How to Make the Most of Your Greeting Card Racks in the Off Season
Front-end departments have fluctuating sales throughout the year and depending on the season. Greeting cards are no exception to this rule. Understanding this concept will make you a better buyer, and it will help you match inventory to the shopping habits of your customers. Read the new one-pager tip, Greeting Card Merchandising, for monthly greeting card sales data and tips to help you stock your greeting card rack with other items that will sell during months when greeting card sales are typically slow. With a few boxes of candy or photo frames in your card rack you can generate a better profit in the off season for greeting cards. We’ve posted new examples of greeting card racks in Gabe’s Gallery – click here to have a look.
The holidays are nearly here and there are just a few more things to do in the next week. First, post your return policies in clear view and go over your policy with all employees, especially new ones. Make sure everyone has a clear understanding of how to handle returned products. You should also make new signs for each register stating your return policies. (We have a One Pager Tip for handling returns – click here if you need it.) Second, check the weather forecast and road conditions. Clear roads mean people will make road trips to the malls. Extreme cold or poor road conditions keep most shoppers closer to home and you should plan accordingly. On December 21, pull your Christmas items out of the window and prepare them for sale. Create signs now for sales on December 26. You will want to review what will be discounted and what is not to be discounted the day after Christmas with all employees. Lastly, remember that Christmas may be the season for giving but it also is the season for stealing. Shoplifting reaches its peak during the holidays. Ask everyone to keep an eye on the store and to eliminate or drastically decrease personal phone calls and visits during this busy time.
Holiday End-Cap Ideas
Need a few ideas to freshen-up your end-caps? The new One-Pager Tip: Holiday End-Cap Ideas has just what you need. From stocking stuffers to health and wellness, your store is full of everyday items that can be displayed with a holiday theme. Try a Baby’s Christmas Gift Headquarters or a Sugar-free candy and cookies end-cap with signage that reads “Sugar-Free Stocking Stuffers!” Take a photo and send it to me at
– you might just make the Overhaul of Fame.
Tips to Ring Your Register
The holidays require good planning and reminders to make a smooth, successful selling season. Front-End Overhaul is here to help with a few more tips that can assist each and every store.
More Holiday Merchandising Tips
A few weeks ago we shared a tip for the first of the two seasons to Christmas for the merchandizer. Now is a good time to begin planning for season two, December 14 through Christmas. Check out the new One-Pager Tip, Christmas Merchandising Tips – Season Two, which has more holiday tips in it than you can shake a sprig of Mistletoe at. Click here to find out how to encourage multiple sales for your gift wrap department; own the lion’s share of the greeting card business; and how to feature hundreds of stocking stuffers contained in your regular store merchandise and already on your shelves. With a little ingenuity, your front-end can have a profitable holiday season.
P.S. In case you missed Merchandising Tips for Season One, you can find it by clicking here.
Planning for the Holidays
Christmas will be on a Tuesday this year. Typically this means Christmas Eve shopping will not be as strong in sales as it would be if the 24th landed on a Friday, Saturday or a Sunday. Most shoppers try to finish their purchases on the last Saturday and or Sunday before the holiday. Sunday sales will be stronger than normal so you may want to adjust your hours accordingly. Monday, Christmas Eve, sales will peak in early afternoon and then have one last rush during commuting time.
It is not too early to post your holiday schedule for the store and your employees. Stagger the times when employees are to arrive and leave. Decide today if you are going to be open on Sunday. The big box retailers will open early and close late on Sunday. For the most part they will own the Sunday sales, but they also will be very busy. Your store may be a welcomed haven for unrushed shoppers. The charm in shopping your store during the busy shopping season may be a good marketing message to get out to your customers.
P.S. We’ve just added a new sign for the holidays: a Holiday Reminder Sign. Click here for a copy to print in color or black and white and post it near all of your checkouts and close to your greeting card department. Your customers will appreciate the reminder.
Sleigh Bells Are Starting to Ring – Are You Ready?
Your big-box competitors now consider the selling season for Christmas to be 100 days before the holiday. This means that it’s time for you to prepare as well. There are two seasons to Christmas for the merchandiser. Season one begins November 23 and runs through about December 13 and typically includes trim-a- tree, boxed cards, home decorations, and gifts. Understanding the concept of two selling seasons helps you in two ways. First, it will help you position your front-end for a better selling season and holiday sales overall. Second, it will help you drastically cut back on carry-over inventory. Our latest One-Pager Tip, Christmas Merchandising Tips, has some excellent suggestions to help you sell more gifts and accessories in season one. Click here for ideas that will help set your store apart this holiday season.
Check Your Check-Out
Think of your front register counter as the second most valuable area in your store, the first being the front of the pharmacy area. Now look and see what kind of items is occupying the 2nd best spot in your store. Remove anything is not making you a respectable margin or is not, at a minimum, ringing up at the register for a dollar or more. The front checkout area needs to be a profit center. Plan on it.
Tips for Purchasing Fixtures for Your Front-End
People often ask about fixture manufacturers. Fixtures are like razors for shaving. The fixture (razor) is fairly inexpensive; it’s the shelves (blades) that will run up your bill. The newest One-Pager Tip, Purchasing Fixtures, includes names of manufacturers as well as helpful hints you won’t find anywhere else. Do you know that it is 33% more expensive to purchase a 12ft fixture in 3ft sections than it is in 4ft sections? I also recommend that you stay away from combination slat-wall/peg board backing for fixtures. This is extremely costly and does not have any merchandising advantage over peg board or slat-wall individually. Click here for a list of fixture manufactures and more helpful hints you should consider before making your next purchase.
Best of Gabe: Merchandiser: Beware of the Ones (Front-End Overhaul is featuring some of Gabe’s best tips while we’re away at NCPA’s Annual Convention. Here’s a good reminder about Onesies)
There are some real disadvantages to stocking only one unit of an item on your shelves. Things like zero-outs, increased labor, limited sales, and mixed messages are bad for business. You don’t want customers to think that the merchandise is so expensive that even the store can’t afford more than one. Learn more about this and how to avoid these pitfalls in the new One Pager Tip: One is Never Enough.
Best of Gabe: Greeting Card Awareness (Front-End Overhaul is featuring some of Gabe’s best tips while we’re away at NCPA’s Annual Convention. If you missed it the first time, here’s a great tip for your greeting card department)
Can you accurately estimate the value of your greeting card department in 5 minutes? Need a hint? Check out the One-Pager Tip, Greeting Card Awareness. The answer will shock you.
Daily Tasks to Keep Your Front-End Looking Its Best
There are a few things your staff can do on a daily basis to keep your store in tip-top shape and create an atmosphere which will attract and retain customers. Assign someone to make sure the outside of the store is tidy and garbage is picked up. Doors should be cleaned. Ask someone to clean the checkout counters and make sure the overhead music is appropriate and not too loud. (Remember – the music is for the listening pleasure of the customers, not the staff.) All departments should be faced each day and inspected for unnecessary clutter. Click here for a handy checklist of easy tasks which will provide a great return for your store.
Merchandising for the Flu
No matter what the forecast is for the number of flu cases this year, it is certain that the number will be dwarfed by the those who will do their best to steer clear of getting the flu. You will do your customers a great service by offering different ways to avoid the flu. Check out the new One-Pager Tip: Merchandising Tips for Flu Season for suggestions about signage, end-caps, and impulse buys. Did you know a simple sign can be the most important item you display on your end-cap? Try one like: Buy now and hope you never need it ‐ No one likes to shop when they have the flu!
Pricing Private Label
Increase your profits on private label. Most zone or level pricing programs only cover one private label per store. If you have multiple sources for private label product, then you will need to confirm which one is being priced competitively and which are not. Your private label should be a draw and this only happens when it is priced correctly.
Halloween Will Be Here Soon – Identify Your Opportunities Now
Halloween sales can be found in candy, decorations, costumes, make-up, party supplies, candles and safety accessories. To assist you with your Halloween planning, we have put together two pages of valuable merchandising and promotional ideas in the new One-Pager Tip: Halloween Tips 2012. One tip to remember is when you choose your candy selection, consider cutting back on flavors and increasing the quantities of proven sellers. Example: More Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and fewer or no mint patties. All candy is not created equal! Resist buying equal amounts of all flavors.
Stock up for Cough and Cold Season
Every year people get colds. It is a long selling season and it explains why cough and cold is the number one selling category in a pharmacy. Stores that only inventory one or two of each item incur excess labor costs to keep the shelves stocked and risk running out of product, thereby forcing a good customer to go elsewhere. Letting customers down when they feel down is never good. Avoid this problem by identifying the cold relief products you recommend for senior, adults, teens, and children and maintain a constant inventory of eight of each item. For more tips to make your store a reliable cough and cold relief center, read the new One-Pager Tip: Stock up for Cough and Cold.
Just Ask – Valuable Information with One Question
If you want to grow your business, ask people how they heard about your store. You can do this any number of ways: a formal customer survey by mail or email, customer response cards at your checkout or as a bag stuffer, or just ask them one by one. For example, train your staff with every new prescription to welcome your new customer and ask how they heard about your pharmacy. Clerks at the front of the store can ask customers as well. The information should then be recorded in a central location. Review the information once a week and look for trends. This type of information is valuable to you in many ways. If you are currently running a newspaper ad, look for responses that indicate the success of your ad. If people say they saw your sign out front, is there something you can do to improve your sign and attract more people in your community. If people say they heard it from Mrs. Johnson, perhaps you can offer Mrs. Johnson $5 off her next purchase as a thank you gift. Important point here – never assume to know how people learn about your store. Most people are happy to tell you why they chose to walk into your store. Get creative and use the information to harness what’s working and grow your business.
Frame of Reference
Part of a virtual site visit by Front-End Overhaul includes the submission of photos and information about the pharmacy so I can have a thorough understanding of the store. An unintended, yet beneficial, side effect is that the owner gets to see his or her store through a camera lens. This is an effective, and many times, eye-opening way for people to see their stores. Walking by shelves with anemic inventory and scooting past a little clutter here and there is one thing, having it stare back at you is another. You may find it surprising that taking videos is not nearly as helpful as taking photos. You need a format that doesn’t move until you are done examining. To begin seeing your store in a new frame of reference, start at the entrance take a photo of your door, then take photos of end-caps, wall displays, checkout counters, shelving, pharmacy, waiting area, flooring and everything else that customers encounter. Print or view your photos on a computer and look at your store with a new perspective. What do you see?
No Need to be Fixated on Fixtures
Over the years, experience has taught me that expensive fixtures do not sell merchandise. Merchandise sells when it sits on a clean fixture, it’s priced right, has the appropriate signage, and the area is well lit. Keep it simple and you will keep improving sales.
Change for the Positive
Words like renovate, update, modify, even overhaul, all imply one thing: change. In my line of work, change is the main ingredient to becoming more profitable, and I believe that change is necessary if we want to continue to succeed. In many minds, however, when we hear the word change we think of negative things. We might think we need to change because we have done something wrong. We may think that if we change anything in our store, customers will no longer patronize it. Help your employees (and maybe even yourself) embrace change in your pharmacy with the new one-pager: Postive Changes.
These Shoes Are Made for Walking (And People Who Have Diabetes)
Believe me when I tell you that most of your customers who have diabetes are not aware that there are shoes made just for them. If you sell therapeutic shoes, make sure to tell your patients and other consumers in your market area. Advertise, merchandise the shoes where customers in your store can see them, and be sure to post a sign near the shoe display. Get people’s attention with something like: “Safety and Comfort for the Diabetic Sole Sold Here” or “Safety and Comfort for Diabetics and Anyone Else Who Loves their Feet.” Front-End Overhaul has excellent resources to help you do all of these things and more. Visit the Front-End Overhaul Web page and look in the One Pager-Tip, Gabe’s Gallery, and Overhaul of Fame sections for diabetes footwear tips and ideas.
Like many stores, your durable medical equipment may be placed on a wall in the least-travelled area of your pharmacy. DME seems to gravitate to dark corners. I understand - it’s not attractive and it is difficult to merchandise. However it does deserve its place in the spotlight. People have to know you have bath safety before they can buy it from you.
Merchandiser’s challenge: four times a year try a simple bath safety end-cap near the pharmacy counter. Need assistance? You can find helpful end-cap merchandising tips in the new One-Pager Tip: Bath Safety. We’ve also posted a new sign you can print and use for your bath safety end-cap to help patients remain safe in their homes.
Develop Private Label Loyalty
Offer one brand of private label and make this brand your “preferred brand.” Merchandise and stock two facings, six deep, of the top 30 of your preferred brand private label items. Add a sign and watch the sales explode!
Your Front Door Says a Lot about You
It’s good business to treat your door as an entrance and not as a sign holder. Many customers consider a cluttered door a sign of a cluttered store. Keep your door neat, clutter free, and assign someone to clean your door twice a day, every day. For more front entrance tips to make your store inviting, check out the new One-Pager Tip: Clear the Doors.
Early summer is the perfect time to remind staff, old and new, that the preferred parking spots around your store are for customers. Put your employee parking policy in writing and insist that everyone sign it. Making it easy for customers to access your store just makes good business sense. P.S., you may need to mention your policy to visiting vendors and company reps.
Summer Fun Headquarters
Retailers should think like a consumer when it comes to merchandising summer items. Impulse and companion sales can easily be increased if you put yourself in their sandals. Grouping like and related items together is imperative! Read the new One-Pager Tip: Summer Fun Headquarters
for new ideas to set up your dynamic and complete summer shopping headquarters. We've also posted a new sign you can use in your summer section to help patients understand the best way to apply sunscreen for maximum protection.
Private Label Guarantee
A good OTC private label, also known as a store brand or generic, typically comes with a 100% unconditional guarantee. Too often this benefit is kept a secret from the consumer. Contact your supplier for store signage that will inform customers about this no-risk guarantee. Private labels average a 61% profit margin and can still be counted on to offer a substantial savings to the consumer. Market your private label brand as your preferred brand and promote the guarantee. Check out a good example of private label signage in Gabe's Gallery.
Reuse and Recycle
When you can’t find the perfect home for a cardboard floor display, you can transform it into eye-catching signage and create compelling end-caps. Find out how to reuse and recycle your floor displays in the new One-Pager Tip: Recycle Floor Displays.
Would you like a free end-cap consult from Gabe?
Do you have an end-cap that you are especially proud of or is there an end-cap you want improved? The first 50 NCPA members to send one photo of an end-cap to Gabe will get a free consult. All submissions will receive detailed feedback and may even be entered into the Merchandising Overhaul of Fame Gallery. Snapshots from smartphones are happily accepted. Send in one picture today and see how you rate. All submissions must be received by June 30, 2012. Email:
All Vendors Must Sign In
I was taught by a sales rep that a store should never allow anyone just to come and go in the backroom of the store. This is good advice. No matter how trusted the individual, everyone should sign in and sign out as they arrive and leave. This same vendor also added that no one should place an order without an authorized signature from someone in management. Nearly every store I visit is being taken advantage of by at least one vendor. As a business owner or manager, you need to know who is inside your store. From the chip vendor to the supplier of sports braces, all must be checked. Consistency with everyone is the best way to enforce it - do not accept excuses that they don’t have time to sign in.
To help you with this process, Front-End Overhaul has developed a new Visitor Log form for you to download and use. Print several copies of the log, put them on a clipboard, and place the clipboard near every door used by vendors and other visitors who are not customers. Alternatively, you can create your own notebook with the same information. Instruct your staff that all visitors must sign in and provide them with direction of how to inform each visitor about this new procedure. We also have a sign for you to place near the visitor log forms to remind your visitors. Lastly, don’t forget to check the logs on a regular basis and make note of any concerns.
Father's Day Gift Ideas That Just Might Surprise You
As a community pharmacy and wellness center, promote Dad’s health for Father’s Day this year. For Dad’s heart think about promoting vitamins & nutrition such as Co-Q10, Omega 3’s, and B-Complex vitamins. For Dad’s feet, highlight fashionable orthopedic sandals or shoes. Dad will certainly need sunscreen and perhaps a nice men’s skin cream by Nivea. If you sell lift chairs, each chair should have a Father’s Day gift sign on it – Give Dad his new favorite chair!
Customer Service Expectations
Everyone, including you and your staff, enjoys being treated to good customer service. However, sometimes the golden rule (treat people the way you want to be treated) does not come into play. Here is a reality check - are you treating customers the way you would like to be treated? Find out by taking this eye-opening assessment.
Front-End Overhaul has developed a tool for you and your employees to get you thinking about customer service expectations. First, download the new One-Pager: Customer Service Expectations. Second, you and your team should complete the first page, How I Like to be Treated as a Customer. On another day, everyone should complete the second page, How I Chose to Treat Customers in Our Store. Review your own worksheets then meet with your team one-on-one and discuss the difference between the two worksheets. This assessment tool is designed to help you have a productive conversation with your staff about customer service expectations – both yours and theirs.
Display Merchandise Where It Belongs
Place new items and displays where they belong, not where they fit! Do not hesitate to move items around. More often than not, change portrays vibrancy and will keep your store looking new and alive. Visit Gabe's Gallery for a great example titled Old Merchandise.
Promote Special Orders
You may not be able to stock ALL items that each customer is searching for, but you can promote your ability to order uncommon goods. Download and print the new sign, Special Orders, from Front-End Overhaul and place several copies strategically around your store. Tell customers that the along with everything they see on the shelf, your store has access to thousands of items from your warehouse with swift delivery. Gain new sales and keep customers out of competing stores. Be ready to order!
Give Them a Sign
A simple 2.5 x 3.5 inch sign that reads “Our Pharmacist Recommends” can easily sell four to ten times more product. If you are confident in the integrity and effectiveness of the item then sign it with your endorsement. (Remember to keep the item(s) well stocked.)
Being #1 Doesn’t Always Mean You’re a Winner
Do you use your planograms and sales reports to evaluate categories and subcategories? Rogaine & Progaine are #1 in their categories, but this does not equate to being a top seller in everyday hair care sales. Read the new One-Pager Tip: No. 1 Doesn’t Always Mean You’re a Winner and find out why an Herbal Essence #5 / F ranked product may easily out sell a #1 / A ranked hairdressing product.
Limited Parking = Limited Growth
During one of my recent pharmacy visits, the owner and I discussed various aspects about the exterior of his store. The location had only one sign on the building, and it laid flat against the store therefore it could only be seen if you looked at it from across the street. The lights in the sign did not work and had not worked since the owner bought the store. Moreover, the lights outside the building didn’t have light bulbs. Lastly, two of the three parking spaces in front of the pharmacy were taken all day by the employees of the store next door. Only until I pointed out that the "black truck" and the "blue Ford" have been in front of his store all day, did the owner realize that sales has been handcuffed by poor parking.
The exterior of your pharmacy requires your attention, just like the interior, and there are a lot of little things that can add up. Tip: parking is very important to your business. Reality is, the growth of your business is harnessed by the amount of easy-to-find parking you have to offer. You or your employees should not be taking valuable parking spaces nor should employees of neighboring businesses. Monitor your parking lot on a regular basis. Your customers will be happy and more likely to return on a regular basis.
No Small Margin of Error
Add a 40% margin to $6.00. If you answered $8.40 then you need to read the margin tip! You've been losing money.
End-Cap Idea: Bee Aware of Bugs
Mild winter + warm spring = bonanza crop of bugs! Now is a good time to stock up and build an end-cap of traditional, natural and herbal insect repellents. Go get that companion sale by cross-merchandising insect bite and sting remedies. Purchas clip strips and fill them with AfterBite. Remember, good signage is a must.
Happy Health Baskets for Easter
Looking for a unique and healthy suggestion to increase Easter sales? Build your own Happy Health Baskets for customers. Add hand cream, multiple vitamins, candles, shower gel, jewelry, scarves, sandals, hair barrettes, nail polish and anything else you can think of. A little inspiration can go a long way. The best part is… none of these items have to be discounted after Easter. Find more great ideas for Easter sales in the new One-Pager, Easter Tips for 2012.
The Secret to Successful Easter Sales Hides in the Grass
The secret to selling candy and Easter baskets is… never run out of grass! Customers looking to build their own Easter baskets start with grass (shiny, green, shredded plastic). Don’t run out of it. If you do, then people will take their entire Easter purchase to a store that has all the supplies they need. If you do not have 10 bags of grass left over after Easter, then you didn’t buy enough.
Merchandiser’s Challenge: Deodorant Sales that Stink
There are some clever ways to improve your deodorant section and boost sales. Deodorant is price sensitive, like other personal care products. You want to be creative and purposeful in how you set the section. Start by removing the price tags from the front of the items. Consider adding a few natural line deodorants and limiting the aerosol products. What about impulse and companion sales? Find out in the new One-Pager: Deodorants Stink.
Dazzle Customers with End-Caps
End-caps are the second most shopped area in stores. Keep them well stocked and well signed. Use them to promote, feature, and sell. Do not use end-caps for clearance items. Change your end-caps every 2 to 3 weeks. You can make note of the remerchandising of an end-cap by writing the date on a small piece of masking tape and placing on the back of the end-cap. Two to three weeks goes by quickly so you want to keep track of your end-cap updates.
Marketing Tip – Timeless Greeting Cards
Do you have a rack of Any Occasion cards? Some people call them blank cards. You know, the cards with stunning photos on the outside and blank on the inside leaving room for a personal message. With the right signage, one small rack of the right cards can turn a profit! Find great ideas to promote Any Occasion cards in the new One-Pager, Blank Card Tip.
Spring Break Essentials
Spring break is almost here. Create a display of self-tanning products for those who want a sun-kissed look. A display of sun protection products is also a great idea. Spruce up your sandal selection; Spenco, Aetrex and Dr. Comfort offer great selections. Don’t wait – travelers will be hitting the road soon.
Uphold a Positive Pricing Image
Do not let the price of a tube of toothpaste lead customers to think that your store is too expensive to shop. Keep your personal care products priced competitively. It may well be a small part of your business but a big player in your pricing image.
Stop and Listen
What do you hear? Now look at the patrons in your pharmacy. Does the overhead music genre match your primary customer demographic? Is it loud enough to be soft background music but not so loud that it is distracting? Are you playing your competition's radio ads in your store? (I've been in stores that had this happen.)
Customers may not notice if you get this right, but they will if you get it wrong. This is an easy tip to get customers singing your praises.
More on Valentine’s Day: Window Displays
Samples of a great window displays include: dangling paper hearts, hearts drawn with glass wax, a large sign that reads "Valentine’s Gift Headquarters" and "Don't Forget Valentine's Day, Tuesday the 14th." I also have seen a plush dog resting on a dog house with a sign that reads "Don't Let This Happen to YOU!... Valentine's Day is Tuesday the 14th!" Then on the 15th the sign can be replaced with "Did you forget Valentine’s Day? Come on in, we can help!" Find more tips on advertising and merchandising suggestions as well as end-cap reminders for the holiday in the new One-Pager Tip: Valentine's Day Tips- Part 2. Part 1 was posted last week so there's lots of information available for you in the One-Pager section.
Valentine tips galore!
Yikes Valentine’s Day is on a Tuesday this year! We don't have the luxury of having this gift-giving day land on or near the tradition payday of Friday. You are going to have to work harder for sales this year! It is going to be critical that you have signs throughout the store reminding customers that Valentine’s Days is on a Tuesday. Plan your end-caps now. Assign someone on your staff to constantly straightening your greeting card department. There are Valentine tips galore in the new One-Pager Tip: Valentine’s Day Tips-Part 1. Look for Part 2 next week which will include advertising and merchandising suggestions as well as end-cap reminders for the holiday.
Greeting Card Awareness
Teaser tip: Accurately estimate the value of your greeting card department in 5 minutes.
(Need a hint? Check out the new One-Pager Tip, Greeting Card Awareness. The answer will shock you.)
Valentine’s Day is on its way
A store that has the best chance for a profitable Valentine season will be the store that relies less on Valentine items and more on everyday merchandise to create Valentine sales. In almost every case, specific Valentine merchandise will need to be discounted the day after the holiday. The more you have to discount, the less opportunity you will have to generate a profitable Valentine season.
Tip: Walk through your entire store and identify non-Valentine themed items and re-merchandise them as Valentine gifts. Use signage, repositioning and basic decorations to emphasize these items. Here are some not so obvious suggestions: therapeutic shoes, fashion canes, premium skin care, photo frames and lift chairs.
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