And you thought merchandising YOUR store was tough

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

I’m fortunate to have one of those jobs that requires business travel. This year it meant a trip every week since the Rose Bowl and more throughout February.

Friends ask me if I ever get weary of constant trips. For the most part, it’s no!  I meet interesting people on my travels, each with amazing stories.

This past week I connected with a man who works for one of those super warehouse clubs. You know, the kind of place where you can buy a 55-gallon drum of ranch dressing or a 25-pound bag of Jell-O. Enough to turn your swimming pool into a large shimmying dessert.

While some of those stores are bigger than multiple football fields, his area of expertise is in a much smaller space. His footprint is the non-prescription drug section.

In a typical 125,000-square-foot store, his domain is about 1,000 square feet. Half of that rarely changes. Tylenol, Pepto-Bismol and Band-Aids have no season. The other half is constantly in flux.

There are seasonal changes and changes based on the location of the club. Weight loss aids need to be in place on New Year’s Day; Dramamine during travel periods; and vitamin C all winter. In the Northeast, having sun block on the shelves after Labor Day is a sin.

He also must incorporate new products, remove discontinued items and jettison remaining inventory. Fast. Sometimes every week.

Too many SKUs, not enough space. Efficiency is good, but business is business and effectiveness is better. And merchandising, no matter how large or small your shop’s size, is key to revenue.

Between this month’s Las Vegas Market and the upcoming KBIS and AVB Summit events, we of the Retail World will be presented with scores of new merchandise selections. Lots of choices. And like my warehouse club friend, we have limited space for display.

While my big-box buddy has to make changes every week, you have time to plan your strategy. Your plan can include managing these tasks and opportunities:

  • Inventory counts on current floor samples and stock
  • Assessment and review of new product offerings
  • Final order dates for current merchandise
  • Release date availability for new models
  • Markdowns and sales incentives on discontinued/phase-out items
  • Sales and operational training on new products
  • Advertising planning and schedules for new releases
  • In-store signage, tagging and other display asset needs
  • Website updates including pricing, specs and images

Your factory reps should be a part of your planning team. They can provide information to help you decide when to start cutting your inventory. They have velocity reports to let you know your sales sweet spots — pricing, size, comfort. This will help you decide which new products you will show. You’ll want to match your floor display to national advertising campaigns.

Your reps will also be a source for info and images with which to update your website, as well as point-of-purchase materials.

Another issue: Disposing of mattress floor samples, which can be a bit tricky. Many shoppers would never consider a floor sample. Luckily, there are bargain hunters out there too!

Mattress samples are sold to dealers at deep discounts. There’s a reason for that. Once its selling life is over, you need to move it out. Don’t be a margin hog on these samples. Getting a $59-$99 margin over discounted cost should move them quickly.

Once your new lineup is set you can prepare for phasing in new samples. Be sure to order backup stock! Salespeople and shoppers love the latest and greatest. Showing the new without a few in the barn will be a sure disappointment for both buyer and sales associate. Start with at least one king and one queen per floor sample.

Training is central to your success. Sure, you’ll want to train on the nuts and bolts of the products. But also train on how to sell them: logical step-ups and step-downs; identifying likely shoppers for the products; how they compare to the former samples; and financing costs per month for each item.

Center advertising around national events, the key six or seven holidays when people buy beds. Let the world know that you are the place to see the latest innovations.

Merchandise planning can be fun! It’s like a Rubik’s Cube smashed into a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. There’s a lot of moving pieces. Plan for the solution among the options that will let you win in 2024.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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