12 Tips for Stocking Merchandise

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Stocking and merchandising represent essential activities for retail businesses. With these activities, store owners and employers put their products for sale on display and aim to attract customers' attention and convince them to make purchases. Understanding and implementing effective stocking and merchandising strategies could potentially help give your sales a boost. In this article, we provide 12 tips for stocking merchandise in retail stores.

Related: Sales and Merchandise: How Are They Related?

What is stocking and merchandising?

The items sold by stores are referred to as stock, and stocking represents the process of putting those items on the store's shelves and display areas. This process may also represent storing and replacing these items in the store's backroom or warehouse. Employees perform stocking activities, such as replenishing shelves or ordering more supplies, when stock is low.

Merchandising represents the process of displaying items on sale, meant to attract customers' attention or convince them to make a purchase. Merchandising activities may include building attractive displays or signage and developing pricing or promotional strategies. These activities may require creative or analytical thinking skills to create more effective displays

Related: What Is Visual Merchandising? Definition, Types and How To Use It

12 tips for stocking and merchandising

You can use the following tips as guidance for effective stocking and merchandising:

Place impulse items near check-out areas

Impulse items represent merchandise that customers purchase without pre-planning. For example, grocery stores may stock candy, magazines and soft drinks on check-out line shelves. These items may catch the attention of a waiting customer, who then buys a soft drink because it is readily available. While that single drink does not cost much more to them, it boosts their order total and thus the business's profits. Make sure to stock impulse items that align with your store's other offerings, its branding or your customers' needs. For example, a clothing store may offer small accessories as impulse items.

Related: What Is Point of Purchase Advertising?

Check shelves regularly

Make sure that someone checks shelves and displays regularly to ensure they are sufficiently stocked. Implement a system of checking inventory at the store's daily opening and closing, along with periodic checks throughout the day. Having sufficient stock on shelves ensures that customers have items to purchase. As a result, you can avoid risking lost profits because your customers cannot find what they want. You should also check shelves to ensure proper maintenance of your products. Neat, organized displays are more attractive and represent your business positively. For example, keep clothing items neatly stacked and folded or display food items in good condition.

Think seasonally

Depending on the business, you may consider the seasonality of the items you stock. For example, most customers shopping in a shoe store during the summer are not looking for snow boots. You can potentially boost sales by focusing on in-season items. These items represent what customers are currently seeking. Meanwhile, if you have too many out-of-season items on display, you could end up with stock lying around for long periods due to customers' lack of interest during that period.

In some situations, your business may offer the same items year-round. As a result, you may consider highlighting in-season items to attract customers' attention. Similarly, you may offer discounts or sales on out-of-season items to help reduce your inventory. For example, a grocery store sells fruit, but different fruits have different seasons. Emphasizing the fruits that only will be in season for a few months may help convince customers to purchase them due to limited availability.

Put prime items in front

When you have a new or limited-edition product for sale, consider displaying it in one of the store's high-traffic areas where more customers may see it. These sites may reside near your entrance or check-out areas. The more customers who see these items or interact with them, the more likely you may garner sales from them. Make sure to emphasize that these items are new or limited-edition, helping you further gather customers' attention and interest.

This advice also applies to your stockroom, helping you boost efficiency when re-stocking. Putting your most popular items toward the front of your stockroom enables employees to immediately find and grab the merchandise that needs re-stocking the most often. This tactic helps save time and gets your most popular shelves stocked sooner.

Appeal to customers' senses

Engaging or interacting with a product may make customers more likely to purchase it. When merchandising, keep customers' five senses in mind to engage them in various ways. A common method involves placing merchandise at eye level and within an arm's reach, allowing customers to see and touch items. For example, a customer might see a sweater they think is attractive. Feeling the sweater's soft material may make them more eager to buy it.

The other senses to engage are sound, smell and taste. Depending on the business, you may use merchandising techniques to offer fragrance or food samples to customers. Again, when customers can experience how good something tastes or smells, it can convince them to purchase it. For sound, you can play music that aligns with the business's branding or the environment you want to create. Music can have a subtle effect on customers' moods or behaviors, which you may use to encourage shopping or browsing.

Use cross-selling techniques

When stocking, consider displaying items that work together near one another. Customers who were planning to buy one of those items may consider adding the other to their order due to their coordination. For example, a store that sells cell phones may display cases nearby. The customer does not need to look elsewhere to find protection for their new phone, as this display makes the case readily accessible.

These displays can often make their shopping trip much easier or give them new ideas. For example, a grocery store can display a combination of food items that create a quick and easy dinner. One of the benefits of cross-selling techniques is that they can help increase customers' average order size. Using a point of sales system can help you understand which products customers commonly buy together to plan these displays.

Related: Cross-Selling: What It Is, How It Works and Examples

Tell a story

Creating a story with your merchandise is an effective visual merchandising tactic. This technique varies based on the products you sell but can help you build a connection with customers. For example, a clothing store may use a family of mannequins dressed in coordinating beachwear. This display tells a story about a family taking a beach trip, which customers may find relatable. As a result, they may consider purchasing coordinated outfits for themselves and their children. Telling stories with merchandise helps customers understand how your products could fit into their lives, potentially making them more eager to buy them.

Related: What Is Retail Visual Merchandising? (Plus Tips)

Use outdoor space

If you have a good amount of space outside, you can use it to display bulky or large products that may otherwise get overlooked. For example, hardware stores may place soil pallets outside to enable easy access to customers. Placing these bulkier items outside also leaves more room inside for other merchandise and avoids overcrowding. Businesses can also use this tactic to attract customers to their stores. For example, a boutique may place a clothing rack of sale items outside to create interest and convince passers-by to come inside and shop.

Use in-store signage

Customers may enter your business seeking specific items. Utilizing in-store signage can direct them, allowing them to navigate the store easily and shop efficiently. You can use various signage methods, from aisle markers to signs that dangle from ceilings to floor graphics. Depending on the store's size, you may even provide a map display to give them a sense of where you stock different items. When customers can find items easily, it may make them want to return. Conversely, they may not want to be eager to return if they find it difficult or confusing to locate what they need.

Provide proper training to your employees

In some situations, displaying merchandise on shelves may not be sufficient, and customers need more information or guidance as they shop. Store employees must be knowledgeable about the products on sale, enabling them to provide guidance or answer questions. Consider providing training to ensure they understand the items in the store and their uses, when applicable. Sales associates who know how to use a product can offer demonstrations to customers or help pitch to them.

Keep safety in mind

As you develop stocking practices and processes, you need to ensure the safety of employees and customers. When incorporating merchandise displays, signs or structures, make sure to follow installation and maintenance instructions or hire professional help as needed. Employees must also understand proper stocking procedures to ensure that the items they place on shelves or displays are stable. For example, place heavier items in your store and stockroom close to the ground. This technique helps prevent collapses and lowers the risks of injuries when staffers or customers move these items.

Related: 10 Workplace Safety Tips To Stay Productive and Protected

Continue to try new techniques

Stay flexible with your business's stocking and merchandising technique, and be open to trying new ideas. Incorporating new displays every month or few weeks can help give your business a fresh look. Make sure to spend time assessing the results of these displays or gather customer feedback when possible. You can use these insights to understand what your customers like and plan future stocking and merchandising strategies. You can find inspiration for new methods online, from fellow business owners or by collaborating with your team members.

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