Psychology of Mass (For Vendors and/or fans of Retail Psychology!)
First thing off the bat it occurs to me I should clear the air – I am not referring to anything vaguely or even surreptitiously religious here.
Also, I am not sharing these views because anyone said to me, “oh Chris, you’re such a genius of retail. You are the best window dresser/layout/space designer and overall beautifier we’ve ever seen! Share with us your tips!” Nope, definitely not that either.
But having done the “store thing” now for nine months (closer to a year than not!) I am starting to feel like I might be learning a thing or two. And there are days when I have felt like it might help to share this info with my vendors, and would-be vendors, so that we’re all on the same page when we talk about what we’re doing, which is trying to sell their handmade work. If you’re not a vendor, don’t take that as a clue to stop reading – there might be something of interest here. I will get to the point quickly, I swear!
So here is what I have noticed; when we put items out, there is a definite excitement that starts almost immediately. Even if we are distracted and not paying too much attention, we find that customers are drawn like moths to the lure of the ‘new product’. Even (and especially) if it’s still on the table in the back, waiting to be entered into inventory and priced, there are those who will want to grab one and buy it. Maybe it is just Christmas or maybe it’s just that there’s something indescribably cool about being the first to have the ‘new thing’ on the block. Now, this really annoys my mother, who likes to have everything flow properly and get entered before selling – but as for me, I’ll say THANK YOU and how would you like that wrapped? There’s nothing wrong, as long as we know the pricing that the vendor has decided upon.
But let us say that no one comes in and we get the new stuff on the floor without incident. What works the best, almost without fail, is to mass the items together in a grouping without any other distracting products from another line. While this is nothing new maybe, I’ve noticed that some stores like to ‘cutesy’ things up by mixing one of this and that and one of the other on a shelf hoping that by ‘throwing it all on a wall, something will stick.’ Well, my feeling is that if you believe in something, Act like it! Putting it all together with nothing to back it up is like going out without makeup. You’re there, that’s you, take it and love it. Or don’t.
So then; that works out great when you have a number of similar but not the SAME items. With our biz, that’s usually what we get – a really interesting mix of a category (like upcycled lamps) that relate to one another but are in no way the same. SIMILAR is the word we’re using.
What is the magic number though? Too many and you risk losing the customer in a haze of confusion. They get soooooo excited and they’ll probably even say so, but then they leave and don’t come back. They just got overwhelmed. They need a good number to choose from, but NOT TOO MANY!. It‘s this magical number that we’re still trying to ascertain. For now, we’ve decided to test the number 10. It seems feasible that folks can find what they like but not get crazy. But when we drop below three…something else happens. A certain non-spoken judgment seems to come into play. As if they are thinking, ‘how creative is this artist really, if all they have on offer is three?’ Maybe they are musing, ‘well, what if I want that in a larger size or in blue?’ Who knows?! It’s just impossible to know. But there is a real truth to it. Once a category drops below three or four, there is a resistance to purchase, even in customers who have been attracted to the brand in the past.
So, those are my observations. I hope that they enlighten any would-be vendors and maybe even some who are currently vendors…. And for those readers who are customers, I simply say ‘thanks for being a customer! We’ll try to keep the stock levels at a nice, even keel though that might be somewhat akin to sailing a ship of cats to Hawaii and running out of kibble half way.” It might be a struggle, but we’ll definitely give it a good try.
Happy Holidays, all!
Big hugs, Chris