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The Female Factor

Follow these tips to merchandise your product with women in mind.

By Robin Enright, Contributing Writer
April 8, 2015

Sports Authority Women's Department

Much is written about merchandising with gender in mind, and how to capture the attention and engage the emotions of female shoppers. Grocery stores, shopping malls, resort shops, boutiques — you name it. Women are there and if you miss the mark, they’ll move on in less time than you can say, “But wait!”

You have less than five seconds to grab these important customers.

Studies show that women make or influence more than 85% of all major purchase decisions, but feel misunderstood by advertisers. Being a woman, I can relate.

So how does a specialized niche like licensed sports products get a leg up on merchandising excellence and provide enough gusto to grab the attention of women and encourage a sale? Well, believe it or not, it’s possible and it’s not rocket science. It just requires a bit of consumer psychology, as well as creative execution.

Let’s get started with some basics and then consider examples of merchandising that rocks.

CREATE SOME ROOM
If you have read retail guru and Envirosell founder Paco Underhill’s “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping,” then you know about the “butt brush.” Feeling crowded is a big no-no if you want to invite women into your retail experience. Underhill found that even the slightest brush against a woman’s posterior was enough for her to leave suddenly, and this desire to do so often was unconscious.

So give your female shoppers space and provide room for multiple customers to work the same fixture. Do not, under any circumstances, squeeze so much merchandise onto a rack that women can’t slide the hangers back and forth. Consider that a female shopper may even be pushing a child in a stroller and make it easy for her to maneuver through the aisles.

Sure, by adopting this tactic you may find that you have less room for merchandise. But I’m willing to bet that you will experience an increase in sales that offsets that risk.

KEEP THINGS ORGANIZED
One of the biggest deterrents to in-store sales is lack of time. Helping customers find what they want as quickly as possible is a win-win for everyone.

Make sure adjacencies and categories are logically located. Keep products in order according to size and on the same fixture, and remember to create a sensorial flow from four-way to four-way.

When all else fails, keep things organized. Both men and women will appreciate this and are more likely to walk out of your store with a purchase if they can quickly find what they want.

USE COLOR
Color is powerful, especially in licensed sports products where the dominating factor is most likely a hue associated with the home team. However, while the strength of the color associated with the local team creates an impact, it also can cause women to feel like they are shopping in a man’s world. They also may find it daunting to locate women’s-specific products.

This is not a suggestion to “pink it and shrink it,” a notoriously overused strategy in product design and merchandising. Find a die-hard female Bruins fan anywhere and she will likely tear your head off if you think the only attire befitting her is the pink version. She wants to represent her team by wearing its colors. The key is finding balance and creative ways to differentiate.

Color has the power to let women know which fixtures hold the girls’ goodies. Even though women aren’t shy about buying men’s clothing, distinguishing among the two is still critical. Good merchandising goes hand in hand with good customer service, and one of the ways that works is when merchandising makes it easy for shoppers to find what they are looking. This can be challenging for licensed sports products, which can have an entire department sharing the same color scheme.

Savvy merchandisers will explore ways of setting apart women’s merchandise and using color to differentiate categories.

DISPLAY
The thick of the sports season can keep licensed product departments tight with the sheer magnitude of merchandise. But display is a critical element in providing that experience and emotional engagement to which many customers — especially women — respond. Regardless of whether she is buying for herself or making a purchase for her boyfriend, husband, son or male friend, the same rules apply.

Display is an enticing element and can spur impulse purchases and solidify destination buys. It also presents a great opportunity for add-on sales when a powerful story is told. Create this with products from other categories and watch your add-on sales grow.

To summarize the basics, women are looking for an emotional connection and want to engage with your products. Deliver a bit of magic and tell a story via your merchandising that creates an experience. A female retail customer in Denver may want that Broncos jersey to support her local team, but think about how that jersey will be worn and create an experience around it.

Sporting events allow us to forget about the stressors in our personal lives, spur camaraderie with other fans and provide a healthy outlet for aggression. We get to yell at the top of our lungs to cheer and jeer; where else do we get that opportunity?

All of this is a roundabout way of saying the storytelling opportunities with licensed sports products are endless. One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing isn’t to look at how other sports product retailers are doing this. Instead, visit women’s-specific retailers that are at the top of their games, take photographs and consider how you might use their work as inspiration to adapt it to your industry.

Robin Enright is the founder of Merchandising Matters, which works to create and enhanced emotional connection between buyer and seller through precisely crafted visual merchandising techniques. For more information or to comment on this article, email Robin at robin@merchandisingmattersnow.com or visit merchandisingmattersnow.com.