Remember all those New Year's resolutions you made a few months back? When you think about it Spring is really the season of new beginnings. So let's consider a few Spring resolutions! The timing is good. I finally have some time to take a breather form the onslaught of first quarter trade shows. In addition to last month's Surfaces, there was the Builder Show, a few giftware shows and, of course, the many regional shows. The pace is a bit staggering but there is much to be gained from these shows. All around are ideas that can-and should inspire retailer resolutions.

Use interesting patterns when installing your flooring materials. Don't be afraid to show your excellence in creativity.

Of all the shows I think it is the giftware show that is particularly exciting. Here is where you see the accessories that pull a room together to give it character, warmth and charm. It is what makes a room memorable. This category is really on the cutting edge of style and design. I walk away thinking about how I can incorporate some fresh ideas into my home as well as the various projects that I am working on. It's my impetus for spring clean and it inspires me to fashion a fresh look. You should be planning too. All that new merchandise will be arriving at your store soon and you also need to get rid of that winter grime.

First, I strongly urge you to frequently change your displays. Look no further than furniture stores for inspiration. Like flooring, furniture is a home-fashion industry and the successful, forward looking furniture stores typically swap accessories in their displays every couple of weeks while the total look is redone about four times a year. Your head may be spinning when you think about the cost of such constant fussing, but let's talk about what is actually changed in these displays. Initially, furniture stores sell-off their slow moving styles and bring in new ones. They keep the strong sellers, of course, but change their appearance. Take an upholstered piece, like a sofa. If the style is a good seller, they may keep the style but alternate the fabric. Accessories tend to be seasonal, so it's time to change those around too. And then they look for any areas of the showroom that look shop-worn and are due for some fresh paint or other surfacing!

How does this relate to your flooring store? Many suppliers have already indicated which patterns will be dropped, so it's time for you to get rid of old SKU's and start planning for new ones. Even if you have some stellar sales stars that you feature in vignettes or room scenes, try changing the color-way to keep things looking fresh. Are some areas looking shop-worn? Get out the scrub-brush, paint-brush, and dusters and put on a new, fresh face (or better yet, have you staff do it.).

When planning your Great Kitchen, be sure to plan for demonstration events. The vignette will more than pay for itself in new business. Photo courtesy of "Ceramic Tiles of Italy."
Next, it's time to make some hard decisions about what works and what doesn't work in your showroom. Often, this may include the flow of the layout of your showroom, or just a particular area that you've been meaning to change. Do you have trouble settling on a showroom layout that works for you? You might consider this idea:

Some retailers are dividing their stores into shopping areas divided by categories: great room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. This makes perfect sense to me because the customer is usually shopping with a particular room in mind. So each room in the showroom is an actual room scene that is complete. You have a living room/great room, a complete kitchen, etc. Style the room by what you see as the current trends. Just scan some shelter magazines for ideas. Choose your best products to feature in each room. Within each "room" are style statements or trends that are pulled together to make it easy for the customer to find multiple things that she can buy. Here's an opportunity for you to cross-merchandise products or accessories that can add value to your sale. (Remember, even cleaning products are appropriate as accessories that add value to the sale!)

Then, each of these areas is surrounded by additional surfaces for these rooms like countertops, tile, hardwood, carpet and rugs, window treatments, paint, etc. You might choose to do small vignettes to extend your ideas in a more visual, easy to understand way. If you're short on space or budget to accomplish the vignette idea, you can use photos or scrap books of photos to generate ideas. Be sure to incorporate a place to sit down where the customer can collect samples, coordinate colors and make a buying decision.

While merchandising a store by room isn't a new idea; this version is a unique and has a user-friendly twist that seems to be working. You can form a group of your merchandisers with independent designers to come up with your trends. It's a smart idea to come up with the trends and looks before you get to your floor covering shows. Certainly what vendors are showing can be an influence, but try to set your own trends according to your market. The relationship you forge with the design community can also bring another segment of business into your store.

Finally, think about marketing. You should be advertising in your local papers on a regular basis. I suggest doing direct mail pieces to target audiences as well as access to in-store events. These events could include cooking classes (in the kitchen scene), floral arranging, counter top seminars and more. The fact that these events are not directly related to your core business is immaterial. Bringing customers into the store to learn about and see your products in a relaxed atmosphere will do more to boost your reputation in town as a place that is on the cutting edge! Buyers will see new things in a casual setting and be more inclined to start thinking about how they can upgrade their homes with your products.

Many retailers report that they do how-to seminars every month. "Customers are inspired by all of the home shows, but they're afraid and don't know how to get started; we help them", reports a Chicago retailer. "We say here's what you need to look for, this is how you do it, here's how we can help and here are the choices you'll be making. Getting them started in the process is comforting to them."

So start today to thing about your Spring Resolutions. It's never too late to start the planning process and getting things ready for warmer days.