SMARTER DISPLAYS CAN FOCUS CUSTOMER ATTENTION

NEW YORK -- Displays are more than simple product placement. They're a high-impact tool merchandisers can use to increase revenues, a design specialist advised attendees at the 47th Annual International Fancy Food & Confection Show, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.Andrew Andoniadis, president of Andoniadis Retail Services, Portland, Ore., explained that once customers

NEW YORK -- Displays are more than simple product placement. They're a high-impact tool merchandisers can use to increase revenues, a design specialist advised attendees at the 47th Annual International Fancy Food & Confection Show, sponsored by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

Andrew Andoniadis, president of Andoniadis Retail Services, Portland, Ore., explained that once customers enter a store, the retailer's next challenge is to get them to linger so they'll buy. A store's displays are a key way to accomplish this goal, he said. But not all retailers are doing a good job of it.

"The most glaring, repeated mistake supermarkets make is to not focus and concentrate their customers' attention on any one item," Andoniadis told SN. "Retailers simply merchandise. They fill their stores with products in rows, on shelves."

But some forethought about presentation will increase profit opportunities, he suggested. Stores can plan their displays by remembering the purpose of the display, such as introducing a new product or featuring a slow-moving one; delineating what merchandise to promote; and, especially, focusing with detail and originality on the one or two product categories the store is best known for.

"Make the display something really special," he said. "You want people to stand in front of it and say 'Wow!' This grabs their attention. The experience creates a 'want' in the customer, who'll tell other people."

In one example, Andoniadis used the favorable word of mouth that tends to occur when someone describes a store as having, say, "the greatest selection of olive oil." This type of praise really "sticks in customers' minds," he said.

Deciding where to put a particular display is also crucial, Andoniadis said, noting it's never a bad idea to "give customers a show in the first third of the store" because, even if customers don't go any farther, they've had a good feel for the store, a positive experience."

Acknowledging people's predilection to turn right, Andoniadis suggested using a curved, front-of-the-store display to naturally guide customers along the path retailers wish them to travel. And, while a display should be good looking, it should not overshadow the items it purports to sell, Andoniadis cautioned.

"Let the merchandise be the star," he said, describing the potential scenario of customers being so enthralled with overhead decorations that their gaze is toward the ceiling, instead of on the product at eye level.

With many products inherently similar, Andoniadis encouraged retailers to buy those that show well and have unique packaging. Along with product details, he emphasized the importance of paying attention to the small things.

"Retail is detail," he said. "You never know the one thing the customer will react negatively towards and how one little screwup will affect the customer."

Color has an incredibly powerful and emotional effect, he added. Matching a hue with a product can yield remarkable results for "zero additional cost." Lighting, too, can make or break a display. Hot lights raise temperatures to uncomfortable levels, and brighter lights are a necessity in the back of the store, where natural light cannot penetrate.

Simple shapes and arrangements also factor into a good display, he said, describing how products arranged diagonally are eye-catching and abrupt -- great for holiday merchandising -- as opposed to the placid feel of items arranged horizontally or in curves.

Similarly, better-selling products should be merchandised above and below eye level, and newer, higher-margin product at eye-level. One schematic to avoid is mixing high- and low-profit items in the same display, such as "a $100 bottle of wine next to a $1 beef jerky."

He advises retailers to use props for height and visual interest, and consistent-looking signage that emphasizes benefits to upsell more expensive items.

"[But] don't try to do too much," Andoniadis said, noting that customers, in general, do not "reach, bend, read or ask questions." The display had better say it all.