Despite the use of browsing to refer to the Internet — have you emptied your browser cache lately? — and the negative connotations of “No, I’m just browsing,” I think this is one of the finest activities that a specialty shop can offer.

Most people go to an art museum open to the possibility of seeing something new, and often it is the unexpected discoveries that make up the best part of the visit. It should be our goal to have customers experience this same pleasure.

How do we do this? It’s all about offering an array of products that includes items not seen everywhere else. In addition, the merchandise needs to be displayed in a way that encourages serendipity.  There isn’t much chance of that happening in a convenience store, with products lined up by category in straight rows.  But cross-merchandising allows you to put several products together in a way that makes them new your shoppers, and to use whimsy to delight the browser.

Finding unusual products requires a willingness to browse through gift shows looking for new lines, and to browse through the various products being presented by a sales rep even though you know you may not place an order.  I love to browse through trade magazines and wholesale catalogues looking for items I may not have known that I was looking for.

Another definition of browsing is to graze or nibble at something. I like to think that we nourish our customers in a totally different way than a mass marketer or web giant when we allow them to relax in a pleasant environment and browse through our wares. When a shopper rushes to say “I’m just browsing,” I always respond “Enjoy!”

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder