It’s both easy and normal for a store, at some point, to start feeling stale – the same guitars on the same hangers in the same spot every morning you walk through the door. It’s understandable as the days are busy and there are many things that need to be done to keep the place operating. But retailers can’t afford for the aesthetics and, generally speaking, the vibe of a store to be overlooked. According to Shopify, shoppers make a subconscious judgement of a retail environment within 90 seconds of entering and, depending on the research, 62 to 90 per cent of people base their judgement on colour alone. The good news is that revitalizing your store doesn’t need to be overly complicated or expensive. But it does require imagination.
When a customer walks into our store, we want to make a customer feel how we feel when we play, listen to, and enjoy music. Music is all about connecting feelings and emotions and communicating in a really positive way to share and express yourself,” says Tim Spicer, co-owner of Spicer’s Music in Auburn, AL, which is celebrating its third anniversary this month and was named “best emerging dealer” at the 2015 NAMM Top 100 Dealer Awards.
Taking notes from his upcoming NAMM U presentation on Simple DIY Store Designs, Spicer tells Canadian Music Trade, “We’ve put a ton of emphasis on our store’s appearance and our displays and everything down to the scents and smells. The things like that that you don’t really think of for a music store, we really wanted to go above and beyond so that when someone would walk in for the first time, it would capture all of their senses and make them feel like they’re stepping into more than just a music store.” That sounds like a lofty goal, but as Spicer explains, doing so isn’t complicated or expensive, but it is time consuming.
One of the simplest and most effective things Spicer’s Music has done pertains to scent. “It is actually really easy and that is probably our most common compliment with customers coming in,” says Spicer, explaining that all it took was a few gentle air fresheners plugged into the outlets. “We don’t think about that stuff a lot, especially being guys in a world of rock guitars and that kind of stuff, but it really makes a difference, big time.”
It certainly does, according to a wealth of research on consumer behaviour. In one famous study, Chicago neurologist Alan Hirsch found that consumers were significantly more likely to purchase a pair of Nike shoes, and also willing to spend more money on those shoes, when they were placed in a scented showroom versus a room with no scent. The gist of Hirsch’s findings are backed by other studies that, according to The New York Times, typically find shoppers linger longer and perceive that they’ve spent less time shopping in scented environments. Beyond that, they perceive the merchandise selection as better and even more modern – all for the price of a few air fresheners.
Another simple solution, though one that takes more upfront commitment in time and effort, is a fresh coat of paint. If the walls are faded, scratched, and spotted, it makes the whole space feel old and unkempt. “We did put a lot of thought into [the colour] when we first opened up. Our walls are kind of a nice, easy-going blue, which really tends to be – and I don’t know why, it is getting into
psychologists’ stuff – a warm, comfortable colour. We coupled that with a lot of brown and wood features because the theme we’ve created is a really woody, earthy, and rustic-but-comfortable vibe,” explains Spicer. “We really kept that same theme going throughout the whole store, from when you walk in to even the bathrooms.”
Overhead, they took the bland ceiling tiles found in most stores and offices and spray painted them brown so that the blue and brown motif encompasses all dimensions. It absolutely completes the vibe of the store so that someone walking through the door feels enveloped in a comfortable space.
As he alludes to when he says “psychologists’ stuff,” Spicer’s choice of blue is backed up by research. According to one oft-cited study from the Journal of Business Research, consumers are 15 per cent more likely to return to stores with blue colour schemes than to those with orange as the primary colour. For those interested, there is a lot of research available on how different colours elicit different emotions, behaviours, and perceptions in retail environments.
Elsewhere around Spicer’s Music there are unique displays that took more imagination and ingenuity than a new paint job. As he explains, long before they considered opening their store, the Spicer family would visit music stores in towns across the U.S. whenever they travelled, kind of a family ritual, and one thing he noticed was that many stores featured the same displays, particularly for accessories like picks or straps. “The reason is you buy a certain quantity of an item and you get a display, which is great and I don’t have anything against that, but we really wanted to distinguish ourselves from everybody else in that category,” says Spicer.
Examples? He took two large, old cable spools, which he scavenged for free, added small hooks, and used it as a guitar strap display. Elsewhere, the guitar picks are kept in an old sewing thread display found at a thrift shop and the drum sticks are displayed in an old armoire with the shelves removed. On wall displays and certain areas of the store, guitars and other merchandise are displayed at different heights to add special dimension.
Spicer says that for inspiration and ideas, he spent a lot of time visiting non-music stores as well, particularly clothing and jewelry boutiques as they put a lot of emphasis on how their merchandise is displayed. “One thing that I noticed is different heights. If things are displayed at different heights and you have more than just one dimension, it really can add to the feel.”
It can be difficult to keep finding new and unique ways to show the same items. No matter how creative you may be, it is easy to develop tunnel vision. That is why it is important to consult your co-workers and employees. “I’m always asking for opinions and ideas and always trying to give opportunities to different employees to step up and help create or come up with ideas and visions for displays and different ways to merchandise,” says Spicer. “Not only does that help me, because the store isn’t created with the same mind every single time, but it also helps them because it gives a real sense of accomplishment and creates more teamwork.”
And while it is ideal to frequently change up the store’s focal displays, even simple changes can make a difference, especially for regular customers. Just as workers can get in a rut when seeing the same items in the same spot each day, so too can customers. “If you’re always changing around which guitar hangs on which hook and that kind of stuff, it really makes a difference,” Spicer says, adding that at their location, they’ve noticed sales boosts whenever displays are changed because customers are now looking at items in a new way.
“The biggest thing I can say is just to keep your eyes open and the creative juices flowing,” Spicer says. “Every musician is creative, because that’s what music is, so I think sometimes when we think of store displays and how to arrange things or how to create different colour themes and that kind of stuff, we can look at that and get a little bit nervous about it because it is something that’s outside of our comfort zone. But really, it is no different than creating music. The biggest thing is just to challenge people to constantly be looking for a new way to do things.”