not their most basic or value-oriented ones. Customers may come to the Nordstrom shoe department for a simple black flat or to Pottery Barn for a neutral throw pillow, but the spiky turquoise heels and massive candle chandelier draw their attention. Sometimes those kinds of things end up being just what they needed (but never knew).


In a series of focus groups conducted for Tru Vue®, participants expressed the value they see in custom framing to enhance their pieces.  Customers are interested in what you have to o er that is special and out of the ordinary.  Make sure you are showcasing your most creative work on your display wall, in your window and in other places around your shop.



8. Focus on specific products and services


Focus on specific products and/or services to keep things interesting and highlight those that customers might not know about. Major brands plan their marketing calendars well in advance to focus on certain products. You can do the same with custom framing. One month you may choose to highlight custom-cut mats. In another you might focus on preservation techniques and materials. This not only gives you something to keep your shop updated, it also helps educate your customers.


When grocery shopping, you probably notice the end-caps where certain products are featured. Grocers charge for this positioning in the store and brands are willing to pay for it because it works. Making space in your shop to feature certain types of products, materials or techniques is the custom frame shop version of that.



9. Go seasonal and beyond


A simple way to build a calendar for updating your merchandising is to focus on seasons. Major retailers cover more than just the basic four. For example, there are a number of holidays and other times of year that are a great t for custom framing, such as graduation, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and the December holidays. Feature the framing of family portraits in November to inspire December gift ideas. Kick off baseball season by featuring framed sports memorabilia.

This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.

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