Creating an Impulse Shopping Environment Maximizes Sales

By Majda Rensberger, OneCoast Contributing Editor
Written 9/10/2010/Revised September 9/19/2011

What happens once a customer is in your store? How do you change the “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? The answer is in creating a desirable shopping environment that triggers impulse behavior and ends in a sale. A veteran retailer and owner of Parkleigh Gift store in Rochester, NY, Jeannine Klee, captures the impulse spirit in every corner of her store, 6500 square feet to be exact.

When we think of an impulse item, we think of the typical lower price point product placed at the point of sale. While they are important to sales, impulse buying goes beyond the product. It is about creating an atmosphere that invites customers to explore, interact with the product and ultimately triggers the desire to buy. “You can make almost anything an impulse,” says Jeannine.

There are a few ways in which Jeannine creates an impulse environment:

Build a story around the product’s core value

“I take into account what something feels like when you touch it, what color it is, if it makes a noise or if something shouts out at you “this is how I sell best” and if you figure out what that is, then you have to make it connect with the customer,” says Jeannine.

If the predominant value of a product is its color, create a color story that will draw your customers visually. If the fabric, the feel or touch is what makes a product, make sure the customer interacts with it. Take it out of packaging, put it in their hands and the product will speak for itself. If the product has a unique story, tell it. Start out by picking up the item and saying “Did you know”.  Stories create an emotional connection to the product and add a value beyond its physical attributes.  Appealing to your customer’s senses: the look, the feel, the smell, creates an impulse buy.


Placement is key in maximizing impulse buying and Jeannine strategically integrates product vignettes throughout the store.  For example, recently Jeannine brought in a new item, a Fish Condo by Umbra, and within hours of displaying them they were gone. A perfect impulse item.  Impressed with the success of this item, she ordered more. Instead of displaying them at the point of sale, Jeannine will create a fun table display and place it in her Crabtree & Evelyn department.  By doing this she is adding a surprise element to her personal care section and drawing attention to an area where she wants to increase traffic.

With eleven departments carrying everything from children’s to gifts, accessories, personal care, coffee, tea and more, Jeannine cross merchandises products throughout the store which helps to draw customers into areas where she wants to create attention

Promoting & Marketing

Events bring traffic through the store and are one of the best ways to maximize impulse purchases. Parkleigh holds up to five events a month, many focused on particular vendor brands such as Vera Bradley, Troll Beads and iota by C.R. Gibson.

“Our iota event was one of our best vendor events thus far,” says Jeannine. Kelly Alford herself, visited the store, met customers and signed journals.  “We had people standing in line just to shake her hand.” One of the local candy companies, made home-made chocolate truffles and Parkleigh gave away starter journals to each customer. A simple event that generated tons of traffic and buzz and was covered by a local newspaper.

Outside of events, Facebook is a great way to generate curiosity about your products and attract customers to visit. Parkleigh does a great job marketing themselves on Facebook and have grown to over 2500 fans since they started the page in March (2010).

Overall, it is about merchandising and playing off on the product’s core attributes. However, Jeannine does bring in true impulse items at lower price points. Positivity bracelets by Alexa’s Angels is a great example. Every employee in the store wears them and tells the story of passing on the positive. It’s a display that’s constantly refilled and a perfect impulse item with a story.

“When I walk into my store, I pretend to be a customer and let myself see what’s screaming at me and what isn’t. I am very visually oriented. I can put my hands on a ton of stuff in my store and create a vignette around it and find out how it speaks best to the customer.” As Jeannine said, anything can be turned into an impulse item if you let your products shine and demand attention.

Getting ready to celebrate their 50th year in business  in October (2010), Parkleigh’s business continues to blossom. Their sales are up from last year in all departments and customers are buying. So how do you turn a “just looking” customer to a “buying” customer? “Make your store an experience each time a customer walks in,” says Jeanine. “Surprise them visually; appeal to their senses; grab their interest from their first step to the final check out.” It creates an impulse environment and keeps customers coming back time and time again.


Great Event for a Good Cause

Cause Marketing Events draw attention and raise funds for a specific cause or charity. According to many sources, the majority of consumers who participated in a Cause Related Marketing program said it positively changed their behavior or perceptions towards the company or brand involved. So while you are giving back to the community that supports your business, you are also helping yourself through added exposure and sales. Cause Marketing is the classic win-win situation.

BEST PRACTICES from the experts– Offer a special or promotion, to get the foot traffic in the door. Market your event heavily- GET THE WORD OUT! And last thing, Offer a rain date alternative for any specials or promotions- the whole world is BUSY and weekends are taken.  HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE PARTY!

Begin to market your event at least six weeks before its start date. You can use Bag Stuffers to get the word out, send e-mail blasts, talk it up on Facebook, Twitter and on your blog, hang signs in your windows or even run an ad. Ask your charity to advertise your event as well. And don’t forget to encourage customers to spread the word! You tell a friend who tells two friends who tells four more friends, etc. To make an even bigger splash, you might even want to get in on the latest marketing trend: Forehead Marketing. You cannot make don’t this stuff up – people are actually paid to walk around with an advertisement temporarily tattooed on their foreheads.

1.Your Theme:  Giving!   This event is planned around giving back.  You pick the charity or organization. Your community benefits, local soup kitchen, battered women’s shelter, homeless pets, Wounded Warrior- there are many, many worthy organizations and charities out there.
Go with your heart, or pick two charities, or let your customers decide where you make a difference.  Sometimes a cause picks you. Contact your vendors and see what they support.

2.Contact the organization.  Once you decide what you will support, contact the organization. They may have suggestions, volunteers who will help.  Ask for contacts within the press or media that will help get the word out for you.

3.Make your event stand out!!!
Go all out- from the minute you walk in the door to the last impression at your cash wrap, let’s make sure it is evident to all who enter that there is something special happening!
  • If there is a ribbon color associated with your event- breast cancer, aids research, etc., place a huge bow in your cause’s color on the door of your store.
  • Don’t forget to set the scene at the entrance- a sign on the door stating your event mission- “EVERYDAY is a GIFT, help us give the gift of…” You take it from there. State your intention of donating a portion of today’s sales, profits, etc. and which cause will benefit from the support of you and all those shopping today.
  • It’s still a party- post happy sayings, blessings and phrases of giving throughout your store.
  • Snap photos of your guests for Facebook.
Hint – Use the serving pieces, paper table ware and tools that you sell when serving your guests.

4.Music: and Drinks & Appetizers:  You cannot have a gathering without food, drink and music. Make sure there are plenty of refreshments and the music is lively.

5.Give Away ideas:
  • Samples of any product line you carry. Contact your sales rep or the vendor for additional samples for the special day.
  • Reward every purchasing customer with a coupon for a future discount in your store
  • Free service- monogramming, gift wrap, gift delivery, and engraving. What sets your store apart?

6.Prize Drawings:
  • Sell 6 chances for $5.00 to your prize drawings.  Donate the $ to your cause.
  • Go to local businesses with your cause and ask for prizes or monetary donations- give the business plenty of credit.
  • Involve your shopping center or entire community to participate for donations.
  • Gift cards to your store for their next stop in– ALWAYS promote a repeat visit
Think about the time of year- back to school, fall entertaining. Take your cue from your shopper’s wants and needs and promote accordingly.

7.Promotions – Promote items in the cause color, if appropriate- Pink for Breast Cancer, Red for Heart Association or Aids Research, etc.
  • Promote gifts for every person on your list- birthdays, grads, and weddings. Group together products by interest, color, personal taste, and budget.
  • Pull displays together by price point and by theme.
  • Offer free gift wrap AND delivery with a minimum purchase.  Think personalized, pampering service.
  • Reward this buyer with ‘Buy More, Save More’ deals. Do you have a ‘frequent buyer’ program in your store?
  • Give a discount on multiple buys and complementary items- Buy two regular priced items, receive a third free (equal or less value)
Buy two, get one free accomplishes two goals- You move product and your customers benefit from the great buys.  You create a ‘customer for life’ with deals and legendary service.

8.Something extra special:
  • Hold a silent auction of a collection or category in your store; add value by including a store gift card, a local gardening expert, or service related gift.
  • Do an hourly drawing with either in store gift cards or services donated by local businesses- local spa, car wash, café, pet grooming.
  • Offer valet parking, with the tips going toward your cause

9.Marketing- e-blasts, on your fb page, flyers, or paper invitations.
  • Start by posting your upcoming event plans on your store’s Facebook page and homepage of your website
  • Create buzz by asking your customers what their favorite cause is- use fb to start the conversation.
  • Create event flyers and insert them into every customer’s bag at purchase for two weeks minimum before the event.
  • Send an e-mail blast to your customer base inviting them to the event with a special offer for them and a friend (Great word of mouth advertising and you could double your traffic.)
  • Ask them to print the email and bring to the event or mention the invitation to be eligible for a special discount, treat, gift, etc.  This allows you to track the effectiveness of your emarketing.
  • Post your event on Community Bulletin Board and your local hot spots
    • Local Coffee Shops
    • Local Restaurants
    • Local food markets
    • Kid’s gyms & karate schools- anywhere the lady of the house is sure to see your advertisement.
  • Invite the local media to your event
  • Phone your BEST customers a week before the event and extend a personal invitation to these special buyers.

Don’t forget the everyday gift giving needs that we all must buy for- birthdays, births, showers, and weddings. These occasions are ‘recession proof’. Be ready with your ‘silent sales person’ – the beautiful displays you put together.  

10.Set your event apart:
  • If your store gift wraps, be sure you are ready with gift appropriate wrapping paper for all the possibilities.  Think about offering free gift wrap on event day.  Or free with a minimum purchase.
As you fill in your promotional calendar for the rest of the year and beyond, be sure and pencil in a few Cause Marketing events. Remember: Your good deeds are good for your business. ENJOY THE PARTY!!!!  SHOW YOUR CUSTOMERS HOW MUCH YOU LOVE AND APPRECIATE THEM!!!

Displaying a Cause

By Becky Tyre, Journalist and owner of the Retail Details blog
Cause marketing is advertising that you are donating a portion of your sales (or sales of designated products) to a particular cause, organization or charity. Today’s cost-conscious consumers are also cause-conscious shoppers. When a customer discovers that you care about the same things they do, a connection is formed.

Creative displays for cause-related products can be centered around a color theme. Since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and I’m sure you are planning your fall displays, here’s a fun idea to combine the two. Pink pumpkins.

At the St. John’s Auxiliary Gift Shop in Springfield, MO, they mix pink ribbon branded products with other pink items from their shop to create shelves of pink. Using a single color as a theme allows the mixture of accessories, jewelry and household products into a single display.
Monkee’s of Blowing Rock in North Carolina, has branded t-shirts as part of their We Wear Pink campaign. They decorate the poles in front of the store with pink ribbons during the month of October to draw attention to the month-long celebration.
Pink Ribbon displays are not just for apparel and accessory stores. At Pride’s Corner Farms in Lebanon, CT, they offer “great plants for a great cause”. Pink ribbon signage tops their display of plants in pink pots and the sales benefit breast cancer research.
Hope and Courage are the theme at the breast cancer awareness display at Melinda’s Fine Gifts in Picayune, MS.
At Peaches Home and Gift in San Antonio, TX, they designate a corner of their store for a “Fight Like A Girl” campaign. The Dalmatian wearing boxing gloves adds a bit of whimsy to the display.
Not all cause-related displays are color related. The Caren Cares Project donates part of their proceeds from their sales to breast cancer research. They provide explanatory literature and signs for their retailers to use in displaying their skin care products. Their product is beautifully displayed at The Hanger in Leighton, PA.
Even stores that do not carry cause-branded merchandise can show their support. This display of books promotes a “Read for the Cure” promotion for Mother’s Day which raises money for breast cancer research.
You may choose to support local or national charities in your retail store. By picking a cause that you feel passionate about and creating interesting and informing displays, you will show that you and willing to give back to your community and encourage others to do the same.

Becky Tyre is a Florida-based journalist, visual merchandising consultant and display designer. She writes about retail topics and visual merchandising for national and trade publications and is the owner/writer of The Retail Details blog. For more information, please visit

Sizzling Display Ideas Abound

Here are some retailers who would like to share their HOT merchandising displays ideas with you. Let’s begin with Absolutely Fabulous in Huntington Beach, CA. Their dazzling wedding window display really showcases their products including Mud Pie in an elegant way. From crystals to glass vases to beading and flowers.


Time to talk sandals! Displayed here are Lindsay Phillips sandals on a tray filled with sea shells along with a vase filled with sand.

Check out these from Fancy That in San Marino, CA. They really thought outside the display box and created their own set-up. They took their Lindsay Phillips displayer apart and hung each side from the ceiling. By doing this, it allows them to free up floor space for a table top full of Lindsay Phillips shoes and accessories.

Speaking of accessories, take a look at this display idea from Giftology in Rockville Centre, NY. Mannequins are not just for displaying your apparel. Giftology got creative and dressed their mannequin up in scarves.

Get creative with boxes! Try this creative shelving option by mounting crates or wooden boxes directly to your wall. See the example that features C.R. Gibson’s Botanic Garden collection placing items within the boxes and side table. Finish the look by bringing in greenery for that outdoor feeling. Spring is here!


Saraboo Creek in Crest Hill, IL screams spring with large metal flowers within their garden-inspired window display and throughout their shop. Also, using large wooden letters help to showcase your theme.



Simply Rr’s in Dublin, OH showcases their Mud Pie baby pieces by incorporating plush and whimsical flowers.

It’s all about boy with this striking black display case that allows each item to really POP!

Get inspired by your products. Here we have a cute baby display using the Little Spout collection by Mud Pie. We have taken the image on the outfits and painted a motif on the wall creating a complete story.

Try this…take one collection and make a statement! This one comes from our showroom in Atlanta which features the Mud Pie Blue Paisley collection. Displaying your flop flops, hats and purses in exciting new ways are sure to make them stand out.

Marvelous Merchandising Ideas for Mother’ Day

By Marc Dudley, Director of Visual Merchandising


It is that time of year again to pay tribute to our mothers.  Whether your mother is a June Cleever type, a whistlers’ mother, an old mother hubbard, or just plain ‘mom’ we honor our Mothers on May 8th.
Here are some simple yet very attractive ideas to display your Mother’s Day merchandise:
  • Use vintage photos of mothers to add décor to the wall or table.
  • A manzanita branch can be attached to the wall or used as a free-standing center piece for hanging  bracelets or necklaces from Mud Pie or any other jewelry line.
  • Use minature dress forms for showcasing jewelry.
  • Family trees, or christmas card holders are great to use for selling stationery products or greeting cards.
  • Old picture frames, inserted with mesh fabric or window screening can be used for hanging earrings or necklaces.
  • Hold a contest in your store to identify the picture of famous women, such as whistlers mother, the queen mum, mother theresa, corretta scott king, and can you identify “mother nature” ?? (feel free to add more that you can think of…)
  • The contest for the grand prize is for your customer that can name the u s president that signed mother’s day into law   (answer: pres. woodrow wilson)
I hope these tips have started your merchandising juices flowing. As always, have fun and be creative.