All merchants know that stock management is one of the trickiest business tasks to get to grips with. Merely using stock control software (and common sense) to keep stock levels where they should be is only the beginning of the sales process, however – particularly when it comes to winning new custom.


 For DIY and non-trade customers in particular, your shop must make the right impression if you’re to secure a sale – from the front window, right through the shop and to the checkout. That’s where visual merchandising comes in. Carefully crafted shop displays aren’t just for boutiques and supermarkets; builders’ merchants and other traders should brush up on visual merchandising too.

#1 Needs vs. wants

The majority of customers will come into your store knowing almost exactly what they’re looking for, so there’s little point dedicating display space to these ‘needs’. Instead, promote ‘wants’. These premium products from top brands have a bigger margin than ‘needs’, and if you put them in a prominent position in the store you’ll be more likely to secure a sale.

#2 Showcase new arrivals

Rotate displays every two to four weeks to showcase new and seasonal products. This will add interest for your regular and returning customers.

#3 Don’t isolate products

If you’re ordering a batch of related items (lawn mowing or gardening equipment, for example), then hold back on creating a display for these products until most or all of them have been delivered. This gives you the opportunity to display these items together and increases the chance of gaining add-on sales.

#4 Use colour to draw and hold interest

As a builders’ merchant, you might think that fancy, arty displays are unnecessary, but the careful use of colour combinations can draw the eye to products you’d like to showcase. Contrasting and complementary colours work best, such as red/white or white/black.

#5 Use height to your advantage

Stacking shelves from floor to ceiling may be the best way of getting the most products in your store, but cramped displays are likely to dent sales – at least putting off DIY shoppers. Instead, think more carefully about height. Have lower displays at the front of the shop, gradually increasing the height as you head further into the store. This means that customers will have a clear view of much of the merchandise as they enter the store.

#6 Irrelevant object in window

As a builders’ merchant, you might not have as much passing trade as clothes retailers or bakeries, but your window display should still have the ability to tempt people off the streets and into the store for an impulse buy. One trick that some traders use is to install an unrelated prop in the shop window to draw attention to your store. It could be anything from a memorable sculpture to an antiquated object. The aim of these oddities is to make passers-by stop and question why they’re in the window display. They’ll either come in to explore the shop or at least remember it!

#7 Consider lighting and shadows

Take a tour of your store and make note of any areas where lighting is poor or products are in shadow. Consider investing in additional light sources or moving displays or stock to prevent this.

#8 Asymmetry, the rule of three and pyramids

If you want to add interest to a display, consider how to set it apart from rows of shelves. Asymmetry often draws the eye, and the all-powerful rule of three also applies. Consider using a pyramid shaped display: the viewer will look at the top-most product before their eyes reach the products either side and below.

#9 Signs and space

Every store should be easy to navigate. Leave plenty of space to aid product visibility and use signage to direct customers around the shop. This tip may seem simple but signs and space can drastically improve a customer’s retail experience.

#10 Never let displays become sparse

A sparse display may show that a product is popular, but empty shelves can be off-putting to potential customers. Either restock or rotate.

Visual merchandising is key to winning and retaining customers, but all your efforts will be for nought if you don’t have the right stock in the right place at the right time. Stock control software is integral to almost every builders’ merchant in 2015. Is your software due for an upgrade?