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February 1, 2016

Recently, I was talking to Rick Ludes, sales manager at Central Pet in Southern California. He was telling me about a store that had bought a bulk supply of bird millet that wasn’t selling, even at 39 cents per unit.

Then they tried an experiment.

They placed a sign on the basket that read, “Fresh Bird Millet, 59¢ each or 2 for $1.” Shortly after, the millet started to sell. They were eventually even able to raise their price and sell more—all because of a sign.

In the course of business, I call on a lot of retail stores throughout the western states and, curiously enough, I don’t see as many signs as I used to in the stores.  I truly believe that there is an advantage to using signs because they give information to your customer who otherwise might not ask and increase the chance for impulse sales, all at very little cost or effort to you.

In-store signage can be a powerful selling aid. According to a study by the Point of Purchase Advertising Institute, in-store advertising, such as point of purchase signage, influences 53 to 60 percent of the consumer purchases to some extent. Another research study revealed that, during the same sales period, if 100 products were sold with no signage, then 170 were sold when handwritten signs were used and 265 products were sold when signs were professionally produced to sell the products.

Those are pretty powerful numbers and should convince any pet retailer to increase their in-store signage. From end cap signage to window displays, in-store signage guides customers through the retail location and can provide valuable information to assist the customer in their purchase decisions.

How about your store’s identifying sign on its exterior? When was the last time you looked at it closely? A faded or peeling sign might turn business away. Since most commercial locations have glass entry doors as well as windows, what are your doors and windows saying to the public about your business?

As an example, many aquatic stores paint over their windows. Some do a great job by hiring a professional to indicate what the store specializes in, but many more just shove fixtures up against the windows to block the algae-causing sunlight. Unfortunately, I’ve seen this type of thing in my travels, from aquatic to general merchandise pet stores, and it’s not a pretty sight and does nothing to draw customers in.

According to one national study of independent retailers, over 35 percent of their customers learned of their businesses through just seeing the store sign as they passed by, while another 29 percent already knew they were there but a newly installed sign finally brought them into the store. Comparing those numbers to 14 percent brought in by word of mouth, 10 percent by advertising and 12 percent by other, it is clear just how important an outside sign can be in building your business.

Keep in mind that 85 percent of your customers live or work within a five-mile radius of your business and a good outside presence is essential to your store’s sales growth. Don’t be afraid to change out your window advertising signage monthly and only keep in-store signage if it shows sales progress. Try something different in place of the signs that are not bringing in sales.

Every endcap in your stores would benefit by providing a theme, such as a dog food of the month endcap, boxed aquarium setups or anything else you know you can sell and want to bump those sales up even more. Make signage detailing why the product is being showcased and why the customer is encouraged to buy it now.

Statements like “We Recommend” or “We Use This at Home” or “This is Our Favorite” are powerful sentiments that will encourage customers to try what you’re selling. Signs can be as small as an index card or as large as a 10-foot banner; just make sure your sign tells the story, keeping it simple and to the point.

If you haven’t used in-store signs in a while, or even if you have never used them, try them out. Signage is an inexpensive way to increase your sales.  Over time, you will see what works and what doesn’t and make the whole process more effective and informative.

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