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Hot Spots

Posted by on in Visual Merchandising
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Effective merchandising demands the most effective use of available retail space, ultimately seeking to capture the impulse of the customer to buy more and to buy better. An understanding of customer behaviour in the shop, often learned through trial + error and observation can be used as a positive sales tool.

It is telling that large retailers employ policies of shop layout, based upon research and understanding of consumers' purchasing patterns.

An initial consideration is a basic building floor plan, and every shop through it's physical layout will have areas which draw higher traffic, as well as areas of the shop which may not be explored so much for reasons such as congestion (perceived or real) or simply being at a distance from the point of entry.

An understanding of this can greatly affect stock turnover - a lesser known product placed in a high traffic area in a large, attractive stack will certainly have a greater chance of selling than buried in the back of a shop. Likewise, a popular, sought after product need not be displayed as prominently as it already has established demand.

It is, however, worth noting that there is a balance between objectively using shop space and potentially losing sales through the false perception of a product's unavailability. 'Dead Spots' within a shop may also make for a good space to display sales specials and discounted items, with regular customers ultimately trained to seek these out.

Small retailers need to promote a sense of difference whilst maintaining usability.

If you don't have the environment that people like to be in, they'll only buy the essentials.

You Need a Combination of Science and Art
Science comes into play with smart logistics for the shop and placing products in the right areas.

Art comes into play when it's time to created a unique environment with good lighting, colour, displays, fragrances and music. The right environment can capture consumers and entice them to buy once they are inside your shop enjoying the "feel"of the shop and browsing.

Do the big shops deliberately place merchandise in a specific location at a particular time? Is it pure luck that signs in fast food outlets are placed at particular locations or facing specific directions? Is a shopper who is keen to get to a designated area to buy a product going to notice more on the way out or on the way back once they have made a decision? When would be the best time to present customers with the idea of an additional product to go with their purchase?

Here are 4 things you want to consider:

  1. Which way to shoppers move through the shop?
  2. Who buys the products?
  3. How many shoppers actually buy?
  4. How long do shoppers spend in the shop?

Placement of products is also part of the art. Don't use the WAG system (wild-ass guess). Instead, look for "hot spots" in the shop where merchandise is known to move. Plan where you will put things in order to get the most stockturns.

Finding the Hot Spots
Within each shop, there are a number of areas that can provide better selling opportunities than others. These usually occur at points with the best exposure to shoppers and are often referred to as hot spots. The hot spots tend to be those that get the heaviest traffic, adjacent to the entrance and exits, and where a shop has a major featured spot such as meeting areas or a coffee shop.

As displays in these areas tend to be very visible, they can lend themselves to impulse shopping and should be changed frequently. Frequency can vary from business to business and with the time of year. Some shops even change displays in these locations by time of day. Changing displays is important to target a specific audience or keep a fresh, interesting look for regular visitors to the shop.

Hot Spots can occur throughout a shop along the most frequently travelled routes, and there are many hot-spot possibilities in each shop.

Consider these:

  • Points of exit and entry between departments
  • End caps facing the main traffic flow
  • Island and feature displays in main traffic areas
  • Displays in direct line of sight to shoppers
  • Points where the traffic flow naturally slows down
  • As hot spots offer excellent potential for sales, special attention and planning should be given to these areas.

Consider these sections for hot spots:

  • Seasonality topical merchandise
  • Advertised specials and promotional items
  • Products mentioned by the media
  • High-impact products
  • Products that help set an image

Creative use of merchandising for hot spots, feature displays and end caps can also be an invitation to browse, taking shoppers on a journey from the time they enter your shop to the time they leave and showing off the merchandise in stages.

Use displays like steppingstones: move customers from one display to the next, presenting as much of the merchandise as possible on the way. The objective is not necessarily for the shopper to see everything at once, which can be somewhat overwhelming or even confusing. Just try to creatively and interestingly show as much as possible during their visit. This can also help limit the less travelled areas of the shop, the "cold spots" or "dead spots".

As hot spots tend to invite impulse purchases, when merchandising these areas, you should have a clear purpose and message in mind.

Consider these ideas when merchandising prime locations:

  • Limit the selection to a maximum of three related items; use one primary product and cross merchandise with up to two other related products. Ideally, use at lest one product that could be purchased in addition to the primary product rather than as an alternative to it. A third item could perhaps be a larger size.
  • A single item en-masse can be very effective, especially grouped by colour.
  • Use appropriate signs to reinforce the message as required.
  • Keep it looking as full as possible. As items sell out, restock or replace them with another item or dress forward according to the season.
  • Change stale, dated displays and point-of-sale material as soon as the promotion or theme ends.
  • Cold Spots

These tend to be areas less frequently visited by shoppers, subsequently generating fewer sales. For example, they may be off the beaten track, long or dead-end aisle with nothing apparent to draw shoppers, dark or hidden areas, or against the normal traffic flow. There may be many reasons why shoppers don't frequent these areas. Some problems we can try and overcome by re-merchandising or reducing visual obstructions, others can be more challenging.

In working with cold spots, there are many things to consider:

  • Keep aisles as wide as practically possible and resist the temptation to merchandise the floor with overflow product.
  • Use focal points to draw shoppers dead-end or long aisles
  • Creative lighting helps draw attention to darker areas inside a shop
  • Sound and movement attracts attention
  • Creative merchandising, such as colour, signs and interesting props, draws customers
  • Maintain visibility and use lines of sight
  • There are many possible products for cold spots:
  • Advertised loss leaders
  • Commodity/demand items
  • Colourful items that attract attention
  • Clearance merchandise

Adjustment Space
As shoppers enter a shop, there is usually an area where they first familiarise themselves with their surrounds, an orientation area, commonly called the Adjustment Space of Adjustment Zone. Merchandise placed too close to the entrance, usually with the first 2 - 3 metres, can go largely unseen. Mind you, this varies depending on shop layout and size. By placing merchandise a few feet further into the shop, it has a better chance of being noticed.

I Need One of These...
The counter areas are another good spot for last-minute reminders. Product selection needs to be made carefully, as these would largely be pick-up/impulse purchases. Products here tend to be items that customers may have forgotten, smaller consumable items and seasonally topical.

Is it dramatic?
Is it magnetic? (attracts and holds attention in the area you wish to control the customers' eyes?)
Is it persuasive?
Is it well organised and neat? (Could you find what you wanted if you were the customer?)
Has anyone dusted?

Look at your windows and interiors daily. Do they look clean? bright? attractive? informative?
Are the light fittings clean?
Is the floor clean and not a clutter of merchandise to trip up the customers?
Is the door free of stickers/incorrect information/blutak?
Is the light level fine - all lights working?
ARe there dark areas in the shop?

Are all spot lights positioned correctly on the merchandise?

The merchandise can be put into the following categories:

The silent sale is concerned with:

Understanding consumer behaviour can help merchandising efforts. Identify your key selling areas. Recognising if, who and when they change and determining problem areas can contribute to capitalising on potential sales opportunities.

Although many principles remain the same, key selling areas and merchandising techniques may vary according to each shop and location.


Shopping should be a pleasure for everyone involved - customers, staff and business owners - never a chore.  I spend my time working with retail business owners - helping them love their businesses back to life!  This blog is my thoughts, ideas, tips and  musings on what I find...