I usually advise retailers looking for merchandising to imagine their typical customer walking through the front door of the shop.  Is the shopper male or female? Under 20, over 40, or perhaps over 60?  What income level does the customer fit into?

This exercise helps you select items that have the right sense of style, and the right range of prices, for your target demographic. It also helps you select the background music for the store, and where you advertise. We would not, for example, play hip hop in our shop (although I do enjoy the rhyme) or advertise regularly in the student newspapers here in Madison.

But it is a mistake to limit your store’s appeal strictly to your target customer, because you will be missing a share of the market that could nicely supplement your sales.  Who would have thought, for example, that this priest would pause by the display of youthful clothing in the Minneapolis airport?  But he probably has a niece or sister he wants to give a gift.  The wise shopkeeper will make sure that he feels welcome.

Training your staff to welcome a diversity of shoppers is an important first step in making certain that someone other than your “typical” customer gets top-notch service.  There are many famous stories of a shopper dressed in ragged clothing turning out to be a wealthy but eccentric customer.  We should be careful not to pre-judge.

Your merchandise selection should be focused on your target customer, but it pays to carry a few lines that appeal to younger or older shoppers, or to men if your shop is usually caters to women.  After all, customers often shop with their spouses, or with a mother or daughter.

Looking beyond the typical customer can build your sales and can make the shopping experience more varied and enjoyable for those who are already your most frequent customers.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder