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Product Merchandiser Focus: Large and In Charge

Posted: August 1, 2014, 9:25 a.m. EDT

Merchandising big items can stump even the most display-savvy retailers. Here’s how to do it without cluttering aisles or shelves.

By Hilary Daninhirsch

Your shelves might fit diminutive cans of dog food just perfectly, but what about the daunting beds, cages and furniture?

At Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies, owner Claudia Loomis gets creative about merchandising dog crates and beds at her three New Jersey locations, which contain about 3,500 square feet of retail space.

"We set up a crate stack,” she said. "We can point out the difference among the brands of crates we carry while showing all the different-sized crates. We stack one bed of each color in different sizes with spare beds in the back. We also display crate mats, one of each color by size, on waterfall hooks on the wall.

"Some of our displays are on the top of fairly low shelf units most often used for litterboxes and scratching posts,” Loomis said. "We also have a slat wall in many areas of the store and put items on higher shelves. Most large items like crate stacks are displayed around the store perimeter, leaving the selling floor uncluttered.”

Cherrybrook uses sell sheets for some of the larger items, such as gates, with color and size options displayed, she said.

And for those products that are too large to keep in stock, such as stainless steel grooming tubs and Great Dane-sized crates, Cherrybrook maintains a website for online sales.


Merchandising large items sometimes feels like a game of Tetris, said Jamie Idzi, owner of Yuppy Puppy in Bethany Beach, Del., a 700-square-foot boutique.

"You have to constantly move and manipulate displays and fixtures to accommodate new merchandise and make it all fit,” she said.

Idzi’s most challenging items are dog beds. After some years of experimentation, she found a solution.

"My back wall is dedicated to all things bedding,” Idzi said. "A long platform constructed along the length of the wall stacks the beds nicely. I showcase five beds on the wall using garage hooks, and it looks terrific. It really attracts the eye and allows customers to quickly see the style and patterns of beds we offer.”

Idzi recommends that retailers purchase display units offered by manufacturers.

"They really bring a product to life and create such a strong visual impact,” she said.

Tell a Story
As with products of any size, retailers should rely on point-of-purchase promotions and education, said Richard Casey, founder and president of 4X4 North America, exclusive North American importer of European pet travel products such as MIM Variocage and MIM Variogate.

"For example, using printed materials, videos and a knowledgeable sales staff emphasize the importance of safe pet travel, increasing sales and turning customers into evangelists for the category, the products and the retailer,” he said.

To save store space, Casey suggests using demonstration videos and signage that command attention on the retail floor.

"Displaying only a single version of the most popular sizes and models keeps the use of floor space to a minimum,” he said.

For some companies, a sample model or a photo can go a long way toward merchandising.

At Molly and Friends, manufacturer of handmade cat furniture such as condos, trees and scratching posts, retailers have expressed interest in the company’s giant cat condos to draw attention to the category, said Jessica Charapata, marketing, public relations and social media strategy representative for the Gainesville, Fla., company.

"We will be providing a retail kit to all our clients, which will be visible as an attached catalog to be mounted on store shelving so customers can simply order from the store,” Charapata said.

Larger stores place Molly and Friends products in their front windows, where they draw attention and can be seen from the street, Charapata said.

"Smaller stores often use one or two models as display pieces while offering our entire line through special order,” she added.

Display Options
Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs in Garden Grove, Calif., offered several key points regarding large merchandise placement.

Show respect for the merchandise.

"Products need to be on a platform or a shelf; not the floor,” he said.

Don’t overcrowd the space.

"Eighty percent of people suffer from some form of claustrophobia; their browse mode kicks off when you encroach on that,” he said.

Don’t place merchandise too high; products out of sight don’t sell.

Don’t stock items you don’t have room for, or stock fewer of them.

"Instead of 20 beds in 20 colors, have five beds in four sizes and five colors,” he said.

Don’t hang products off of a shelf, he added.

"If it does not fit on a shelf, don’t carry it,” he said. "Merchandise big items to the right of the front door. People come in and go to the right, they see them, and they see it twice when they walk out of the store.”

Nest products, such as smaller crates within larger crates, Miller said.


What is your most creative way to display sizable merchandise?

"We had a special bed rack built to accommodate our thinner beds, and we stack our larger ones.”—Wendy Williamson, owner of Creature Comforts in Durango, Colo.

"We merchandise our dog beds on a human queen-size bed in the store, so they are out of ‘pee zone’ and are easier for people to touch and feel.” —AdreAnne Tesene, owner of Two Bostons Pet Boutique and Gourmet Bakery in Naperville, Ill.

"In our Rockland location, we have a great windowsill that runs the whole length of our store; we use that to display cat furniture and stack plastic carriers. We tend to stack most items in fun ways. In our Camden location, we relocated these large items to our dog washroom because our retail floor just didn’t have enough space.”—Heidi Neal, owner of Loyal Biscuit Co. in Belfast, Camden and Rockland, Maine

"We merchandise most of our large item inventory like crates in ‘collapsed’ or boxed form, with one set up with coordinating accessories as a display that people can touch and interact with. We use a similar method for cat furniture, with one piece from each manufacturer down where people can touch and examine it, and the rest of the pieces stored in view on the top level of our perimeter wall racking.”—Del Peterson, owner of Northwest Pets in Eagle and Meridian, Idaho

"We find that the best way to display dog beds is on pallet racking at a level that customers can feel and touch the comfort they envision for their pets. Constant attention to reorganizing and resetting on a daily basis is required to give that fresh appeal. Dog crates work best on top of the pallet racking to maintain the ‘full line approach’ by showing a complete selection, and it also encourages customer questions to help our staff facilitate a sale.” —Curt Jacques, owner of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in West Lebanon, N.H. 

"With only a 6,000-square-foot store we’ve had more than our share of merchandising issues; none have been worse than having to deal with dog beds and cat furniture. We’ve been fortunate to have a large overhang in front of our store, so we’ve taken advantage of that and we put the cat furniture out every morning and bring it back in at night. We’ve done that with the dog beds as well from time to time, only when the beds come in nice cardboard dump displays.”—Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich.




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