Be bodacious with your mistakes

Massive visual repetition is a boon when you need to sell a lot of discounted stock fast, but it should also be part of your everyday merchandising DNA.

There’s an old adage in retail that you ‘sell your mistakes’. What it means is that the first time you place a 20 ‘outer’ order, but put the 20 in the ‘case’ box on the order form, seven days later you receive six, 10, 12, 24 or 50 times more stock than you needed.

Of course you think the system mis-ordered, or the supplier over-shipped, but when you look back at the original order, with your signature on it, you realise you made the mistake.

The good thing about retail is you have the ability to turn stock into cash before you have to pay for it. So once the initial shock is over, you build a wall of the over-stocked item at the entrance to the store, mark the price down, and put a big ‘SPECIAL’ sign above it. You put handwritten POS on the sidewalk and in the window. And wait.

Ten days later you have sold out of the stock, have generated a greater cash margin than you ever have before, and pay the bill when it arrives.

And the key merchandising mechanic you use to move that stock, to stop the shopper in their tracks and impulse purchase something they didn’t think they needed, is massive visual repetition.

Walking through stores in the US this month I saw this mechanism used in a Tom Thumb grocery store, an All Saints clothing store, a Converse footwear store, and as part of the weekly ‘fence’ at the entrance of every Costco.

Here it isn’t used to clear a mis-keyed order, but as a key part of these stores’ visual merchandising DNA. They create visual scale by ‘visual blocking’. In the case of the All Saints store it wasn’t even using their own product, just several hundred old Singer sewing machines.

As a young merchandiser I was taught ‘brand blocking’ with CPG products in grocery. Then with fine bone china tea cups in department stores. Over the years I have seen so many clever displays that merely involved huge visual repetition to create excitement and increase sales to shoppers.

So even before you mis-order, try a big, bodacious display of the same product in your store and see what happens. Chances are you’ll move a heap of stock, very quickly.

CROSSMARK CEO Kevin Moore looks at the world of retailing from grocery to pharmacy, bottle shops to car dealers, corner store to department stores. His international career in sales and marketing has seen him responsible for businesses in over 40 countries.


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