A picture depicting a sales representative speaking to two clients in a clean showroom.
The life-changing magic of tidying up your showroom

As spring nears, it’s time for a fresh, new feeling in your showroom. Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home, after all. 

The entire energy of your showroom changes when you move things around and clean at the same time. Customers are unconsciously aware of energy shifts and are more attracted to merchandise that has been moved to a new spot. 

Years ago, I spoke at the Atlanta Gift Show on visual merchandising and mentioned how moving product creates sales. A woman in the audience raised her hand and said, “Every morning I walk into my store and move one thing, and every day that one thing sells!” I joked that the next day everyone would be walking into their stores and moving 15 things to see if it worked. It got a laugh, but I’ll always wonder if people tried it. I know I would! 


I worked for a boutique several years ago, and when we put merchandise on a rolling rack to move to another location, that was the first thing customers would be drawn to. It became a joke — if something isn’t selling, move it and it’ll sell immediately. 

Motivating Sales Staff 

Does your sales staff proactively move and clean shelved products when they’re not with a customer? Or are they staring intently at their phones solving the world’s problems or checking out the latest cat videos? 

Rarely will a salesperson volunteer to clean, straighten and reset merchandise unless asked to, unless you have an amazingly motivated person working for you. If so, congratulations! If not, early in the year is a great time to initiate new programs. 

Consider holding a staff meeting to introduce the program. Each person who works on the selling floor (and perhaps those who work behind the scenes, if they are not constantly busy) gets an area of the selling floor they are responsible for. Ideally, these areas are as equal as possible when it comes to the quantity of products. Their job is to make sure their area is clean and well-stocked, with all labels facing forward and items pulled to the front of shelves. Merchandise equipment on the selling room floor is kept tidy and buffed clean. If this is done between customers, it really doesn’t take that long. 

If an office area is visible, have one person be responsible for that. Remove all shipping and/or empty boxes, make sure desks are neat (this is not going to be a popular part of the program), align brochures and straighten up anything that looks messy. If tables and chairs are misaligned, move them back into place. This maintenance should not take long, and little changes can make a huge difference in customers’ eyes. 

Introducing this innovative maintenance program could be challenging, and I’m being polite with my language. When introducing it, ask employees to vote on whether they get one area that is “theirs” to maintain for as long as they are working or if they’d prefer to get a new area every two weeks, every month or every other month. When given a choice, even for something they have no desire to do, the act of choosing helps people feel like they have some say in a new directive. 

If you have never asked your staff to help with merchandise maintenance, this new initiative could annoy them. But you have to start sometime, and keeping your showroom looking neat, clean and fresh will make your customers feel more comfortable in their experience with you. The more they shop, the more people keep their jobs. 

If you already have a person hired to take care of this daily, you’re all set. If not, chances are good that your store isn’t looking as fresh as it should. If you are sure that your staff will rebel at the idea of cleaning and straightening up the merchandise, you may consider a part-time merchandiser who takes care of different parts of the selling area on a rotating basis. This person should come in at least three times a week. 

Create Opportunities for Cross-Merchandising 

Cross-merchandising is an excellent way to introduce new products to your customers. Once again, at a staff meeting, ask your salespeople how they create multiple sales. What products do they recommend their customers purchase together? If you have space in your showroom, have each person who has offered a good suggestion create a cross-merchandising display. This could be mixing a group of products together that solve a specific issue. Develop a bundle of problem-solving products and consider offering them at a slightly discounted price when bought together. 

To make this extra work more palatable to your staff, consider making it a competition. Track the sales of each cross-merchandised display and award a prize to the top seller after a month. Prizes of value include time off, a better parking spot, money or something that is specific to that person. 

A huge drugstore/gift shop in Sisters, Oregon, had this program in place. Each sales associate had their own area to maintain. The sales from each of their areas were tallied daily, and a winner was declared at the end of each month. The competition was friendly and fierce, and the entire store looked great as a result. 

Over the years, I have written visual standards guides for huge corporations as well as individually owned stores and small chains. From American Express Travel Related Services, United Rentals, the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA), Singer, Saks Fifth Avenue and many other corporations, to Alamar Uniforms with three stores, these guides have allowed management to train their staff to keep their standards high. 

Maintenance is always covered first. It involves everything you see as you walk up to, into and through a store. While your staff probably isn’t going to replace the lightbulbs on your outdoor sign, mop the floors, or clean the facade and windows, they will notice if management doesn’t take care of those things. If you fail to hire specific people to take care of major items, you are exhibiting to your employees your lack of care for your facility. If you don’t care about your responsibility, why should they? 

Maintenance starts at the top and influences everyone who works there. If you are proud of your showroom, you encourage others to feel that way as well. This “pride of place” influences your customers. Your products are headed to your customers’ homes. Your store should be as neat and clean as they are — or perhaps more so. The word “aspirational” comes to mind. When people shop in an environment they respect, that creates equal respect for the products and expertise of the people working there.

Linda Cahan is the president of Portland, Oregon-based Cahan & Co., a consulting firm that works with retailers of all sizes and categories to improve their bottom line through affordable and appropriate visual merchandising, store design and renovations. For more information, visit lindacahan.com.


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