The Great Display

Now is the time to start planning your store's awesome display for the year.

Unlike baseball or Mark Twain, retailing isn’t known for its memorable sayings. Two, however, have stood the test of time. The first: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half,” came from John Wanamaker, an American department store magnate of the late 1800s. Wanamaker was speaking of the shot in the dark that retailers in his day (and today) take when they buy ad space or send out a flyer.

The other saying is a lot shorter: “Stack it high and watch it fly.” I don’t know who said that one. Probably some long-forgotten merchant, happily toiling away in a market 100 years ago or more. The P.T. Barnum of fruit, not freaks, if you will.

Regardless, “stack it high and watch it fly” is timeless. Even merchants in ancient times intuitively understood what you know by heart: That big displays flip on some kind of purchasing switch in people. The higher the stack, the better. The more colourful, too. And if you add balloons… well, you know, you can never have enough balloons.

I love big, elaborate displays in grocery stores, like the giant cookie displays that Knob Hill Farms put together in its heyday. They were towering. Awesome! Not every store can have the Empire State Building of biscuits, but when I visit the same supermarket several times and don’t see a great display up front or down a power aisle, something feels missing. Perhaps it is because at its most basic, grocery shopping is a largely mindless experience for the customer. Push the cart, tick o the list, hit the cash and you’re out without anything close to what marketing experts would call “engagement.”

Great displays blow that boring facade to smithereens. They put the fun in retailing. If you don’t believe me, look at the smile on the face of a customer who encounters one. Better yet, the smile on the employee’s face who just spent a few hours building one. He’s like a kid with a new Lego set.

And nothing puts a smile on the faces of our editors at Canadian Grocer as when you send us photos of your great displays. Here are two we received recently. The one below comes from a Sobeys store in Ancaster, Ont., and was put together for a back-to-school promotion. Not only is it eye-catching, it took a lot of planning and co-operation among staff and the supplier (in this case, Kraft). Also pitching in was a company that makes playground equipment. It supplied the school bus.

The top photo is from the Superstore in New Minas, N.S., and celebrates the local Apple festival that ran in October. Produce manager Paul Keddy and his staff spent four hours putting it together. It was worth it, with sales of locally grown apples, such as Honeycrisps, climbing daily as a result.

As we turn the corner on a new year, ask yourself what instore excitement you will create this year using displays. Start thinking about the special occasions coming up on the calendar and challenge your staff and your suppliers to think big. Really BIG. Oh, and don’t forget to take some photos of your displays and send them to us at [email protected]. If we use your photo in our Merchandising Tips section, we’ll award you $100.

Of course, the real payoff for your store will be higher sales, proud staff and delighted customers.

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