Horizontal & Vertical Merchandising explained

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Whether you’re running a humble corner shop or a big-name warehouse store, it pays to pay attention to the way you stock and arrange products. Visual merchandising techniques can help to increase the numbers and value of store purchases; either by helping customers find what they’re looking for, or by guiding them to place your most profitable items in their baskets.

Here’s a quick guide to horizontal and vertical visual merchandising - what’s the difference, and how can they help your retail business? What is horizontal merchandising? As the name suggests, horizontal merchandising is the horizontal arrangement across your shelves, so each individual product type/brand usually only appears on one shelf in a particular rack. This approach is often used in smaller brand stores, since they typically have a far smaller selection of products to display. Here, each shelf can often be reserved for a single SKU, which contributes to a more stylish store layout. However, for larger retailers with wider product inventories (such as supermarkets and warehouse stores), horizontal merchandising does have its limitations. One is shelf space; you’ll need to display multiple SKUs per shelf in horizontal blocks, and you can’t display as many different products in an aisle as you can with vertical merchandising techniques. Horizontal merchandising is also less intuitive for shoppers, for a couple of reasons: The width of the customer’s visual focus is relatively narrow; so for larger aisles with multiple horizontal blocks per shelf, you’ll need to move through the aisle to hunt down the products you want. Shoppers tend to ‘read’ shelves from left to right, just like a book. Horizontal merchandising demands that they read them from top to bottom; and for longer aisles, they’ll need to keep repeating the read as they move down the aisle. Shoppers also give the most focus to products at their eye level. This means you can display your most lucrative products at the average consumer’s eye level to increase sales; but it also means that products placed above or below this level might struggle to attract sales. It’s also worth noting that every customer’s eye level will vary somewhat depending on their height. What is vertical merchandising? Vertical merchandising is the arrangement of products in vertical columns or ‘ribbons’ across multiple shelves. Products might be placed on every shelf in a particular aisle rack, but many retailers split their vertical columns into two or three horizontal blocks - for reasons we’ll come onto in a moment. With this approach, products have a stronger visual impact; since each SKU takes up a greater vertical area and every product can effectively be placed at eye level no matter how tall the customer is. By splitting columns as mentioned earlier, family-friendly retailers can market products to children as well as adults by placing the former’s products on lower shelves at their eye level. Block merchandising can also come in handy for encouraging multiple purchases of the same SKU, such as toiletries and bathroom consumables. In addition, each aisle can be stocked with many more products; which means customers take in more products at a time within the limited width of their visual focus. You’ll need to be careful not to overdo it, though. If the horizontal width of each vertical column is too narrow, aisles can look overcrowded while each individual SKU appears to be understocked. Which one is right for me? Any visual merchandising approach should be based on the kinds of products you’re selling, the stock quantities you have to sell, the buying habits of your consumers and the space you have available. There’s no one-size-fits all solution, and there’s nothing to stop you from tweaking the rules of horizontal and vertical merchandising to match your retail needs. That being said, if you’re a smaller retailer with a lighter product range and/or smaller shelves, horizontal merchandising is probably your best bet. If you’re a larger retailer with a lot of stock to shift, block vertical merchandising offers a more space-efficient solution. - Follow the ShelfWobblers.co.uk blog for all the latest retail tips, advice and insights - or to get a quote for your own custom-printed shelf wobblers, give us a call on [number] today!

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