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fall over themselves to make things easy for their customers while, as you head down the square- footage scale, the smaller operators don’t seem overly bothered?

The fact is that a greetings card retailer has a duty to make things better for their shoppers in exactly the same manner as a fully-blown department store. But more often than not, this doesn’t seem obvious.

The reality in the majority of greetings card shops is that there’s so much overhead point-of-sale material that it’s hard to work out whether the sign you’re looking at is a piece of branded advertising or something that might, just might, direct you to where you need to be.

The clear riposte to all of this is, most card shops are so small it doesn’t take too long to locate what you want. Printing a map for the purpose would be superfl uous as, in the time it takes to read it, you’d probably have found what you were looking for. That said - a little help never comes amiss. Or put another way, what’s required is a self- respecting signage system. For signs to work, however, they need to be seen so the temptation to plaster the shop with point-of- sale has to be fi rmly resisted as this will confuse rather than clarify.

Telling ’em where it’s at

Taking a leaf from maps and apps in a closer look at in-store navigation.


alk into a big shopping centre and it’s frequently hard to tell where you are or where the shops you want to visit might be - fortunately,

help is at hand. Whether it’s in the form of an information desk, a series of outsize touch-screens or good old-fashioned printed maps, the one thing you can rely on is that there will be in-mall navigation aids.

Now head to one of the biggest stores and the same thing applies. There will be somebody on hand, possibly toting a fully-loaded iPad, willing and able to locate the department that contains the item you need.

36 And then you remember that it’s your dear

nephew’s birthday next week and you’ve forgotten to get a card. Off to the nearest greetings card emporium, there are several in the mall according to the map, and the hunt begins.

Entering the store you notice big signs shouting out that Father’s Day is just around the corner and a series of cartoons based around the theme ‘Sorry you’re leaving’, also catch the eye. Then it’s ‘Get well soon’, ‘Congratulations’ and ‘It’s a boy(!)’. But where are the birthday cards? Eventually, having made a complete tour of this small shop, you fi nd what you’re looking for, but it’s been quite an effort and the source of mild frustration. So, how come most large retailers

The other hurdle to be cleared is the nature of the signage and making it fl exible as you may need to remerchandise.

Promotional areas tend to be towards the front of the shop and will probably speak for themselves. The tendency therefore to put a sign stating “Don’t forget it’s Father’s Day” above a gondola or series of mid-shop tiered shelves containing nothing but that category of card, is probably a wasted effort – most shoppers will work this one out. On the other hand, you will still need to tell the birthday card shopper where the birthday cards are so a simple, unfussy sign is required. The same is true of all the other workaday card categories and putting up overhead signs is the best way of doing this. It’s not complex stuff, but so many do it very badly. Take stock of your stock and work out how to make things easy for the shopper. Sounds simple? It really is.

John Ryan is a journalist and commentator covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfi lled for more than a decade. In a previous life he was a retail buyer.

T: 07710 429926 twitter: @newstores

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