Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Street-Wise Marketing

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Street-Wise Marketing

Article excerpt

Poor merchandising is often the Achilles heel of the small retailer. How can an independent hope to compete with the resources of a national chain? Few can, but in New York City, some independent retailers have a secret weapon-Mike Feder and the Savvy Stores(SM) program. For the last two years, Feder, a retired Macy's store manager, has been focusing his attention on providing "practical marketing" for the small store owners of Midtown. Funded by building owner assessments paid to the 34th Street Partnership business improvement district, Feder's approach is hands on. "I spend most of my time walking the blocks around Herald Square on 34th Street and talking with owners about ways to develop their businesses," he says. Feder's first step is helping retailers understand who their customers are before they intensify their marketing. "Today's customers are pretty sophisticated and even small retailers must move their business up a notch," he says. He notes that with national chains such as Banana Republic and Old Navy opening stores in the area, it is imperative for the smaller retailer to adjust and develop the opportunistic retail strategies that can aid in their survival.

With more than 10,000 locals and tourists a day passing the corner of 34th Street and Broadway, another area of concentration is window displays. "We help store owners design windows that grab the customer's interest," says Feder. Recruiting students from the Fashion Institute of Technology and working professionals in the field, Savvy Stores draws up a plan for a window that "focuses on a relevant trend or a particular message." This service is so important, according to Feder, that it is offered free of charge. Retailers can contract with designers for subsequent display changes.

To illustrate the impact that an enticing window can have, Feder describes the success of a local gift store. Although the owner had developed a successful custom framing business, the dull and dusty windows failed to capture the attention of the many potential shoppers. Although walk-by traffic was good, the store did not capitalize on the potential for "impulse" buying.

By creating a clever merchandising theme around the City of New York, several gift classifications-novelty gifts, posters, and figurines-were mixed with interesting props to produce a crisp, clean window that quickly caught the eye of passing local shoppers and tourists. Back panels were hung in the window to create a backdrop and enhance the visual appeal of the merchandise. Platforms and cubes were added to elevate the merchandise and to increase the window's capacity. New track lighting with halogen spots added drama and visual interest.

Customer service training-often neglected by small owners-is another area of Feder's concentration. "We work with sales associates on methods to establish a dialog with the customer. For example, we teach them to ask open-ended questions or make a comment about some piece of merchandise the customer is looking at as a way to make contact and learn what the customer is looking for," he says. Other techniques include recognizing body language as a way to evaluate the customer's response, confirming the customer's choice again after the sale is made, showing appreciation of the customer and thanking the customer by name.

"It's really an attitude; it doesn't happen by having one or two meetings with sales associates. Training needs to be repeated and monitored," says Feder. He also notes that providing training and positive critiques are ways to recognize associates' achievements and promote employee retention.

Successful merchandising for the small retailer takes innovation and often must be done at little or no cost. But with an expert like Mike Feder in their corner, the merchants of 34th Street are sure to remain competitive. service? A tenant's existing locations will speak volumes about how he or she plans to run his or her store in your center, so visiting those stores should be the first step in your evaluation. …

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