If These Walls Could Talk

How to avoid visual boredom
Posted October 30, 2014

There is a great little jewel box of a store in Austin, Texas, called Nannie Inez. I make a religious pilgrimage there every time I find myself in town. A few sunny Saturdays ago (does it ever rain in Austin?) my best friend and I found ourselves there yet again.

What this tiny store lacks in size it makes up in inspiration, which is exactly why it’s always a bulls-eye on my itinerary. The owner, Dean, is incredible and has a razor-sharp eye for new design talent and has honed a perfectly curated product assortment. This store has it together, but as Dean and I began talking, I realized how having a retail store can lead to visual boredom. As an owner you see the same items, the same colors, the same shell, day-in and day-out. This can get monotonous.

It got me thinking: If store walls had a voice and could talk to us, what would they say? What advice would they give? (Disclaimer: Faith Bartrug cannot be held responsible for the wall’s comments. The wall’s comments are strictly its own)

Hi there. This is the wall. I’ve been hanging around patiently to tell you what I observe. I think I can make us lots of new friends (I love friends!) and I have lots of ideas (I’m fairly opinionated), so bear with me.

“I believe in love at first sight … mostly.”
When a customer walks through my door I can immediately tell if we’re meant to be. That said, I am willing to give anyone a chance and even a second chance if our first meeting wasn’t exactly butterflies and fireworks. Every store has a soul-mate -- I mean target customer -- but it’s still vitally important to engage the customers that we could be tempted to think aren’t our type. If we get to know them, we could become pleasantly surprised and even if it doesn’t blossom into something more, they might have friends that are a perfect fit.

“If you’re bored, I’m bored.”
I need passion. We all do. So, let’s vow to switch it up regularly. If the store is fresh for me, it’s fresh for the customer, too. We need to mix it up. Try showcasing just one type of product at a time. Let’s concentrate on item statements. Maybe one month, it’s just art, and maybe the next it’s furniture. The store can morph into “collections” of product and it can also morph back. I don’t want to get bored so please keep refreshing the placement and displays, I see this stuff 24/7. Thank you.

“Sell how I smell!”
At Nannie Inez they have their custom home fragrance pumping through the store and it smells amazing. I want to smell like that. If customers smell it, they will buy it. We need wonderful-smelling things to sell, but if you don’t want to sell wonderful-smelling things, at least have something smelling-up our store in a good way.

“Make me feel like home, I would like to make new friends!”
When I meet that special customer, I want them to stay -- I don’t want them to go! Let’s entice them with a seating area. We can have a few special throw blankets or pillows in this seating area. Let’s offer them a drink, too. After all, we should get to know them since they’re staying a while. Another wall told me Stag (a menswear store also in Austin, Texas) offers its customers a bottle of the local brew, Shiner Bock. That’s awesome, we should do that too. The longer they stay, the more they will buy, so let’s make this place cozy and inviting.

“News Flash: I’m not a museum.”
We need to be inspiring, but not so inspiring that our customers feel like they can’t touch anything. Our goal is sales. Everything (except me) should be tagged. If something is for sale, there shouldn’t be a question about it. Make the tags noticeable. Make a sign that says, “Touch me!” or “I’m for sale” or “Looking for a home.” Heck, even a plain tag with our logo would do, just something so the customer is invited to buy, touch or play.

“Meet my friends!.”
This other wall I know keeps talking about Stag (other walls talk, too) and it keeps mentioning that the store hands out “Stag” recommendations for the city of Austin on cool little branded index cards. I have recommendations and good taste, too! I want my voice heard. Please list my favorite restaurants, bars, shops and music clubs. My friends (customers) like me for a reason and we have similar styles.

“I can admit that not all my spots are interesting.”
I do want all my spots to be interesting, though. There are areas that no one visits  often and it makes me sad. Sometimes items with less potential are placed in certain areas. We need to look at our flow and see if there is a way to maximize the path and direct customers to our seemingly dead zones. Let’s think like a pinball machine and bounce them around the store!

Your wall who wants more friends -- err, customers!

Faith Bartrug of FBD Studios (Columbus, Ohio) has more than a decade of experience in transforming national brands. Her background includes brand strategy, environmental design and visual merchandising, and she has been able to practice what she preaches with leading design firms and clients such as Neiman Marcus, JCPenney and Mark Pi’s.