Ahead of her seminars at Madison’s iceBike*event, merchandising guru Mercedes Ross reveals some essential tips...
At the end of 2010 BikeBiz’s retail survey highlighted how important the clothing sector is to dealers’ finances, with some sixty per cent of the participants revealing that their annual takings for cycle clothing and accessories exceeded £25,000.
Clothing sections are bursting with potential in stores up and down the land, so it makes sense to look at how to make the most of that area – the reasoning behind Madison’s decision to book Mercedes Ross to host seminars at iceBike* in February.
Ross runs a company called Merchandising Werx!, focusing on merchandising and product placement for shops and runs a motorcycle retail business in the US, where she has first-hand knowledge of the issues that independent retailers face.
Merchandising Werx! has been involved in designing stores from scratch, or re-modelling existing stores; the company has also collaborated with many suppliers to design displays, fixtures, and packaging. Her clients include Pearl Izumi in America, where she is responsible for making sure that they have great displays at trade shows, and making sure that this premium brand is presented in an appropriate way.
Ross also works with American dealers to advise them on how to improve profitability with some simple changes to their store.
Ross talks BikeBiz through the typical process that she would go through when advising a dealer: “You have to look at store design and traffic flow to determine the best locations for each category and the overall store layout. For each department look at where products are placed, as this can be one of the cheapest, but most effective way to improve sales. In the case of apparel pay special attention to the fixtures and fitting required: little changes here don’t have to be expensive, but can make a big difference.”
Ross adds: “You should also look at the type of customer in the store, and make sure that the products match their requirements. There is normally some staff training required to ensure that the good practices continue, so that the disciplines do not fall away.”
Merchandising is all about product placement, so Ross’ talks centre on (relatively) cheap placement of products, as much as about (relatively) expensive fixtures and fittings. The same principles of product placement can apply to many aspects of dealers’ stores, with plenty of ideas that can be put into action to see a rise in sales.
At iceBike*, Mercedes’ seminar – tailored for the British audience – will focus on those basic disciplines that will increase sales in an apparel department.
At the show there will also be the opportunity to book one-on-one time with Ross for further discussions. So that Ross can make direct and relevant suggestions, dealers looking for advice can bring along plans and photographs – including those of their clothing displays from different angles along to the sessions.
How to succeed
- “Know your customer, and match your apparel offering to their needs: start by looking at the bikes you are already selling
- Create sections: identify an area with signage, and commit to the section. Include other relevant products, which means that shoes should be on display in more than one place
- Men buy brands, women buy colour, so give women a ‘colour story’ of related and colour co-ordinated products
- Product placement: make sure that you build a focal point into all of your layouts to help customers find what they want quicklyAct on closeouts: make sure that you act quickly and effectively to clear out end of line products before the season is over. Don’t tie up your money in stock through the off-season months.”
The Apparel opportunity
Mercedes Ross claims that apparel has the greatest growth opportunity of any category in a cycle store. She says that cycling has traditionally been a bit of a ‘gears and rubber’ sport, but there is a new breed of customer now – and many of them are women.
The opportunity is not just to sell them a bike, but also to help them enjoy using it – and part of that is making them look the part and feel comfortable when out and about cycling. This customer has an expectation of a high quality retail environment, and wants to touch and try on clothing: just look at what the High Street clothes stores offer to see what your customers are used to.
The Outdoor and Ski industries have accepted this, so that apparel and footwear typically makes up 40 per cent of their sales value.
In contrast, however, figures from the National Bicycle Dealers Association of America show that the largest stores in the US achieve 11 per cent, and the smallest only seven per cent.