This is a fun time of year. Lots of customers, lots of smiling faces, lots of full shopping carts, lots of empty shelves that need to be filled with more product.
I used to laugh at my dad every Christmas saying he was the highest paid stock boy in town. Now it's my turn.
Now I get to make multiple trips to the warehouse in search of more products to fill the spaces emptied by customers finding just the right toy or game. It's both a challenge and a sense of accomplishment when I can take an aisle decimated by shoppers and turn it into a fully-stocked, well-merchandised display.
More importantly, I understand the necessity of making sure the job is done quickly and done well. Our product is our lifeblood. And the way we merchandise it goes a long way towards the success we have as a business. Since most of our toys don't have a movie or TV license, or a heavy ad campaign, customers aren't coming through the door asking for them. It isn't until they see the toys on the shelf that many people even know they exist.
Without merchandising, they might never see the product. And if they don't see it, they don't buy it. Merchandising is one of the most important elements of any successful retailer.
Yet, the stock boy is always perceived as the low man on the totem pole, the dish dog of retail, the private in the sales force army. Tell someone you're a stock boy and hear them apologize for your plight in life as they fill you with encouragement for bigger and grander things to come.
But with the importance that merchandising plays in our success, the shelves should not be left to the lowliest, least-trained, least experienced of the staff.
I finally see what my dad knew all those years. The shelves are our silent salesmen. The shelves are where many decisions are made on which toy, game or puzzle to buy. The shelves make or break our season.
Merchandising is not just a job, it's an art form. My dad was one of the best. He didn't need a planogram. He could look at the product, look at the shelf and instantly see in his mind exactly how it should go.
Me? I'm getting better at it. I'm not to the grand master merchandising level of my dad yet, but getting close. More importantly, I'm trying to put all I've learned into our staff training so that we all become master merchandisers. It's not just enough to make the shelves look full. They have to be enticing and inviting.
I believe it was George Whalin who said, "advertising brings products to the customer, but merchandising brings customers to the product." Yes, merchandising is one of the most important aspects of retailing. It's not an afterthought or a minimum-wage job.
And for the holiday season, the shelves are my domain. I love the challenge. Not only do I get to know the products better, (hey, it's hard to keep track of 32,000 different items) I get to be out on the floor meeting and greeting all the happy customers.
So if you see me pushing around a cart full of toys, it may look like I'm busy, but really I'm just having fun. And I'm always available to answer a question or too.