Is That All Ya Got? 1

Copyright © 2008 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in February 2008, Volume 33, No. 8 of The Engravers Journal

A good display should captivate your customers.


    Many years ago, showroom displays were not a top priority for trophy and award shop owners. They were often too busy selling and cranking out orders to worry about something like the type and amount of merchandise they had on display. With all of the research and information available today, however, most R&I retailers realize just how important showroom displays are to the success of any retail operation.
    This article series will look at several R&I showrooms and offer some proven design principles that can help improve almost any showroom display. It's common knowledge these days that appealing to the customer's eyes and brain is the best way to make a sale. Now, let's discuss how to apply this concept to your retail shop.
    What you see in Figure 1 is a rather typical trophy display. It's not all that bad, it's not all that good - it's just rather typical. One day, quite a while back in this particular showroom, a customer walked in, looked around for some time and then asked the proprietor, "Is that all ya got?"
    The shop owner tried to explain that they had some catalogs and other items in the back, but regardless, the shopper's words offended the proprietor. Later that day, the owner met with her employees around the lunch table and said, "You know, I've heard people ask that question two or three times over the last six months or so. I don't want anyone else coming in here and saying, "Is that all ya got?" so I want you to put more merchandise out on display so people can see it." You can see the results in Figure 2.
    But guess what? A very strange thing happened after they put more awards out in their showroom. Before, people were only asking, "Is that all ya got?" a few times a year, but after they put more stuff out on display they noticed that customers were saying it much more often. During a lunch period shortly before the ARA Las Vegas trade show, the proprietor of the shop said to her employees, "I'm going to that show and I'm going to show those people! We're going to order more awards to put on our display so people will stop asking "Is that all ya got?"
    The shop owner was convinced there was a new trend taking place where most shoppers wanted a much greater selection of merchandise. So, off she went to Las Vegas where she ordered more stuff (Fig. 3).
    She wasn't the only person to fall into this trap. A lot of people think that if customers want to see more merchandise, the solution is to have a display in which every part and component they have is thrown in there for customers to see (Fig. 4). But a large number of customers will still ask, "Is that all ya got?"
An Idea Is Born
    Let me tell you how I became interested in this whole idea of showroom displays for the recognition and identification industry. I have been in this industry since 1965, practically my whole adult life. In the early 1970s, I was traveling around and calling on trophy shops when I began to notice that I could go into some shops, gain the proprietor's interest in what I was selling and get out much faster than I could at other shops. I noticed that these were the shops where the proprietor wasn't spending as much of his or her time waiting on clients. There were certain types of displays, I found, that allowed dealers to wait on the customer and satisfy their requirements much faster. What I mean is, with one kind of display, the proprietor would spend an enormous amount of time getting an order. But with other displays, customers could come in, find what they were looking for and place their order, all within a short period of time. Thus, the proprietor was free for me to make a presentation about whatever I had to sell him.
Figure 1: An example of a typical trophy display.


Figure 2: Adding more products to an award display adds clutter and confusion.


   I began paying very close attention to this each time I went into a new shop because, consequently, these highly-effective showrooms looked like a win-win situation for both me and the business owners I was calling on. When I would go into a store that didn't have this kind of effective display, I began making suggestions and trying to share this idea with the owners.
   Unfortunately, I had nothing to show these people to explain what I meant. That's when I bought a camera and began carrying it in my sample case. Then, as I traveled around I would take photographs of the better trophy displays I saw and I would put them in a notebook to use as a visual aid. And then, when I would come across one of those crummy displays, I would get my notebook out and show the shop owner pictures of what a good display looked like. But many of them would respond by saying, "Oh, yeah! That looks just like mine!" That's when I realized that if I only showed pictures of the good displays then people would try to find even the slightest similarity to their display, ignore the rest and think theirs was good.
   And so on my next series of trips, I started taking pictures of the worst displays, and I put those in my book, too. When people asked me for advice, I'd just start flipping through the book. When they saw the good looking displays, they'd say, "Yeah, that looks like mine." But when I got to the bad displays, they'd say, "Oh my gosh, that looks just like mine!" That was the effect I wanted. And so, the next time I stopped by some of those shops, I noticed that many of them had made some changes to their displays to make them look more like the good displays they had seen in the pictures I had showed them. That's how this whole idea of discussing showroom displays came about.
   What it comes down to is this: Most of the people who have a good display have a good business. Many of the proprietors who had bad displays and didn't correct them are out of business. Understanding this relationship between successful displays and successful businesses is rewarding to me because it lends credence to some of the philosophies I'm going to suggest to you.
   Now, having said that, let me clarify by saying that a display is not the whole business. Some of my best clients have terrible displays and are still in business. You can still build a business - you can even have a great business - without a good display. It's not absolutely essential, but it does make the business more fun. It makes it more creative. You and your employees will feel better about what you're doing if you have a good display. You'll feel even better if your display is growing along with your business, instead of deteriorating or stagnating.
What Does Your Showroom Say?
   Do you know what you want your showroom display to accomplish? Could you make a list of things you want your showroom to say to the people who walk into your shop? If not, then this article series is exactly what you need. It will provide a wealth of information to help shop owners create a display that captivates and connects to shoppers of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds, much like what we see in Figure 5.




Figure 3: A display with more products won't necessarily satisfy customers.


  Figure 4: This display is a hodge podge of nearly every trophy component imaginable.

    What you want your showroom to accomplish will not be the same for everybody. The answer will be different depending on a variety of factors. Some people may want their display to simply sell merchandise. Others may want it to point to other methods of selling merchandise, establish a brand or identity, prompt a particular type of action or help with all of the above.
    How about what you want your showroom to say to your customers? Do you want it to signify that your shop has quality merchandise, that it has a tremendous selection, that it's run by professionals, that people can buy with confidence because you guarantee your products and services, that you have the lowest prices around or do you want it to signify that this business is the owner's hobby? These are all things that your display could potentially portray to those who enter it. You need to be conscious of what your showroom display is saying to your customers, otherwise, it could be portraying an image that may not be so favorable to your business.
    I taught three semesters of eighth-grade science. In the eighth-grade science book - I still remember it well - the theme was entropy. That's not a word we use often, and probably one that few people are even familiar with. But entropy, especially in science, means the natural process of going from a higher organization to a lower organization. What a great application to the recognition industry and to some of the displays used in award shops!
    Not all showroom displays start out bad. Some displays start out quite nice, in fact, and then entropy begins to set in. Some of you may think that Figure 3 isn't really a showroom - that it's more likely a workroom in the back of a shop. But it's not. That's the way the dealer sold his awards. All the other pictures you see are also real. None of these are made up - they're just what I saw when I visited those particular showrooms. Any time you have a situation where the showroom starts to lose its effect on customers, unless you take good, positive, logical action to correct it then entropy will continue until the display becomes completely ineffective.
Causes of Entropy
    The photos of the three showrooms at the beginning of this article were from different businesses, but they were all at different levels of entropy, and entropy happens for several different reasons. One is that you listen too much to what your customers say. I'll never tell you not to listen to your customers, of course. But you need to listen to what they mean, not necessarily what they say. Understand why they say what they do.
    Those customers who said, "Is that all ya got?" didn't mean that the proprietor needed to put more things in her display. What they meant was, "Nothing that you have catches my attention. Nothing in your display has pointed me in the right direction." So the solution to "Is that all ya got?" for many shop owners is to put more stuff out, but that isn't going to help customers see something they like. We need to build our displays so that customers will see something that catches their attention. Then they won't ask that question.
    If you've been in this business any time at all, you know that some people are going to ask that question anytime, anywhere. Therefore, you should always have something else available to show them, but you don't need to have it displayed in your showroom. You should keep a "junk book" ready for the shoppers who just love to go into the back and get a deal on something. I'm not saying you shouldn't cater to these people. Just don't let these people tell you what to do so that it damages the display you put in your main showroom.





Figure 5: A good display should captivate your customers.


Figure 6: Can you see what's wrong with this showroom?

   Another thing that causes entropy in a showroom is a lack of sales resistance in purchasing merchandise. Too often we come to a show and see so many things we'd like to have. There are so many beautiful products out there, and there's so much of it! But you can't show every product out there that's nice. There's just too many of them. So, you have to make a decision about what to order, and therefore, what to show. You've got to build sales resistance.
   Compared to the way it was 20 or 30 years ago, there are very few trophy salesmen out there calling on shops today. As time goes on, there'll be even fewer sales people. But with supplier warehouses nearby in all parts of the country, it doesn't make sense for the salesman to expect shop owners to buy something from him every time he comes around. And if he does, then I'd suggest that you pick out just one or two companies to buy from, just to whittle down the number of products you're tempted to buy.
   But the point is, don't buy something just because you feel as if you owe it to your salesman. The longer you've been in the business, the more pressure you'll probably feel to do just that. If you know the person, you may feel as if you have to give him an order and buy something. One of the biggest problems with our showrooms, however, is that we fall in love with too many different products. And while it takes some of the fun out of it (to not let ourselves fall in love with the items we sell), it pays to have discipline.
   Let me give you an illustration. I fell in love with a car in 1966. It was the first new car I'd ever owned. I spent three times more on that car than on any car I've ever bought. It was a Cougar, one of the really early Cougars, and I fell in love with that car. Of course, it was far beyond my means, but I bought it anyway.
   A mere nineteen months later, when a wrecker towed that thing off, with a trail of oil leading out of my driveway and down the street, I said I would never, ever fall in love with a car again. And I haven't! If you could see the car I drive now, you would know I no longer fall in love with cars. I learned a lot from that experience. It caused me to never again buy something just because I really wanted it. I think we can learn from that.
   Sometimes our showroom starts to disintegrate (or show signs of entropy) because the showroom itself doesn't seem to matter - customers don't appear to care about what's in it, and they don't seem to buy much from the displays. And as soon as that starts happening, the showroom matters even less. What I'm saying is, if people don't notice what you're doing in your showroom, then they aren't really buying what you have on the shelves. That means they're looking for other things in other places and in turn, they pay less attention to your showroom. So it becomes more cluttered, it becomes less effective and then it becomes useless. I've seen it in many of the showrooms I've visited.




Figure 7: Entropy has set in.


    Changing the look of your showroom isn't something you can or should do overnight. What I'm hoping is that as we go through some of the showrooms I've photographed, you'll begin to pick up ideas, concepts and looks that will work for you. I'm depending on you to see what you like and dislike and what's right and wrong about any given example. Notice the color combinations, the relationship of the parts, the ceilings and the floor. Every display room is different, whether it's long or deep, and you're going to have to tailor some of these concepts to what you have available to you.
Real Showrooms
    What do you think is wrong with the showroom in Figure 6? You may notice that outgoing orders are beginning to stack up on the floor. Normally this showroom does not look this way. The plaque wall is usually full, without those gaping holes, and orders do not usually go on the floor. But this is the entropy we discussed beginning to set in. Once you allow this sort of thing to start happening, then very shortly, things start to look like the showroom in Figure 7.
    I often have people say to me, "Roy, you won't believe this, but do you know where I sell most of my trophies?" They are astounded when I tell them they probably sell most of them out of those boxes on the floor. It's because in many displays, including the one in Figure 7, you really can't see anything on the shelves. It's all too crammed together. So customers come in and say, "Hmm, I wonder what somebody else is buying?" And they start looking through the boxes. If your best seller is something that's on the floor, I'd say it's time to work on your display!
    As we mentioned earlier, our objective is to create a captivating display that catches people's attention like we see in Figure 5. So how does one create a really outstanding display? The answer usually centers around learning and using professional merchandising techniques. And the easiest and fastest way to learn the fundamentals is to look at what the experts and professionals have done in larger and older retailing industries than the R&I industry. So before we look at more examples from award showrooms, I want to spend a little time looking at good displays in other retail markets. There's a great deal of knowledge we can gather from these markets. That's where we'll pick up next time, as this series continues on how to build a good showroom display.