The retail sector is facing a turbulent period. With persistent supply chain issues, labor shortages, and fears of a recession, retailers must ensure that the various components of their business—including inventory, staff, and operations—are in top shape.
This is particularly true for footwear and apparel retailers. Research cited by RetailDive indicates that consumer spending on goods like apparel, accessories, and footwear declined by 15.7% in 2022.
As UBS analysts Jay Sole mentioned on RetailDive, “U.S. consumers have deferred apparel purchases at a much higher rate than they did one year ago… [they] are planning to shop for sales more often, buy more store brand products, take fewer shopping trips, and shop closer to home.”
That’s why if you’re an apparel and footwear retailer, it’s more important than ever to craft a strong retail strategy and execute it flawlessly.
In this post, we’ll go over six key areas to focus on and how to get them right.
Let’s get started!
1. Visual merchandising
Visual merchandising is one of the most powerful conversion tools for brick-and-mortar stores. When executed properly, your visual merchandising strategy can draw shoppers in and entice them to try on your products and ultimately make a purchase.
To that end, see to it that your in-store merchandising initiatives excel in the following ways:
They’re neat and orderly. Nothing turns off shoppers more than a disorganized retail display. Haphazard and messy displays create confusion and bring up a poor perception of your brand.
Keep your displays on point by making sure they’re neat and organized. Ensure items are in their proper places and your shelves are adequately stocked.
Cohesive. Retail displays work best when multiple elements come together to form a cohesive look and feel. That’s why it’s essential to carefully plan your merchandising efforts, so your displays look as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Colors should be well-coordinated, and the placement of various product types should make sense to your customers.
For instance, if you’re putting together a display to showcase your winter products, then it makes sense to display outfits with matching outerwear, sweaters, and accessories like scarves and gloves.
Relevant to your target market. Your visual merchandising should resonate with your target customers. Strive to craft in-store visuals that shoppers can relate to. A good way to do this is to show off the different ways that an item can be used.
Here’s an excellent example from Uniqlo. As a casualwear store that caters to practical and modern shoppers, Uniqlo does a great job of merchandising its stores to demonstrate the interesting features of its products.
Check out the display below, in which Uniqlo shows off the pockets of its leggings by placing items like phone accessories and sunglasses inside the pockets.
Source: photo taken by Francesca Nicasio
2. Seasonal products
As a footwear or apparel retailer, your inventory throughout the year is determined by the changing seasons. As such, it’s essential to establish solid demand planning and ordering practices. Pay close attention to seasonal trends and your shoppers’ behaviors around them.
For example, knee-high boots may be trendy in one location, but low-cut styles are favored in another. The best way to figure out which products work where is to look at local consumer trends, then stock up accordingly.
Once you have the merchandise in your stores, showcase them properly using the visual merchandising tips outlined above.
Sales and promotions are going to be a lot more crucial in the coming months as inflation and recession concerns continue. A 2022 study by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that nearly half (44%) of consumers are looking for coupons or sales more often in response to higher prices.
So, if you’re planning to launch sales and promotions in-store, know that shoppers will likely be more receptive to them.
However, successful promos aren’t just about slashing prices and putting things on sale. In order for your initiatives to be effective (and profitable), you must iron out your promotional strategy early on.
Select the right types of promotions. Choose the best promotion type for your store. Start by determining your objectives, then come up with the right promo type for your goals.
Let’s say you’re an apparel and footwear retailer who’s having trouble selling a particular brand of socks. In this instance, it makes sense to launch a BOGO offer or “gift with purchase” featuring that item. On the other hand, if you’re looking to drive traffic and revenue quickly, then an attractive percentage discount would be a better fit.
Know your numbers. Promotions can be effective in driving sales, but make sure they don’t eat too much into your profits. Don’t forget to calculate your net profit before running offers so you’re not losing money on each sale.
Get your timing right. Timing matters a great deal when it comes to promos. If you put a product on sale too early in the season, you might end up discounting an item that shoppers would’ve paid full price for. On the other hand, waiting too long to mark down a product could result in stale inventory.
4. Loss prevention
The shrink rate in the retail industry has been pretty steady over the last five years, hovering at around 1.4%, according to the NRF. Still, shrinkage is costing retailers quite a bit of money; in 2021, it represented $94.5 billion in losses for merchants.
This is why investing in loss prevention is key. Equipping your business with the right technologies will go a long way in keeping your stores secure and preventing loss.
Consider the following.
Radio frequency identification (RFID) systems. RFID is one of the most utilized technologies in retail. Aside from helping you tag and track products in the event of theft, RFID can also aid with inventory tracking as merchandise moves through the supply chain.
Video surveillance. Video cameras can help you and your teams monitor suspicious activity, as well as keep documentation in case an incident takes place. In addition, the presence of cameras can also serve as a deterrent for people up to no good.
Artificial intelligence (AI). AI can have many applications in loss prevention. From POS and video analytics to behavioral detection and flagging, retailers are increasingly leveraging AI to aid their security efforts.
In fact, research by the NRF found that in 2021, 29.8% of retailers are either implementing or planning to implement AI-based video analytics.
5. Employee coaching
Products such as apparel and footwear are easily commoditized. The competition is fierce, especially when factoring in online retailers. To compete, your store must be able to offer something beyond “stuff.” Be sure to provide a pleasant retail experience that makes the in-store visit worthwhile.
Your staff plays a critical role in this regard. Your in-store team members do everything from welcoming and serving customers to maintaining the store and showing off your products. For this reason, employee coaching is key. Establish a strong staff training program for new and seasoned team members alike. When onboarding new employees, provide them with thorough educational materials (e.g, handbooks, videos, learning portals) to get them up to speed quickly.
For current employees, it helps to offer on-demand training as well as provide the opportunity to gain new knowledge and skill through seminars and events.
6. Health and safety
Health and safety continue to be an important consideration for retail customers and employees alike.
We may be starting to put the pandemic behind us, but that doesn’t mean you can be complacent. Stay on top of all things cleaning and sanitizing by regularly disinfecting surfaces to eliminate viruses and bacteria.
Keep these areas on point with retail audits
Consistency is vital when it comes to the success of your footwear and apparel stores. The pointers and tips above must be implemented consistently in order for your business to thrive in the months and years ahead.
Bindy can help you execute your strategy flawlessly with our powerful retail audit and inspection software. With Bindy, you can streamline store visits and inspections and ensure that your policies, procedures, and promotions are implemented properly every time.
About the author:
Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.