Fill ’er Up!

Help your shelves look fully stocked

If you’re a spa retailer, this pandemic has been oddly good for business. Many of you are extra busy thanks to people being stuck at home, wanting to upgrade their lives in a healthy way.

On the downside, you’re running low on hot tubs, chemicals and accessories. Your shelves and floor space may look empty in places, and your showroom can feel picked over. If you don’t have exactly what your customers came in to buy, entice them to buy something else.

Classic Pools & Spas in Gladstone, Oregon, has some inspirational ideas. There are merchandise pods dotted around the selling floor, each with a seasonal product. Traeger had a display area taking up about 28 square feet with a selection of barbecue sauces and seasonings on the top and pellets below. Grill covers in boxes backed up the display area with boxed Traeger Tailgater sets to the left. This pod made it easy for one or two people to shop without bumping into other customers. Another outdoor grill pod was about 7 feet away, filled with Big Green Egg merchandise. This area took up more space but easily allowed customers to travel around it safely.

I was curious about the chemicals and asked a sales associate if there were any problems keeping popular products in stock. He laughed, nodded and told me to look around at the emptier-than-normal space. Shipments have been coming in slower and more erratically, he told me, and planning ahead hasn’t seemed to help. With his permission, I made a few changes to the gondola shelves so I could take before and after photos.

Each change took less than a minute. In all, the four areas I fixed took under five minutes.

Here are some simple solutions to refresh your showroom to highlight what you have — not what’s missing.

Focus on eye level

If you don’t have enough product to fill the visible shelves, move product from the bottom shelves to fill in at eye level. Move price signs to reflect the new placement of the products.

Before (left): The top two shelves look great. The merchandise on the lower two shelves is hard to see and shop. After (right): Simply moving the merchandise forward on the shelves made the area more appealing. It looked full, and was easier to shop and buy.

Pull merchandise forward

People buy what’s in front. Your backup stock is usually neatly sitting behind, waiting its turn to be bought. Pull it forward so the shelf looks fuller. This is a quick and easy fix that tricks people into thinking the store is full.

Duplicate merchandise

If you have two of something but zero of something else, pull the duplicate piece forward into the empty space. It’s better to have two of the same side-by-side than an empty space. Empty spaces look like gap-toothed smiles — and not the cute kind.

Adjust the shelf price tags so they make sense. Move the price marker for the out-of-stock merchandise to a bottom/empty shelf. If you have a different vendor that makes a similar product and can solve the customer’s problem, stock it in that area or put a shelf sign in its place directing the customer to where to find it in your store.

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Use informational signs or graphics

Use empty space to educate your customer with informational signs. Print out a list of must-have spa chemicals on a horizontal page, with a list of up to seven products every spa owners should have on hand.

The font should be a simple sans serif such as Helvetica, Ariel, Calibri or other clean font. Use the 24-point type for headlines (in bold) and 18-point type for the body. You don’t want people to have to put on their readers to see your signs.

Other informational signs could be:

  • When and how to clean your spa
  • When to change the filter/s
  • How to clean the cover
  • When and how to use test strips and what the ideal pH level is for a spa
  • What is shock, and how and when to use it

Display your signs on 8.5- by 11-inch acrylic sign holders with magnets. A quick source is Displays2Go.com, where 20 quantity landscape sign holders are $14.25 each.

Group products that work together

Put products together that are needed for one task in an empty space on a top shelf with a sign, such as Products for Weekly Spa Maintenance. This will educate people about what to buy for each task.

For example:  

Test Strips or Test Kit – test spa water 2-3x per week
Bromine tablets – for continuous sanitation
Bromine Booster – Raises bromide levels after draining
Spa Shock – regular super-sanitation, weekly
Spa pH & Alkalinity Balancers – as needed
Get creative with your merchandise

If you’re out of spa chemicals, it may be counter-intuitive to sell your customers a less expensive product they can easily buy in a grocery store — but if you can’t sell them what they are used to buying, they’ll go to a competitor. If you offer a large container of white vinegar (to remove scum from the spa shell, jets and water line) for a small amount more than your local grocery store, and explain it’s a short-term solution that will work until their usual chemicals are back in stock, you may keep the person as a customer. There’s a risk they will continue to use the vinegar instead of whatever cleaning chemicals you usually sell, but they will come back for more good advice as well as other things they normally need for maintenance. You can fill a shelf with vinegar for very little money and get a lot of good will in return. The bottom line is to fake it until you make it. Give customers the visual illusion that your store is full until your regular supplies are more readily available.