Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Outfit Table

In traveling around the country the last few years doing Sell-Through boot-camps, sectional presentations and educational seminars, one topic that always comes up and demands retail discussion and scrutiny is the ladies business. Are we devoting too much time, effort and inventory? Does everyone have the same low bar of “break-even and be happy”. The tone of these discussions is almost always negative.

I’ve also found in traveling to various clubs that quite often the amount of apparel inventory overage is usually disproportionately ladies to men’s no matter what the overall percentage of business per these two categories. Typically, both as a concept in conversation and in the reality of scrutinizing the inner workings and merchandising of many shops the questions manifest themselves around collection buying. It starts with “do we have room to devote to this kind of presentation” and almost always ends with “do women buy this way any-more?” Collection buying defined for this conversation as buying all the items in the collection or a goodly portion (12-15 skus).

 It occurred to me while I was working at a high volume club with a relatively small shop that ladies collections were not appropriate to the space available when sure enough the next customer (a very patronizing male member) came in to complain that he always had trouble finding his wife an outfit in the shop. So much for that line of thinking or MAYBE not. Outfit became the key word.

This particular shop was doing one-third of their apparel volume in ladies categories but had an over-inventoried situation that was 50% ladies goods. In an effort to minimize the amount of space and skus devoted to the collection mode of buying and merchandising while at the same time perhaps improving our critical member’s ability to buy for his wife we came up with the concept of the OUTFIT TABLE.

 This is a great way to showcase ancillary items (totes, pillows, jewelry, etc.) that complement the outfits and easy for the shopper who may be looking for the perfect gift. Rather than wandering around the store, he or she will find a table with a finish look from head to toe. This gives the consumer a few options with different colors and allows the buyer and staff to showcase their facility’s style.

Grace Schory – Golf Shop Buyer – Ponte Vedra Inn and Club

An Outfit Table displays multiple ladies’ bust forms -dressed with 4-5 piece outfits, surrounded by a size run inventory for each sku as well as shoes, headwear and accessories that coordinate well with the outfits and create a lifestyle presentation.  Outfits do not necessarily have to be from the same vendor but should look great together on the busts and be diverse in color. As the table sells through outfits should be replace by new outfits (perhaps a new vendor) and certainly a new color palette. 

In this case, the table chosen was already housing 12-15 skus. We placed the table in a location where the three full-size ladies’ bust forms on the table would not block any view across the shop. It is anticipated that there would be no back-up buy per outfit. Although the dilemma of “we’ll be out of it if you wait will certainly be true of some outfits from some vendors, it will certainly not be true of ALL outfits. The point is fill-in purchases for new outfits could be pre-booked, filled as needed either or a combination of both - this could be viewed as a 'count and fill' area - bought for as needed.

The Rule of Three

In creating displays, most visual merchandisers will often refer to the rule of three, which means that when creating a display, try to work in sets of three. This means that based on how you’re arranging your products, you’ll want to have three of them side by side, instead of just one. For example, if you were arranging things by height, you’d have items that were short, medium, and tall. 
The reason behind this thinking is that our eyes are most likely to keep moving and looking around when we’re looking at something asymmetrical, because when we see some symmetrical or balanced they stop dead in their track.

This also alludes to the "Pyramid Principle," where if you have one item at the top, and all other items “one step down”, it forces the eye to look at the focal point and then work it’s way down.          Humayan

The hope is to inspire more multiple piece purchases with this approach by showing more combos and colors in less space and create an area of interest that will encourage regulars to check out immediately what new outfit is being displayed in the shop. This could replace collection buying in the shop, but not necessarily, depending on the size and history at the facility. The main goal is to free up valueable space and to have less residual inventory at the end of a sell -through.

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