Operating a retail business is such a rewarding experience – but it’s not all fun and games. There’s a lot that goes into building a successful business, from buying product, hiring and training a staff, establishing a brand, to merchandizing. I think of all the of the challenges and opportunities that are associated with operating a retail business, my favorite is merchandizing, or displaying product in the best possible way, to attract the most customers. It’s like playing with a real life jigsaw puzzle!
In all of my retail operations, one woman on my team is a true miracle worker when it comes to merchandizing and setting up a store. She’s brilliant! Carolyn Hultman, of Savannah, Georgia, has helped me open retail and restaurant locations across the country, and has a strong sense of the Paula Deen brand, and how to convey that story through product and interiors. She’s one special woman, and I couldn’t think of someone more capable to help me take on these particular endeavors. Y’all, she even helps me with my home interiors!
Because Carolyn is such a powerhouse when it comes to interiors and merchandizing, I’ve asked her to share three go-to secrets that she keeps in mind every time she goes into a new space.
Tell a Story
In every space that Carolyn and I go into, I hear her say over and over again, “Now Paula, we’ve got to tell a story!”
But what does that mean?
When Carolyn tells me that we have to tell a story, she means that we have to create a consistent visual message that comes across through every facet of the space – from wall colors, to wall décor, down to the actual product. For instance, if we’re in the business of selling kitchenware items as a specialty retailer, then it may not make sense for us to sell children’s toys, or automotive accessories!
Carolyn places a large emphasis on color. She’s helped me to establish Paula Deen brand colors, like a particular shade of dark green that we use across all of our locations. Use complimentary colors, and colors that play off of each other visually. And have fun with color!
Another way we tell a story is with the product itself. In our example of being a specialty kitchenware retailer, we carry a lot of adorable tabletop ceramic products, like salt and peppershakers, butter dishes, and condiment vessels. Because those products are all thematically related, it’s fun to show them off in a faux table setting kind of way. It’s a visually interesting way to show off the product, and also gives our shoppers an idea of how the product can be used.
Keep Inventory at Eye Level
One thing that Carolyn is so good at helping me with is making sure that the product is at just the right location so that your eye travels right to it. Her rule of thumb that she passed on to me is to try to keep product at eye level are just below. I laughed at first when she told, “Never let a tall person hang a portrait for you,” but you know, her point makes sense. If a product is too far out of someone’s natural line of sight, then they’re less likely to see it at all. People don’t like to search for something that’s hard to find. Shopping should be easy, and it’s easiest if everything is right there for people to naturally see.
Carolyn’s tip is to start low, just below eye-level and then let the eye naturally travel upwards to eye-level.
Play Up Seasons
This last one may seem like a no-brainer, but I still can’t stress it enough, probably because the seasons and holidays are so important to me. When we’re changing out our stores for the seasons, Carolyn and I really have the best time taking full advantage of it! It’s an easy way to immediately make your consumers feel like they’ve just come home.
No matter what the season, or holiday, we always makes sure that we do two things (1) dress the store to match the season, and (2) bring in new product to take advantage of the season. In our example, at Christmastime, which is probably the one time of the year where we really go all out, not only is the store made over to be a winter wonderland, but we also bring in a few new product items, like signature Christmas ornaments, and holiday-themed dinnerware to meet our customers’ holiday needs.
By playing into the seasons and holidays, it helps to keep you and your product relevant all year long.
I hope y’all have fun with merchandizing the same way Carolyn and I do – it’s always an exciting adventure to switch the floor over to a new theme, and make all of the puzzle pieces fit together.
As always, I’m wishin’ y’all love and best dishes!
Paula Deen will be joining us this Saturday, July 12 showcasing her exciting new line of gourmet foods, including signature condiments, sauces, chocolates, preserves and premium baking mixes. Get ready for an up close and personal visit and get the latest news about her Paula Deen Live Tour and new restaurant. Also, learn more about The Bag Lady Foundation, which was launched by Paula to provide hope, inspiration and support to women and families in need.