More stores opened than closed in 2017, according to IHL Group, with retailers like T-Mobile adding 1,500 new locations. Yet, JCPenney, Foot Locker, Toys ‘R’ Us and others have shuttered hundreds already this year. How are some retailers increasing sales in retail and expanding their store footprint, while others shut their doors?
While there are many factors, successful retailers are taking a new, more aggressive approach to space management. Instead of relying on traditional clustering and one-size-fits-all planograms, they are taking a more ‘store-centric’ approach — investing in building robust digital models of their entire store footprint, putting digital merchandising tools in the hands of their associates, and using automation to enable visual merchandisers and space planners to quickly and easily create store-specific plans.
It makes sense. As retailers look to maximize sales per square foot they need to experiment with new formats, make quick decisions about what’s working, and then quickly adapt to replicate success.
According to One Door’s new survey of 250 retailers, there is a direct correlation between this new approach to space management and sales growth. Retailers that take a store-centric approach are far more likely to be among the retail “winners” with year-over-year sales growth of 5% or more.
Here’s what this new approach looks like in practice.
Leverage Big Data To Create Store Plans That Sell
In the age of Amazon, online retailers are leveraging customer data and creating hyper-personalized experiences that are difficult for traditional retailers to replicate. Good news for brick-and-mortar merchandisers — it is possible to bring this same level of personalization to stores using the right data and a digital store model.
According to the survey, 93% of retail winners use data to drive space management decisions. All winners also collect data on their store assets — fixtures, SKUs, POP, floor plans, etc. — in a single repository where they can be used to drive value.
By using data to understand product adjacencies, a merchandiser can know they sell more of Product A when it is closer to Product B and not near Product C; plan more successful launches; and curate personalized collections that convert. A single repository of store data enables retailers to quickly make adjustments to store plans based on this data and restructure campaigns in a fraction of the time.
Retail winners also utilize big data to experiment and create more impactful store campaigns. Capturing data from each campaign, 100% of winners track store conversion rates and campaign sales performance to adjust for the future.
If you’re not tracking these metrics, odds are three to one that you’re falling behind the winners.
Encourage Two-Way Communication With Stores
Everyone benefits from seamless, two-way communication between HQ and the store for space management. Store associates understand the frustration of receiving a generic execution plan delivered via a printed binder or email, and merchandising managers must resolve any discrepancies in the plan based on what they have available in store.
Nearly 60% of retail winners put digital tools in place for this purpose, and enable store associates to provide immediate feedback to visual merchandisers at HQ when they’ve completed a reset or run into an issue. In fact, 90% of winners encourage direct feedback from store teams.
With these tools, retail winners communicate merchandising directives to stores more often, averaging more than seven directives per quarter.
Automate Space Management With Digital Tools
Last minute merchandising changes can be difficult to manage as stores increasingly become short staffed, particularly during busy shopping seasons. Winners are combatting this reality by using digital tools to automate space management in every store.
At HQ, this can include automating store reset planning; using purpose-built apps to communicate updates, promotions and product launches; and using store data to customize these activities to each store. At the store level, it can include using tablets to guide the placement of products and promotional materials and incorporating big data in the analysis of merchandising completion, compliance and effectiveness.
Retail winners today are using digital tools to track and plan exact store layouts and fixture locations: 97% of retail winners are providing step-by-step guidance for store associates executing merchandising directives in store. The result is that products and promotions are placed on time and according to plan. When that happens, customers have an easier time finding what they came for and, more importantly, what they didn’t.
Space management excellence requires time and effort, but is one of the surest drivers of same-store sales. Retail winners take a store-centric approach to the problem, using digital tools to simplify tasks for associates and iterate faster. With ever-increasing demand for personalization, localization and unique store formats, time is of the essence. Retail losers must invest in making merchandising easy for their organization — or they may just disappear.
E.Y. Snowden is the president and CEO of One Door, a leading provider of cloud-based merchandising software. Snowden brings over three decades of wireless, retail and software expertise to One Door. Follow @onedoorretail.