Physical Retail

These days, more and more "online-only" retailers are growing their businesses by expanding into brick and mortar retail. But there’s a lot more to physical retail than “location, location, location".

In fact, there’s everything from merchandising, store layout, and signage, all the way to pricing, packaging, and POS technology, just to name a few topics. But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a steady stream of helpful content to help you be successful in all your offline pursuits.

Physical Retail Marketing Advice

How a 107-Year-Old Sneaker Company Reinvented Its Business With Omni-Channel Retail

Michael Packer, owner of Packer Shoes, knows a thing or two about sneakers. His family has been in…


Michael Packer, owner of Packer Shoes, knows a thing or two about sneakers. His family has been in the business for three generations. The original Packer Shoes store was started by his grandfather and great-uncle in Yonkers, New York in 1907. 

A lot of things have changed since then, like the store's relocation to Teaneck, New Jersey, and the company's foray into ecommerce, not to mention its budding clientele from around the world. But what hasn't changed is Packer Shoe's commitment to their community which now consists of "sneaker heads" – people who are so passionate about shoes they don't mind camping out overnight to get their hands on the latest and greatest pair.

With 107 years of history behind them, Packer Shoes continues to blend the old with the new, maintaining its heritage, while embracing the modern. Their non-traditional approach to offline and online marketing has allowed the company to adapt and thrive to this day.

In this success story, I catch up with Mike to get to know more about how he runs his retail business and successfully sells both online and offline.  

1) Describe your business and products.

Packer Shoes is a family business that started back in 1907 by my grandfather and his brother, with the original store being based out of Yonkers, New York. It was your basic mom-and-pop heritage, all footwear and all ages across the board.

Sneakers were always at the very heart of the business and over time, it grew and we were fortunate enough to be one of Nike’s first accounts in the U.S., Adidas too, and then everyone else followed suit. The store that’s located in Teaneck, New Jersey now is an outgrowth of that first store, and this year will mark our 10th year at our current location.

2) You started with a physical retail store, when did you get going online?

We always were doing things online to a certain extent before, but it always felt backwards. In the beginning when we opened up something online it was basically having people emailing us about setting up all these PayPal invoices, and then we graduated to doing these mini-sites that were powered by PayPal, then trying different shopping carts before finally settling on Shopify.

We were also using another POS solution, but there was never anything that took it to the last leg of having everything under one umbrella and giving us the ability to manage all our inventory, both online and offline, in a single dashboard

3) How did you go about picking your current location in Teaneck, New Jersey? 

I’ve lived in Teaneck now for close to 20 years, it’s close to New York, in Bergen County. It’s suburban, but most of the people who are from around here, they’re shopping either locally or they’re going into New York. It’s very diverse and I don’t want to use the word “affluent,” but that's the key demographic. It’s no coincidence that the mall on Route 4, the Garden State Mall is one of the highest-grossing malls in the country. Even though it’s in New Jersey, you have mini-markets, you have every high-end shop in that strip of the highway. We’re not in a mall though, we're located in Teaneck.

When it comes to retail, generally your business depends on foot traffic. Which means you want to be centrally located. But when we opened in Teaneck, it was a real out-of-the-box idea of opening a sneaker store there, and had us questioning not only what we would do on the retail side but how we would do it. 

At the end of the day though, if you have a product that people love, they will find you, and they will travel to get to you, so that’s something that we've been really grateful for from day one. Over the last 10 years, our following has grown and we've also been able to grow our presence on the web pretty substantially, allowing us to go from being just local, to national, to international now.

4) How did you go about deciding on the retail interior for Packer Shoes? 

There's so much diversity in retail. I wouldn't be able to tell someone how to design a flower shop or something, but if you walk into our store, we still get this reaction to this day of people being like "whoa", thinking our store was out of place from where they would think a typical sneaker store like ours should be. 

I think that’s the response that you want to have as a retailer about anything, because if you’re looking to differentiate yourself in any business, giving someone that feeling right off the bat is fantastic. There really isn't a better compliment that you can get from somebody then when they walk in and they can get a feel right off the bat for what your store’s about.

Now, there’s a lot of guys who work in the sphere that we’re in that are very creative and take different approaches to what they do, especially when it comes to designing their store. Everybody sets themselves apart in a certain way. But, I think what we do best and what we try and get across in everything that we do is taking a modern approach to a heritage-based business, and that's what keeps us honest to the Packer Shoes brand. 

5) How does Packer Shoes market its brand? 

I think we’re fortunate enough that when it comes to marketing, our focus is really on the sneakers and products themselves, so it's very much about the diversity amongst the brands that we carry and that focus does a great job of getting the word out for us. Another great thing about having relationships with the brands we carry is the ability of working with them on custom projects, in addition to the stuff that we're carrying for them.

Obviously we support the brands by working with them as far as getting stuff that would be right for the market, but when you do a special project with them, there’s a sort of cadence to doing it all. And when you put it out there for the world and you use social media and whatever else as far as non-corporate-type marketing goes, which is what works for us, you can accomplish a ton. That's when you have 10- to 50,000 people hitting your site at one time, going after a finite amount of shoes, which is why a backend platform (Shopify) that can support that becomes extremely important, because then everything goes smoothly without a glitch. 

We’ve also never spent a dollar marketing ourselves or advertising ourselves in newspapers or magazines or anything like that. It has always been very non-traditional. People sometimes don’t understand it, but thankfully the product that we have, the word of mouth is very, very good for us. Especially social media. With a steady blog or Instagram feed, the feedback is just instantaneous. For example, we can literally put something up on Instagram and not two seconds later, the phone is ringing off the hook. 

6) What are some advantages of selling both offline and online and how do you manage your operations? 

The optimal thing, at least on our end, is to have everything under one roof because it’s a lot easier to manage the inventory. It's also easier to strategically allocate time and resources to both the online and physical retail stores. The last thing you want is to put up a shoe online over night and before someone can come in the next morning to get it, they're all gone.

Though it’s good that we can sell out of everything, at the end of the day, and maybe this is just a very old-school way of thinking, our customers, and our business is built on physical people walking into the store. That’s not something that we ever want to get away from.

I mean, the retail store is the face and the personality behind Packer Shoes. I can honestly say that if we were just online, we wouldn’t have the ability to do everything that we do project-wise or be able to work at the level we do with the big brands, because everything flows from our physical interaction. 

I'm not going to say we sell the same products or amounts both online and offline, because we're looking at two different wants, but what I am saying is that if we're doing a special launch of an exclusive product, there's a percentage we're saving for our retail store. Because the last thing you want is for your inventory to be wiped out and 250 people sitting outside in the rain, snow, cold, heat, or whatever, and you get to number 15 and you're all sold out. That's just not the way to do business.

What advice would you give to online merchants thinking about selling offline?

I'd say the first and most important thing is to find a location that works for you and your brand. We got lucky because we were able to find something that is sort of a timeless piece of architecture in our current store, but we’ve tweaked it over the years, but that comes naturally with the growth of the business. 

Secondly, you need to have a good team of people with you, and thankfully, I do. Guys who have been with me for years. Our current store manager for example started out shopping in the store when he was in high school just up the street. That morphed into him working part-time and now he’s been with me for seven years. Then there's the guys who work on the backend on the website and the retail store, it’s a great team that I have and the one thing I can say is if you are going from online to physical, it’s important to have everybody on the same page, all the time. If you don’t have all of that flowing together, things can get out of control quickly. 

Lastly, I think the best advice I can give for anyone getting into physical retail is simply “expect the unexpected.”

P.S. Looking to get started selling offline? Check out Shopify POS.

About The Author

Humayun Khan is the Retail Content Officer at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and omni-channel strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

The DIY Guide to Launching and Marketing Your First Pop-Up Shop

Opening a pop-up shop is one of the best ways to build buzz for your brand, reach new…


This is a guest post from Melissa Gonzalez, Founder of The Lionesque Group.

Opening a pop-up shop is one of the best ways to build buzz for your brand, reach new audiences and generate more sales for your business. To help you get stared on your pop-up adventure, I previously covered how to go about determining goals for your pop-up shop and how identifying these goals can better inform decisions on creating an immersive retail experience.

Now, it’s time to revisit your goals and priorities, and begin crafting a pop-up marketing strategy with the assumption that you've picked your location, scouted it to the best of your abilities, negotiated a good deal with the landlord and have already dived into designing your store

But, before getting started on marketing your pop-up shop, it's important to remember that regardless of the campaign you're launching, the messages you send need to have a strong hook, create urgency and target people that write about the product or promise you're selling. There must also be a method like crafting a calendar of PR and social objectives, in order to empower you to have a more effective approach.

In this post, we will explore how you can take advantage of traditional media outlets, engage influencers, learn to craft an editorial calendar for your social strategy and finally when you should turn to guerrilla marketing.

Hone Your PR Strategy

First off, let’s dispel all rumors, “traditional media is not dead.” Also, people still love shopping at retail and pop-up shops, they will continue to watch TV and read print magazines and they still enjoy attending in-person meetups and conferences.

Now, when it comes to targeting traditional media, the key point to keep in mind is knowing what your customer reads, and targeting editors that cover the right beat. 

Sounds basic, right? But to effectively target traditional media outlets, be sure to remember two basic principals: 1) make their job easier by pitching content they can use and 2) know their publishing timelines.

Also, the time between you pitch your story and get published in print are longer than they are for online publications, so as a benchmark aim 2-3 months early for local print, and 2 weeks before pitching online media. For example, the following online local publications routinely cover pop-ups:

Time Out 



Most importantly, don't just do a generic email blast with your press release, instead, have a unique, targeted message for each writer based on what they cover and what their readers may value. For more tools and tactics to get your shop picked up by press, read this.

Get Going with Influencer Marketing

Now you're probably wondering, how do I get influencers to be my evangelists? In other words, how do you get them to visit your shop, snap a photo and post it on their Instagram and hopefully blog about your store? For starters, you have to think of them as press. They want to know what’s hot, what’s new, what’s fresh first,  just as a reporter would. And if you can deliver that message to him or her, you can capture your next “fan.” Get started by creating a list of the key target influencers and bloggers you want to see at your pop-up and reach out to them by highlighting different incentives for them to get involved.

One great way to engage influencers is to throw a launch party to open the pop-up shop on a high note and invite an exclusive list of "who's who" in your local region. For example, when KithNY did a pop-up in Paris, they had a fantastic turnout and got great coverage from influential local online blogs read by their target demographic. 

Also, be sure to look for and find bloggers who write about your price point, for example, a blogger that writes about TJMaxx finds and Target scores is probably not going to cover a new handbag launch where the price point is $700+. It’s not what their readers value, nor can afford.

You'll also want to have a budget set aside for gifting to win influencers over with samples that they can touch and feel and wear publicly. Be sure to offer them the opportunity to provide an exclusive discount code to their readers if they shop at your pop-up store. Another tactic you can try out is inviting them to co-host a night at your pop-up shop on a night of their choice and having the event center around them and their sense of style.

Build Buzz with Social Media 

Once the seeds are planted with editors and influencers, it’s time to start watering them with a sound social media strategy. Social media can feel daunting for a first time pop-up, but just like how you made an editorial calendar for press deadlines, make an editorial calendar for your social strategy with all the social platforms you plan on being active on. Regardless of whether you'll be heavily promoting on FacebookInstagram, Pinterest, Twitter, or Tumblr, this will help make it much more manageable. 

For example, to promote Popify in Toronto, the organizers put together a Facebook event page to build buzz and generate interest. 

You can start with a key words document, a database you can refer back to with words that align with your pop-up goals, brand message, values and promise. Then, create one hashtag to help you track your campaign leading up to, during and after your pop-up store is open.

Next, make an editorial calendar that includes a countdown, new announcements throughout your pop-up campaign and have someone on your team prepared to track and engage with followers. 

Another great way to keep your audience in the loop is to engage them with the process of building your pop-up shop by posting photos showing the lead-up to the actual opening to build anticipation, something HutchLA does a fantastic job of doing anytime they open their doors for a pop-up.

Take to the Streets with Guerrilla Marketing

Lastly, just as traditional print is still alive, so is going guerrilla when in a high traffic area. Create postcards with a clear call to action and coupon code for visiting and place them at nearby outlets with a similar clientele to your target market.

Also, check if there's a nearby hotel with a concierge desk near your pop-up location. Tourists love to discover something unique and take the product (and story) back home with them. What about a nail salon, spa, wine shop? Think outside the box, but within the lines of your goals and your target customer’ s lifestyle.

Lastly, don't forget that the most important marketing and promotion tool you'll need to make your pop-up a success is hustle. You've really got to be willing to give it your all if you expect to make your temporary retail experiment work. The great thing about giving pop-up shops a shot is that with each pop-up experience, you'll start seeing what works and what doesn't for your brand, enabling you to potentially build out another sales channel for your business. Running successful pop-ups will give you the confidence to pursue your own boutique retail location and help turn you into a successful omni-channel retailer.

If you have any other low-cost and highly-effective tips you'd like to share on marketing a pop-up shop, be sure to let us know by commenting below. 

(Image Credits: Clarisse Coetzee and Johnny Cupcakes)

P.S. Looking to accept payments at your pop-up? Check out Shopify POS.

About The Author

Melissa Gonzalez specializes in brand activation and Pop-Up retail experiences. She is the founder of The Lionesque Group, a company that has produced over 65 pop-up retail experiences in New York, Los Angeles, and the Hamptons. Connect with her on Twitter.

How To Hire an Interior Designer for Your Retail Store and Why You Need One

When you're used to being a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you have a tendency to want to have a very…


When you're used to being a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you have a tendency to want to take a DIY approach to most things and are scrappy enough to make it all work on a limited budget. Especially when you've been successful selling your products online and are now looking to new channels to grow your business.

Whether you're opening a pop-up or committing to something more long-term, the world of retail can be a daunting and unforgiving place if you overlook things like your window display, store layout, signage, and merchandising. 

However, sometimes it makes sense to trust things to a professional, if you've got the budget for it that is, especially when it comes to the interior design of your store. Not to say you couldn't do it yourself, but you'll have to admit, making something like a retail store appealing, inviting, and designed to optimize your sales can be more difficult than it looks.

It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking that you know your brand, and that based on your logo, you can decide on which type of lighting and fixtures will make the most sense. Chances are though, outside of your basic brand color palate, everything else can really be hit or miss. 

And that's where the professionals come in. The process of hiring an interior designer for your retail store is similar to hiring one for your home or office. Though some specialize in residential or commercial environments, most are trained to handle both types of jobs, but even then, you’ll want to look for some specific things. 

But first, let’s clarify why hiring an interior designer for your retail store can be crucial for your offline selling success.

Why Hire an Interior Designer? 

  • Saving Money: Sounds counter-intuitive right? But think of all the “very” costly mistakes you would probably make that working with an interior designer could avoid. 
  • Budgeting and Planning: As with doing anything for the first time, creating a budget, researching products and prices, complying with regulatory matters, and planning timelines can be a major headache. Luckily, an interior designer can help you sidestep all of that by doing it for you.  
  • Their Network: Typically, interior designers have solid relationships with select vendors who can help obtain discounts and access resources that previously might have been unavailable. 
  • Coherence: Interior designers have both a trained eye and are excellent visual story-teller, which means that they’ll pay attention to the complete customer experience
  • The “WOW” Factor: Let’s face it, worrying about your store’s “bounce” rate is just as vital as offline as it is online. So why not optimize for conversion with an interior designer? 

So now that we’ve got the “why” down for hiring an interior designer, let’s look at some of the key steps you’ll want to take to insure that the person you hire is right for the job. 

How to Hire an Interior Designer

Ask Around

There’s nothing like word-of-mouth referrals when it comes to finding people to work with. With that, make sure to take note of other boutique retail stores and see what catches your eye. Ask the owner who did their interior design and what their experience was like while working for them. You’ll probably want to ask how much it cost them as well. Reach out to family and friends as well for referrals and you’re bound to get a handful of decent candidates.

Look Online

There's little doubt that you'll turn to good old Google to help you streamline your search for finding the right designer for the job, however, I decided to save you the hassle and point out some great online resources where you can start your search. 

American Society of Interior Designers (ASID)

This is an online community of designers, industry representatives, educators, and students, where you'll be able to find and locate interior designers near you if you reside in America. 

Interior Designers of Canada (IDC)

Founded in 1972, the Interior Designers of Canada is a Canadian advocacy association which makes it easy to find interior designers for projects both small and large.



Though geared primarily towards homeowners looking for home remodelling and design help, it's "Find a Pro" feature allows you to easily access a database of more than 2 million professionals who won't have a problem adopting their expertise to a retail environment.


This NYC-based startup is looking to shake up the interior design landscape with more than 90 designers across the US available for by-the-hour services with no markups or hidden fees. Again, though they're focused more on residential and office clientele, their expertise can be indispensable for retail environments as well. 

Define Your Vision

This is an important step because when you start meeting with potential candidates you’ll want to be able to clearly and effectively communicate what it is you’re looking for. From the style you’re going for, to the colors palete you like, to the type of merchandising you’re expecting to have up, these are all a good starting points for the interior designer to work with. A good place to start organizing your ideas is Pinterest, not only can you find an infinite amount of inspiration but you can create a board to start collecting images of what you envision your store to be.

Follow Kingsley Harris's board Retail Design on Pinterest.


Interview Several Candidates

Not only will you want to have a good look at their respective portfolios and relevant projects that match what you’re looking for, you’ll want to ask them to break down their process for tackling your job. This includes not only having them spell out timelines, work schedules, and fees, but asking for references you can call to have first-hand accounts of what it’s like to work with them.

Create a Clear and Detailed Contract

Once you have a candidate for the job and come to an agreement on what’s expected from both parties, the next step is to have it down on a contract that clearly outlines the terms and payment details. 

Once contracts are signed, agreements made, and expectations set, kick off the process with a bang and get ready to see your vision, brand, and products come to life before you in their new home, a beautifully designed retail store that catches the eye on the street and past the door. 

If you’ve hired an interior designer for your retail store or commercial space, be sure to let us know both the good and the ugly side of your experience by commenting below. 

About The Author

Humayun Khan is the Retail Content Officer at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and omni-channel strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

25 Retail Blogs Every Small Business Entrepreneur Should Be Reading

Small and boutique retailers have their work cut out for them when it comes to staying in business.…


Small and boutique retailers have their work cut out for them when it comes to staying in business. There's a lot they need to know, and a lot that they need to take action on. Whether it's the latest trends in omni-channel retail, engaging their most loyal customers over social media, or understanding the way technology and mobile are revolutionizing how they accept payments. 

Which is why I've taken the liberty of assembling the top 25 blogs that every small retailer needs to read and subscribe to if they want to stay ahead of the curve and thrive when it comes to selling in person. Whether you prefer to add these to your feedly account or just do it the good old fashion way and bookmark them for future reading, I hope you find them to be an invaluable resource for helping you stay in touch with what's happening and what you need to know to successfully target, acquire, and convert customers for your store.

Here we go: 

Smart Retail 

This site is home to the "Smart Retail" web series hosted by Scott Kreisberg featuring interviews with retail stores all across L.A. The episodes take an in-depth look at how independent or speciality retailers are running their businesses while sharing their lessons learned from both their successes and failures.

Retail Adventures Blog 

Featuring the latest and greatest insights from Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender, this blog offers readers their unique perspectives as speakers, authors, consumer anthropologists, and consultants to some of the world's biggest retailers. On the blog you'll find tips on everything from customer service, merchandising, and everything in between that's relevant to you successfully running your retail store.

Retail Insider 

Founded and edited by Glynn Davis, a business writer who specializes in retail and the food and drinks industry and has seen his work appear in the likes of The Financial Times. Retail Insider is meant to give readers a "behind-the-scenes" look of the UK's small business retailers, intermixed with interviews from Q&A posts with CEO's, and the best places to get drinks around town.

The Retail Doctor 

Reading this blog will allow you to peer into the brain of Bob Phibbs, a nationally recognized retail expert with over 30 years of experience under his belt, with each post having a great deal of insight to offer you and your small business. He provides a wealth of information on everything from employee training and retention, making your store events a success, and lessons retailers can learn from the success and failures of other businesses. In addition to his blog, be sure to check out his latest book The Retail Doctor's Guide to growing Your Business.

Retail Minded 

Recognized as one of the most trusted resources for independent retailers focused on both the work and life aspects of being a small business retailer, Retail Minded (RM) has been a go to blog for retail advice since being founded 2007 by Nicole Leinbach Reyhle. In addition to the blog, Nicole is also the founder of the Independent Retailer Conference , and the company also puts out a Retail Minded magazine, which it sells through the blog. 

Retail Touch Points Blog 

If you're looking for the latest consumer behaviour trends, retail trends, and marketing advice, then you don't have to go much past Retail Touch Point's Tumblr blog. Though focused on serving up content primarily for retail executives in big box chains, the content is still invaluable for the mom and pop store with big aspirations for their own brand. They also have a number of resources available on their website, including webinars, infographics, and research reports if you're really keen on gaining a better understanding a given demographic or trend.

Retail Customer Experience Blog

Ever wanted expert and hands on advice from a wide array of trusted sources? Then this should be your go to source. With more than 50+ retail experts sharing their insights and domain knowledge for the everyday retailer, it doesn't get much better if you're looking to change the way you operate your business or are looking to turn it around for increased sales and growth.

Forrester Retail Blog

As one the world's largest and most reliable source of research, data, and consultation services, the Forrester blog's retail category is a goldmine of useful information and trends. Though far more high-level and targeted at bigger retail chains, it never hurts to have a glimpse of some of the consumer and technological trends that impact and shape the way consumers behave in a smaller retailer's store.

The Shelf Edge

Geared primarily towards the topic and subject matter of "retail marketing," the Shelf-Edge blog is run by Arkansas-based Vestcom International, which provides their leading communication services to top tier retailers around the US. 

Shop.Org Blog

As a division of the National Retail Federation,'s mandate is to provide its valued membership community a premier destination for a slew of topics including but not limited to omnichannel strategy, emerging retail technology, and a great deal more. 

Retail Design Blog 

The Retail Design Blog is one of the premier destinations for retail designers and visual merchandisers looking for the latest trends, insights, and inspiration in their fields. It's a place where designers upload, share, and comment on everything from furniture, lighting, materials, branding and using eco materials just to name a few categories. Join in on the fun by contributing to the community, or just browse and gleam over all the incredible imagery showcasing the best of boutique retail design from around the world. 

CrossCap's Retail Marketing Blog

Dubbed as a blog exclusively dedicated to retail marketing technologies, the blog belongs to a company that has worked with several Fortune 1000 retailers with the planning, execution, and analysis of their omni-channel marketing plans. With retailers having to focus their attention on so many different channels when it comes to getting the word out, a good place to start learning how to do it right, would be CrossCap's blog.

New Retail Blog

Looking to help readers navigate the realities of the new retail world, New Retail Blog provides insights on topics like brand strategy, consumer trends and retail marketing just to name a few categories you can expect to stumble upon on the blog. Powered by IdeaWorks, one of Australia's leading retail marketing agencies, you can expect to find real gems of information relevant to your business in addition to the latest retail inspiration around customer activation, direct marketing, and store design. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) Blog

Touted as the world's largest retail trade association that represents everyone from discount and department stores to wholesalers and chain restaurants to name a few, the NRF is out to advance the retail industry's status quo through advocacy, communication and education. It's "Retail's Big Blog" covers retail trends, interviews with retail executives and data to help small businesses make smarter marketing decisions when it comes to reaching their target consumers.

Inspire: Retail Design Blog

This is another retail interior and store design blog from a small design consultancy based out of the UK. It features curated content of the latest and greatest retail design inspiration from its own team of design consultants in addition to experts from around the world. 

Design 4 Retail

With clients ranging from Adidas, Hillarys and Diesel, this agency-run blog features the best of retail design curated by design specialists that know how to get foot traffic through store layout, point-of-purchase and window displays, and have experience working with the hottest brands. Keep up-to-date with what brands like Anthropologie and Fendi are up to with their displays as a start so you can start thinking about how you can spruce up your retail design skills. 

Retail Prophet 

You can probably tell from the blog name alone that Doug Stephens, one of the world's foremost retail industry futurist isn't kidding around when it comes to helping you envision the future of retail. His posts touch upon the latest retail and technological trends that you need to keep on top of to know how your business will shape up over the coming years. He's also the author of The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism.

Retailing In Focus 

This blog is brought to you via Dick Seesel, a retail industry veteran who has over 30 years of experience and has been running his consulting practice rightfully called Retailing In Focus, working to provide strategic growth advice to both venders and retailers. With posts featuring his view on the decisions of big and small retailers alike, this blog has a great deal to offer small business retailers when it comes to strategically planning their growth.  

RetailWire Blog 

On the RetailWire blog you get to peer into the head of Kevin Graff, president of Graff Retail. A retail and training professional with over 20 years of experience, Graff Retail is now one of Canada's leading retail training and consulting firms. Needless to say, his posts on the latest happenings in retail will be useful to any small retailer looking to understand the bigger picture when it comes to the ever growing world of retail.  

Duct Tape Marketing

John Jantsch needs little introduction, but as a leading marketing consultant, speaker, and author of three books, he's been described as the "Peter Drucker of small business marketing tactics," by Seth Godin. Which means, his blog, books, and podcast are all mandatory reading and listening for any small business owner looking to maximize their marketing tactics with a limited budget.

Customer Insight Group Loyalty Blog

Brought to you by the Customer Insight Group, the Loyalty Blog, offers insights, trends, data, research, and commentary on how the biggest brands are engaging and retaining their customers. As you can probably guess, these tactics and trends apply to small businesses looking to build great customer relationships just the same, so be sure to keep posted. 

Retail Geek 

The Retail Geek is one of the internet's best omni-channel retail blogs where Jason Goldberg, who heads the multi-channel commerce and content group at Razorfish, a top digital marketing firm, helps retailers understand how they can deliver an optimized shopping experience across multiple touch points. With more than 10,000 retail visits under his belt, you can bet he knows a thing or two about what makes for exceptional retail shopping experiences and how you too can start delighting your customers. 

Retail Eye

Retail Eye is a go-to hub for retailing trends, concepts, and best practices and is operated by the J.C. Williams Group, a global retail consulting practice. The great benefit of keeping up to date with this blog is that they do a fantastic job at providing a global perspective on innovative global trends and with the world getting flatter, that's exactly what small businesses need to have a deeper understanding of.

Retail Technology Trends

The blog's name speaks for itself, with the pace of innovation in retail technology growing at an unprecedented rate, Tim Dickey, a retail technology consultant for NCR Canada Corp does an excellent job of making sure his audience has a good grasp on the latest trends. 


With the launch of Shopify POS and Shopify Mobile, we've evolved our ecommerce platform to an "everywhere commerce" platform, enabling merchants to sell online, in-store and everywhere in between. With that, we're committed to providing our 95,000+ online merchants growing retail merchants with all the content, tools, and resources they need to be successful when it comes to selling in the retail environment. From DIY window display tips, to the types of signage you need to get started, and how the biggest retailers are succeeding on Instagram, we've got you covered on enabling you to sell anywhere at anytime. 

That wraps it up for this post, however, we know there's plenty of other great retail blogs that we may have missed. If you have one you'd like to share, let us know by commenting below.

About The Author

Humayun Khan is the Retail Content Officer at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and omni-channel strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

How to Successfully Close the Deal on Your First Pop-Up Location

Hopefully by now you’ve started to think more seriously about doing a pop-up and have been inspired by…


Hopefully by now you’ve started to think more seriously about doing a pop-up and have been inspired by the many types of locations you can pick from, the number of reasons why you should consider doing one, and the fact that it’s a trend that’s not going away.

So, what’s next? 

In this post, we’ll look at some of the practicalities around doing a pop-up and outline some next steps to help turn your quest to give physical retail a shot into a reality. In fact, hunting for pop-up space is really like looking for any new space, you need only think back to the last time you were looking for an apartment or house and add a few commercial goals into the mix.  

Let’s say you’ve got a good handle on what your goals are for your pop-up and know how long you want to do one for. Maybe you already have a checklist of things to look for while scouting locations. We’re going to even assume that you’ve done some searching and narrowed down your options to 2-3 locations and are in the process of contacting property owners or the commercial real-estate agent.

Here are the questions you need to ask before you make up your mind and some things to watch out for.

Get Your Questions Answered

It's important to demonstrate to property managers and real estate agents that you've done your homework and that you have your bases covered. Once you get them on the phone or drop in to see them in person, you should have the following list of questions ready to ask upfront in order to get a complete understanding of what you’re getting into: 

1) What is the rental cost?

Based on your own unique timeline, you’ll probably want to get a daily, weekly, or monthly rate depending on the type of space and how long you plan to be there.

2) What is included in the rental cost?

This is where you’ll want to drill down on what you’re getting for your money and get specific on things like square footage, timings, and dates.

3) Are there any additional utility costs?

If so, clarify upfront what they are and how they’re being split up. As in make sure you determine what you’re responsible for and whether that’s reasonable.

4) What is the layout of the space?

You’ll want to have a good grasp on this to start visualizing what the final space could potentially look like. 

5) What are the specific dimensions of the ceiling, windows, doors, counters, pillars...etc?

Not only will this be handy when you get down to designing your displays or printing signage, it’ll give you a sense of how much or how little you’ll need to dress up or dress down the space.

6) Can the space be modified?

This essentially boils down to how much control you have on the space itself. Obviously, if it’s a gallery and you’re sharing with multiple vendors, don’t expect being able to drill holes into the wall, but definitely make sure to determine their do’s and don’ts and whether they'll work for you.

7) Who is liable for what?

Owners will typically attempt to limit their liabilities when it comes to unforeseen or unfortunate circumstances, so you’ll probably want to read the fine print and know ahead of time instead of disputing or creating a claim down the road. 

8) Is there internet or WiFi?

You’ll need an internet connection to carry out transactions and accept credit card payments, which definitely makes this a pretty big necessity. Whether it’s through your iPad POS or a mobile card reader, make sure to have this base covered. 

9) Will you need insurance?

Getting property insurance is often a prerequisite in signing the agreement to cover any number of things that could go wrong, including but not limited to theft, venue or glass repairs, merchandise damage and more. 

10) What is the deposit required to secure the venue?

Typically, if you’re thinking as long term as 2-3 months, this will be at least the first month’s rent. For shorter timeline, you’re probably expected to at least put down a third of the total rent payment. But again, it varies, so make sure to ask.

11) What is the average foot traffic you can expect?

Even though you’ll most likely want to see this for yourself by hanging around the venue on the same days or timings that you’re looking to do a pop-up, it can be helpful to have these numbers if the property owner has them. This becomes even more pertinent if you’re getting a booth at a tradeshow. 

Once you’ve got those questions out of the way, next up, you’ll want to figure out whether you’ll be signing a lease, licence or having to apply for a permit.

Leases, Licences, and Permits...Oh My!

Now, all that might sound a bit intimidating but before you run away from the idea of offline selling because of some technical and legal jargon, let’s break down what each of these three types of agreements can mean for you.


Under a lease, the person using the stated land is considered a tenant, and given exclusive possession for the duration of the time agreed upon, otherwise known as the “term” of the lease. The “terms” will also include what you’ll be able to do the space when it comes to modifications, hours of operation and several of the other key aspects discussed above, including rent, utilities...etc.


This gives legal authority to you, the licensee, to use the owner or licensor’s asset, without which you using it would be unlawful. These are generally given out for more short-term occupants but comes with generally a more limited arrangement and does not guarantee exclusive use of the property. 


Each region will have its own regulations, so based on what you’re intending to do, you’ll want to make sure you’re within the bounds of the law. For example, many cities require you to have a permit to sell food and alcohol. 

What’s Next? 

Once you’ve done your homework and assessed whether a potential location is a good fit or not, most likely, the next step is to actually go out and see the place in person during the hours the pop-up will run. Make sure to do this multiple times throughout the week at different times of the day. From there, once you've got your mind made, request to see the lease agreement.

But before you sign anything, take a few days to thoroughly review the agreement, or better yet, have a legal professional take a look to mitigate liabilities and make sure there aren’t any apparent shortcomings in the deal. However, if the price is right, the agreement works with your specifications, and the location is perfect for your goals, then you’ll want to put down the initial deposit to secure the venue and start planning how you're going to make the pop-up a success.

That means thinking about how the pop-up will communicate your brand's story, what the interior will look like, what kind of signage you'll need and how you can dress up your windows to get the attention of everyone who walks by. If there's anything else merchants should be on the lookout for while closing the deal on their pop-up location or if you've been there, done that, and have tips to share, be sure to tell us in the comments below.

(Image Credits: Retail Design Blog)

P.S. Want to accept payments at your pop-up? We've got you covered with Shopify's Point of Sale Software and Shopify Mobile


About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Content Crafter at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and ecommerce strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

What Happens When 3 Friends Work to Make the Perfect Custom Shirt and Bring Manufacturing Back to America

Upon graduation, Michael Armenta, Barrett Purdum and Michael Maher wanted to start a business. They wanted to be…


Upon graduation, Michael Armenta, Barrett Purdum and Michael Maher wanted to start a business. They wanted to be part of the resurgence in American manufacturing and they wanted to create a fitted custom shirt.

After recognizing that custom tailoring was primarily the domain of 60-year old wealthy men walking around with their noticeable bellies, they saw a market opportunity for a slimmer, tailored, button up shirt for those who cared about the quality and design of their clothes, and where they were manufactured. 

Fast forward to them striking a partnership with a family business in America that manufactures custom shirts and you get the origin story of Taylor Stitch. A rapidly growing brand that now has multiple product lines and is on a mission to dominate both the online and physical retail arenas.

They opened for business online on Shopify in 2008, then added a retail location a year and half later which now also runs on Shopify's iPad POS system.

I had a chance to catch up with Michael to talk about how they did it and what advice he could offer to others looking to do the same.  

1) Describe your business and products. What are you guys all about?

We are an independent outfitter selling both online and in our physical retail location based out of San Francisco that modernizes classic staples for men and women. The idea is to create great-fitting, well-constructed garments that are all very easy to wear. We have had great online growth including 42% just this past year.

2) What made you get into omni-channel retail with both an online and offline presence? 

It allowed us to touch our customer's senses better. It allowed them to feel the product, smell the store and hear the music that was being played. We also believe that brick and mortar helps drive online sales. Customers can come in and get a feel for the brand and how things fit and are in turn more confident buying online.

Also, we felt that the custom shirting experience really had to be offline. Having a physical retail allowed us to have people come in, get measured, and then go through the whole store to find complementary products. 

It's kind of something we've come to hold sacred as it keeps the full circle going because we know when you get people in the store they'll say something like, "Oh yeah, I bought some custom shirts, maybe I'll get some jeans, and maybe grab some socks and a bag too." 

3) How do you decide on what products to carry? 

As a company we continue to carry more and more of our own stuff. However, we do carry some third-party products. For instance, right now we carry third-party socks because it doesn't make sense for us to manufacture our line of socks due to costs. The same goes for some jackets that are just too expensive, we don't want to have to make them on our own

4) How did you go about finding a location for your retail store? 

We were lucky enough to open next to our friends at Four Barrel Coffee. We like to think that people who like to get coffee generally like good clothes. They're also the people who care about the products they consume and how they're designed. 

So in general, we are big believers in opening next to consumables. For example, Four Barrel Coffee has amazing traffic and we are lucky enough to get some of that to run with and then working closely with them to build a strong local community. That community also includes the likes of Farnsworth, which is a modern furniture store and he has beautiful and really cool stuff. 

The other benefit of being surrounded by like-minded shops is that people don't just want to travel a given distance to go to one particular store, they want to go to a shopping area, because people are shopping for the sake of shopping. For example, they might go to us because they want something like a custom shirt or because they want something they saw online and want to try on. At the same time they also want to go check out the other stores surrounding us. So you're really just driving traffic to a community, not necessarily just your store.

5) You started an online store first, how did you go about translating the "Taylor Stitch" brand into a retail location? 

The key here is consistency and remembering that your online store and your retail store are not the same thing. In fact, a lot of people go from having a store to selling online because the physical manifestation of a brand is so much more deeper. For instance, you really can't look at a website and understand what the store is going to be like for the most part, there's no smell to a website, there's no feel to a website.

With that we still wanted to keep the look and feel of the brand. They needed to be an extension of each other so we started asking ourselves what type of wood we should use and making sure the same color palettes that came from the website were implemented.

The merchandising was all about approachability. We feel like too many physical stores are either too packed in or too sparse. It really is a delicate balance and we feel we achieve it pretty well.

6) How do you approach hiring and training personnel working in the store? 

A lot of time we're lucky to find people who love our brand, and they really enjoy being a part of it and working with it. Obviously, they need to possess a given level of intelligence and care for the customer. And those are kind of the big things that I look for when we hire people.

They really have to want to be a part of this, but at the end of the day finding quality people is not rocket science. We've found that there's a humanness to everyone that works here at Taylor Stitch. There's no robotics in customer service here, where we have to teach people how to walk and talk when approaching customers. I just make sure they can walk up to somebody and hold a conversation.  

7) What's your marketing or promotion strategy for the physical retail store? 

The great thing about having a good location is the marketing is done already. People walk by and check things out. They like the product and they spread the word. We already had a pretty solid following locally so it really just allowed us to take that offline and show people what it was like to take part in our brand at the physical retail level.

But in regards to a generic marketing or promotion strategy, we don't have one. My goal is to set up in a place where people walk by and we just deliver a great product and great experience and that does enough.

I also don't believe in the word "sale." I think if the product's good enough, people buy it. For us sales are more of a thank you. There are promotions that we do throughout the year, it's more of a thank you to our customers for being a part of the brand and for loving the products.

Lastly, a big incentive for people to visit us both online and offline is that every week we launch new products. We send one email a week, but it's a comprehensive overview of what's happening with Taylor Stitch.

8) How do you manage the inventory or supply side of your business and decide how many and which products to stock? 

We make a small amount of things to start and if it works well we keep bringing it back. It keeps our customers guessing and it allows us to test new things over and over before bringing them into the core offerings.

With inventory management, having all the inventory tied together in one place allows us to sell through product a lot better, because what we're able to do is look at product and realize that we don't have to worry about it sitting there because the web site will have sold a certain amount, and then the store also pitches in. There's no real separation making it a very fluid process. We also don't have to do a stock transfer here when the store's out or the website's out. It's fine if it's sold out in the warehouse, because there must be one in the store, and we just have to call the store to pull it before it goes and vice versa. 

9) What other key advice can you offer ecommerce entrepreneurs looking to successfully transition into physical retail? 

Speaking from our own experience, I would have opened a shop sooner if I knew and we had the capital. I mean pop-ups are great but in my opinion, if you have the capital you should just go open a store because pop-ups take just as much work to open a new store for the most part, especially with retail.

So my thought process is that you should just go open a store. But make sure you go find a place that works. Find a location that has great foot traffic. It's worth paying higher rent for foot traffic. You will quickly make up for it in sales. There are certain things I would definitely look for, like having a consumable around. 

The other thing to remember is patience. You're not going to open and store and be doing a $100K a month in sales. Speaking from our own experience, we were so undercapitalized that we kind of had to piecemeal it together. But that was also the beauty of it, the fact that we were able to hustle and build it up ourselves by figuring it out and making it happen. 

(Image Credits: Matt Edge)

About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Content Crafter at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and ecommerce strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

How To Create Retail Store Interiors That Get People To Purchase Your Products

Retail has been around for a mighty long time and one thing we know is that there are…


Retail has been around for a mighty long time and one thing we know is that there are a lot of different approaches when it comes to designing the interior layout of your store. However, there are also some common design strategies that all retailers can employ that lead to generating more sales for your business. 

Designing your retail store's interior is a topic that we've been looking at recently in an effort to help boutique merchants be more successful and thrive in today's digital era. From telling your brand's story and creating immersive experiences, to putting together head-turning window displays and signage essentials, when it comes to retail, the devil really is in the details, and we want you to get the basics down pat. 

Which is why in this post, I'll be looking at some of the basics when it comes to creating effective retail interiors that attract more customers to your store, get them browsing more products, and get them heading towards the checkout. It's vital to keep in mind that from the moment someone steps into your store to the time they decide to checkout (or not checkout), smart design decisions make a significant difference in regards to whether you make a sale or not.

Enter the Threshold

The threshold area, also known as the "decompression zone", is the very first space that prospective customers step into when they enter your store and typically consists of the first five to fifteen feet worth of space, depending on how big your store is. It's also the space where your customers make the transition from the outside world and first experience what you have to offer. They also make critical judgements like how cheap or expensive your store is likely to be and how well coordinated your lighting, fixtures, displays, and colors are. Since they're in a transition mode, customers are more likely to miss any product, signage, or carts you place there.

Then, Off To the Right 

It's a well known fact in the retail community that in North America, 90 percent of consumers upon entering a store will turn right unconsciously. The first wall they see is often referred to as a "power wall", and acts as a high-impact first impression vehicle your merchandise, so be sure to give it extra special attention in terms of what you choose to display and how you display it.

You'll want to make sure you entice and arouse your customer's attention with the products you put on display, whether it's your new or seasonal items, high profit or high demand products, or a place you design to tell your product's stories and create vignettes. 

Have Them Walk a Path

This will vary greatly depending on the size and general layout of your store, but knowing that your customers want to turn right, your next job is to make sure that as they do that, they also continue walking throughout your store to gain the maximum exposure to your products. This not only increases the chances of them making a purchase, but a well thought-out path can be a great way to strategically control the ebb and flow of the traffic in your store. 

Most stores use a circular path to the right to get customers to walk through to the back of the store and come to the front again. Some will make it even easier by covering the path with a different texture or look from the general flooring, paying homage to the old saying "where the eyes go, the feet will follow." 

Another thing to keep in mind is that you want to use the path to lead your customers somewhere, which often means putting a eye-catching and attention-grabbing display at the end of an aisle for example. 

But, Slow Them Down

With all the effort and time you've put into properly merchandising your products, the last thing you want to happen is for incoming customers to promptly hurry past them, ultimately limiting the number of products they'll purchase. One way retailers combat this is through creating breaks or what are sometimes referred to as "speed bumps." Essentially, this can be anything that gives customers a visual break and can be achieved through signage, and special or seasonal displays.

Most retailers effectively deploy the usage of what's referred to as "merchandise outposts," which are special display fixtures featuring products near the end of or in between aisles that encourage impulse purchases while complementing products on display in close proximity. However, since it's not likely that you'll have "aisles" per say in your store, it's still important to think about grouping products in a way that makes it easy to see what goes well together from a shopper's perspective. Also, remembering to keep "higher-demand" products displayed at eye-level is important while placing lower grossing products at the bottom or higher-up. Lastly, It's recommended to change up these speed bumps weekly or regularly enough to create a continued sense of novelty for repeat visitors. 

Also, Make Sure They're Comfortable

You may or may not already be aware of something known as the "butt-brush effect," coined by consumer behaviour expert Paco Underhill who discovered that a typical customer, especially women, will avoid going after merchandise in an aisle where they could potentially brush another customer's backside or have their backside brushed. This holds true even if the customer is very interested in a given product. An easy way to avoid this problem is to ensure that your aisle, floor, and displays allow customers to have more than adequate personal space when browsing your products.

You can also make your store comfortable by incorporating some type of waiting area with comfy seats and benches which will encourage customers to spend more time in your store. Especially, if a shopper is accompanied by someone not interested in making a purchase or kids for that matter. A small tip to keep in mind is to keep the seats or benches facing the merchandise, so that they're still top of mind for those lounging around in your store.  

Lastly, Check Them Out (Not Literally)

Where you place your check-out counter and your POS in a physical retail store is a question you can ask yourself for days and generate pros and cons for multiple options and still end up confused. However, a good rule of thumb to remember is that the checkout should be located at a natural stopping point in the shopping experience or path that you've purposefully created and designed.

So if customers naturally turn right when they enter, and you've managed to have them go through and circle all the way around, you'll realize that the left-hand side at the front is probably the ideal location for your checkout counter. However, this decision also depends on the size and layout of the store itself, which means you'll have to use your best gut judgement on what's the most natural point to have that check-out counter.

You'll also want to keep in mind that if you're a one-person show or don't have staff wondering the store, it'll be important to be able to keep an eye and see everything from where you'll be set-up from a loss-prevention perspective. Other tips to keep in mind when designing your checkout counter are:

  • Have a counter that's big enough for shoppers to place their bags and/or personal belongings
  • Take advantage of the wall behind the counter to create interesting and engaging displays
  • Encourage impulse or "last-minute" purchases by stocking items customers crave or commonly need close-by
  • Be polite in person by asking questions like "Were you able to find everything you were looking for?" and in signage regarding your exchange or refund policies

Designing your retail interior is a never ending process, where you can always be switching up, tweaking, adding, or taking away to create a resonating customer journey and experience. At the end of the day though, that's exactly what you want to focus on, the customer journey, which you'll want to to test out and optimize for constantly. Have a walk-through yourself and see where the visual cues guide you, or get your staff, friends, or family to do the same and give you honest feedback. Lastly, observe your customers and see what they're drawn to, what they avoid, and how they move, then match that with your intended design. If you keep resilient and keep your eyes and ears open, you'll be sure to create a retail environment that is a win-win for both you and your customers. 

P.S. Selling offline or looking to get into physical retail? We've got you covered with Shopify POS

(Image Credits: Retail Design Blog)

About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Content Crafter at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and ecommerce strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

The Top 5 Most Engaging Retailers on Instagram (And How You Can Join Their Ranks)

It's no secret that Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app that now boasts more than 150 million users, is…


It's no secret that Instagram, the popular photo-sharing app that now boasts more than 150 million users, is taking the retail and fashion worlds by storm. In fact, research has shown the platform to be 15 times more engaging than Facebook, and it has achieved the highest year-over-year growth (66 percent) when compared to the top 10 mobile apps. 

In this post, I'll be looking at the top five most popular retailers on Instagram based on Nitrogram's top 50 retailers list, which ranks brands based on their audience numbers as well as the number of posts containing their hashtag. In doing so, I'll hope to distill what they're doing right so you, as a smaller retailer, or even pop-up shop entrepreneur, can start to put the same strategies to work in your business. 

1. Target: Engage the Right Influencers

Associating yourself with celebrities and tastemakers maybe an old trick out of the brand promotion playbook, but when applied to Instagram, it can be a powerful engagement strategy. Not only do you get the attention of that influencer's audience but you also get to position and associate your brand alongside theirs. Hence why companies like Target are keen on it, demonstrated by a recent and exclusive artist partnership with Shakira.

However, you might be thinking as a small retailer, where in the world are you going to get the budget to get Shakira to endorse you? Luckily, you don't have to, especially given the rise of everyday celebrities who've managed to carve a spot for themselves on Instagram by purposefully sharing, commenting, and engaging around a given niche like fashion, beauty, athletics and more.

For example, Target also has a spin-off account on Instagram which ironically has more followers than it's corporate account by the name of "targetdoesitagain", where it partners with fashion blogger Jen Ascot Heart to take followers in its change rooms showcasing its products in stores and styles procured by the all-powerful selfie. To learn more about finding influencers on Instagram, check out this article.

To get started, have a look at this inforgraphic showcasing the top influencers for categories like travel, food, fitness, and home/DIY. Hopefully, this will get you inspired to start searching for and finding relevant influencers when it comes to your particular brand and get you reaching out to them for a mutually-beneficial and promotional partnership. 

2: Harrods: Take Followers to the Runway

This world famous luxury department store, Harrods, knows how to engage its audience by giving their almost 350,000 followers what feels like a VIP backstage pass into the world of high fashion. What does that translate to in terms of they type of posts they put up on Instagram? Let's just say following their accounts feels akin to having a first row seat to the hottest fashion shows imaginable. 

Granting behind the scenes access is great for engagement and it doesn't have to be your brand on stage at Fashion Week. Instead it could be a glimpse into the work culture or ambiance of your store. Heck, you can even build suspense by showcasing the newest shipment of your products arriving. So go ahead and share more than just product photos, give your followers an insight into who you are as a brand and everything that goes along with that.

3: Nordstrom: Tap Into the Cultural Zeitgeist 

There's nothing like getting noticed for finding a creative way to plug your brand and product in alongside an event, happening, or cultural phenomena that's trending or on the tips of everyone's lips. For example, leading up to and on Superbowl Sunday, Nordstrom did a great job of capitalizing on the cultural significance of the event while finding a way to plug their products and their brand along the way. 

I'm not saying you have to do a post parodying the latest Miley Cyrus scandal, which could be a good tactic, but take note of what's popular using tools like Google Trends or Twitter Trends – or ask the next teenager who walks into your store :)   

4: Whole Foods: Show Your True Colors

When it comes to bearing your brand's flag and being proud of your values and what you stand for as a company, no one does a better job of showing it on Instagram than Whole Foods. The company that turned the grocery industry on its head with its chain of locally sourced and a wide range of organic food offerings while maintaining the highest ethical standards. This has also given them a way to connect with their Instagram followers on a different level.

By showcasing their work through its Whole Planet Foundation, the company has struck a nerve on top of its brilliant display of deliciousness and freshness encapsulated in photographs. Take a look to see what I mean. 

Though you may not have your own nonprofit foundation arm providing micro-loans to women in developing countries, your brand does have a personality, values, and reason for it's existence. Why not show them off in creative ways with Instagram to build deeper relationships and further engagement with your audience?  

5: Topman: Delight with Flash Sales

In between sharing beautiful photos of their products on models, celebrities, and in store displays, Topman throws in occasional posts announcing a flash sale or special promotion happening exclusively online or in store for a limited period of time. Now that's what I call surprising and delighting your customers, while taking advantage of the scarcity principle and luring them in to make a purchase. Not only are followers going to like and comment on their regular Instagram posts, they'll also be glued to their feed for the next sale that could be here today and gone tomorrow.

With that, there's nothing stopping you from doing the same with your audience. This brings a double advantage if you happen to be selling both online and offline in that you could do flash sales exclusive to your online store to drive traffic to your site or exclusively at your retail location to drive local foot traffic to your store.

The sky is the limit, however, use this tactic sparingly, and the last thing you want is for your audience to desensitize it to promotional or sales related posts. Pair this with the other tactics to woo your audience on Instagram for a winning combination.

There you have it, a few of the secrets from some of the effective retailers on Instagram ready for you to steal and put to work for your own small business. 

Be sure to let us know what works best for you as an Instagram strategy when it comes to driving sales in the comments below.

P.S. Selling offline or looking to get into physical retail? We've got you covered with Shopify POS

About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Content Crafter at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and ecommerce strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

5 Types of Signage No Retailer Can Afford to Ignore

If you want to operate a successful physical retail business that attracts customers and drives sales, then you…


This is a guest post by Katelyn Gray from SmartSign.

If you want to operate a successful physical retail business that attracts customers and drives sales, then you need to get noticed – and smart retailers know that starts with signage.

Quality signage is an easy and effective way to drive foot traffic and communicate with your customers when designing your store. However, if done incorrectly it can cause overstimulation and even confusion. Signage in your brick-and-mortar business is just as important as your website design, and retail signage shouldn’t be an afterthought. 

Why do signs play such an important role in physical retail? Just as your site’s sales copy should be attention-grabbing and concise, your in-store signs should be clear and useful. Consider signs your silent but highest-selling salespeople. Signage helps your customers navigate your shop without asking sales staff basic questions.

Much like you set standards for an employee’s appearance and expectations for their conduct, the color, visibility, messaging, and quality of signs also require a certain amount of development and consideration. Also like employees, signs can be given on-the-job tasks, ranging from sales information and wayfinding to general product information and usage. With that in mind, here are some general best practices you'll want to keep in mind when thinking about store layout and signage, followed by five types of signs you won't be able to do without.

Retail Signage Best Practices 

No matter what kinds of signs you decide to include in your brick-and-mortar store, consider these best practices:

  • Be specific:  A customized sign can give you just the right message in just the right place, known as narrowcasting. When designing a sign, include specific details, such as location-specific instructions and relevant product information.
  • Keep it simple: Your sign’s message needs to be clear, yet one with too much information is often ignored. Use the five-second rule which states that if you can convey the main themes of the sign in less than five seconds, you pass. If it takes longer, shorten your message or use a series of signs.
  • Write in headline text: This should help you be concise and simple all at once. Understand the first principle of print journalism: the punch line matters. Can you simplify your text? Can you take out prepositions and extra words? Effective custom signs use a message hierarchy: headline, explanatory text, and finally, a call to action. 
  • Make a call to action: Signs are advertisements, and as any good advertiser knows, you need to get the customer to do something; that’s the call to action. An effective sign needs to have a simple goal.

This brings us to the five most crucial types of retail signage you should consider when opening your brick-and-mortar store:

1. Outdoor Signage

Outdoor signage is arguably the most important kind in physical retail because it’s what gets customers in the door, the largest hurdle to beginning a relationship. Exterior signage is the first impression customers have of your business.

These signs need to do more than simply announce who you are, they need to draw in customers and make them want something from you. Effective signage may encourage people who have passed your store many times before to finally give it a chance. 

Outdoor signage can take the form of sidewalk signs, entrance signs, awnings, or window signs. Place signage where it is visible to as much walk-by and drive-by traffic as possible. Outdoor signage in particular should be branded effectively to draw the customer in and help to convey the experience that they can expect inside the establishment.

2. Informational Signage 

Informational signage may also be known as departmental, directional, organizational, or wayfinding signage. These signs help the customer navigate your space more easily. The easier it is for a customer to find what they came in for, the more likely they are to rely on that convenience in the future. 

Directional signage is self-explanatory: it tells customers where to go. All types of informational signage need to be concise and easy to read so that clients can understand the message with just a split-second glance. Large, bold fonts in highly-visible color schemes best accomplish this goal. 

Once you start putting up informational signage, it becomes clear to you if your store is arranged in an orderly fashion with some rhyme or reason behind decision-making. Not only does systematicity benefit your customers, but it also makes your internal structure more organized. 

3. Persuasive Signage


Persuasive signage influences consumer behavior through convincing language or attractive imagery. These signs can advertise a particular product or promotion. Persuasive signs or displays can influence customer flow and improve interactivity with otherwise unnoticed products. Signs that showcase a particular type of product offer an opportunity for retailers to communicate specific details of new, seasonal, or featured items.

Using persuasive signage allows products or brands to more effectively communicate with customers. These displays can turn an otherwise ordinary product into a popular “hidden gem.” Effective persuasive messaging can also create a higher perceived value for products, increase brand awareness and improve retail sales.

Remember: While persuasive sales signs should be eye-catching and witty, they are not the main attraction. The most effective signs draw the customers to the product.

4. ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Compliant Signage 

Making customers feel welcome means all customers. Offering accessibility by way of parking, entrances/exits, restrooms, cashier stations, fitting rooms, and elevators will make disabled patrons’ experience more comfortable and enjoyable. If your location offers accessible features but doesn’t make them known, you’re doing your customers a serious disservice.

If your store uses a portable ramp with a doorbell or intercom, you will need to install an appropriate sign letting customers know they can request an employee to bring the ramp to the door. If your store’s accessible entrance is not the same as the main entry way, a sign at the main entrance must indicate where to find the accessible entrance.

Any permanent interior signs indicating bathrooms, elevators, entrances and exits also have to include Braille and tactile characters in legible fonts and contrasting colors, and they must be mounted at specific heights (typically 40 to 60 inches from the ground) for consistency and access.

5. Mats

You may be surprised that mats can also be used as signs, but they’re actually the most versatile signage of all. Mats serve not only safety and cleanliness needs, but also promotional and informational purposes. 

You may choose to use mats for branding purposes, or feature something as simple as your company’s logo. Mats can be used for directional wayfinding within the store, in places where hanging signage is not as viable, or to lead the customer to a sale product. Mats also keep stores cleaner during inclement weather. Lastly, mats ease the stress employees impose on their bodies by standing for long periods of time. Ergonomic, cushioned mats help workers feel rejuvenated, as if their shift just started.

When investing in any of these five signage types, try to analyze them with fresh eyes. Imagine entering your store as a new customer. Be honest with yourself about what’s clear and what may be perplexing. Establish a consistent brand and use it across your business, from outdoor signage to your website. If you managed to do just that, you'll be well on your way to leveraging signage to your retail advantage and cashing in while you're at it. 

(Image Credits: Corona Del Mar Today, The Store Starters, Webstagram)

About the Author

Katelyn Gray is the Social Media Associate at SmartSign. Connect with SmartSign on Twitter.

A Fool-Proof Guide to Creating Window Displays that Turn Heads and Drive Foot Traffic

Whether you're a small business retailer or planning your first pop-up store, your window display is one of the…


Whether you're a small business retailer or planning your first pop-up store, your window display is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal of tools to stand out from the competition and draw in foot traffic. Not only are you going head to head with other small businesses, but those pesky big box retailers and chain stores as well. Luckily for you, most small businesses pay little to no attention to creating effective window displays due to limited resources, while all the big guys are too busy being too uniform and boring for anyone to really look twice. 

That means this is your chance to use window displays as a way to not only highlight your unique personality, but turn the heads of those passing by and engage them enough to stop, look back, and walk-in to your store where your floor staff or products can sweep them off their feet and get them to make a purchase.

Sounds pretty enticing right? 

Okay, but maybe you're thinking, "I'm not a designer," or "I don't have a creative bone in my body," and all those other excuses we're taught to make any time we're confronted with something that requires us to tap our artistic sides. This post will hopefully you put all those fears aside, especially if you don't have the budget to hire a professional visual merchandiser, and get you rolling up your sleeve and getting ready to master the art of putting together unforgettable window displays for your store.

Let's get started.

Assemble Your Visual Display Tool Box

Before you start figuring out which prop to use with which product or how to do a collage on the history of the collared shirt that you're selling, let's start by making sure we've got the necessary tools to put your best foot forward. In other words, you don't want to be half-way in the process only to notice you don't have a tape measure, then disrupt your flow and keep going back and forth. So, here are all the basic components that you'll need to get started: 

  • Tape Measure
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Two-Sided Tape
  • Hammer and Nails
  • Utility Knife
  • Glue Gun and Hot Glue Sticks
  • Screwdriver and Screws
  • Pen, Pencil, Marker, and Notepad
  • Props (Any Non-Merchandise Items)

Start With a Story Based on a Theme

When it comes to conceptualizing a window display, it's always handy to start with a pen and paper. The reason I say it's important to start with a story based on a theme, versus a theme alone is that you could go crazy wanting to assemble all your orange and black products when it's halloween, all your red and green products when it's the holidays, or all your red and pink products when it's valentines and so on, akin to a chicken with its head cut off. What you want to do is to start with a theme, but use your storytelling prowess to turn it into something more sophisticated. 

For example: 

  • Instead of "Christmas", think "Nut Cracker"
  • Instead of "Halloween", think "Sleepy Hallow"
  • Instead of "Valentine", think "Cupid's Mischievousness" 
  • Instead of "Thanksgiving," think "Dressing Up a Turkey"

Create a Focal Point

Once you've got a rough sketch, a story based on a theme, you'll want to take a moment to step out onto the street and really give your window a good look. By doing so, you'll be able to determine where your customer's eye-level is going to be, where the center line is, and whether you can incorporate elements like items suspended from the ceiling and so on. Feel free to take some tape and mark some of those areas mentioned above off. 

From there you have a good idea of what that central or focal point should be, as in where do you want your prospective customers to look and how big should it be so that even if their on the other side of the street, you still have a chance to catch their attention. Also start thinking about the arrangement of products given your focal point, will they consist of straight or curved lines, will they be a pyramid or circular shape, and so on.

Be Bold In Every Way

Let's be honest, society's attention span is shrinking to about less than a millisecond with all the multi-tasking people do these days. You can bet that most people walking by your store will either be juggling a conversation with a friend, texting, looking at on their fitbit, or walking their dog. That means that you've got to pull all the stops to make sure they stop on a dime and if you're lucky be so surprised and taken away by your display that they'll not only look, they'll want to take photos with their smartphone and share them with the world. 

So, what should you be bold with? Be bold with colors, shapes, and props. Meaning you should consider thinking outside cookie cutter colors like red and thinking more along the lines of in eye-catching fushsia – but exercise your best judgement and keep everything consistent with your brand and products of course. Props are also a great way to think unconventionally, especially given the availability of all the different art materials readily available at your local art store. Think about cutting up foam boards, creating papier-maches, or anything else you think would be appropriate for your brand and store. 

Keep It Simple

It's also pretty easy to get carried away and try to stuff every one of your product lines into the display, thinking it somehow all comes together. However, instead of drawing attention to your window, you're more likely to repel and overwhelm potential foot traffic from coming in. Don't try to do too much or you just end up with a busy, unfocused display.

Always, keep in mind your goal, which is ultimately to draw attention to your products and help customers quickly recognize the sense in your product arrangement and why certain products are grouped with others. That also means keeping your display clutter-free and being able to justify why each component of your display is included. 

Balance Is Key

When you're creating a display, you're going to have large objects and small objects, dark colors and light colors, lights and shadows, and so on. It's important to balance the different elements you'll be deploying in order to create a pleasing aesthetic to the eye. 

For example, typically you'll want to place larger, darker items near the bottom, with items that are lighter and more colorful at the top. This will help you avoid having your display look top heavy. Similarly, if you place all the large items to one side and all the small ones on the side, you've got an unbalanced window display. Imagine you're balancing items on those vintage weight machines, which means doing things like balancing a large item one side with lots of smaller items on the other. 

Trust your judgement and get a sense of what emotion your display is evoking. With a balanced display, you're more likely to create feelings of happiness, excitement, and enjoyment, whereas an unbalanced display may signal anxiety or instability, even if on a subconscious level, it really does matter. 

Pay Attention to Lighting

When it comes to smaller retailers wanting to create effective window displays, lighting can sometimes be an after-thought or something to think about if you've got the budget for "extra-costs," however, lighting can be a crucial component in getting people to stop. 

Not only can you do some pretty neat things in the way you light something and cast the surroundings in shadows to force people to pay attention to the lit item in a more dramatic way, but it pays dividends in helping you get your focal point right on and directing onlookers eyes to where you want them. 

It's recommended to not light displays directly from the top which leads to unattractive shadows, instead consider having the lights be lightly to the sides and to the front of the display. This will bring out the 3D quality of the display and you can really have some fun when you have light coming at it from different angles. 

Taking a Final Look

Once you've got all the pieces where you want them, make sure to take a look at your window display from every possible angle. Very rarely is a person going to only notice a display when they're standing right in front of it. Walk up to it from different directions and check things like your focal point, how visible your signage or call to actions are, and if it all appears balanced. 

If you're satisfied and happy with the results, congratulations, you've got one heck of a window display. If not, don't be too hard on yourself and figure out what feels off and how you can improve the next time around. That's because even if you've got the most spectacular display in the world, eventually, people will get bored of walking past it. Which means you've got to switch it up every so often and keep things fresh, which is perfect for getting that necessary practice to create those ever important window displays that will get people in the door, increase sales and make people fall in love with your brand. 

(Image Credits: Retail Design Blog, Clog, Maria Brenny, Kristin Lauer, Truly Deeply)

Are you a Shopify POS merchant with a retail success story you want to share? Tell us all about it!

About The Author

Humayun Khan is a Content Crafter at Shopify. He writes for the Shopify Blog covering social media, retail trends and ecommerce strategy. He is also the author of The Ultimate Guide to Business Plans.  Connect with him on  Twitter.

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