There is one thing that is certain, shoppers change their shopping habits in a downturn. This is evident when you pick up the daily newspaper up or watch the news and see the bankruptcy of specific retailers. The challenge for many retailers has been to react quickly to a rapidly changing economic climate. We have seen national icon brands suffer as consumers drift towards store brands. Plus large upmarket stores have suffered while discount stores have blossomed. The challenge is how do you merchandise effectively in these changing times? You have to keep ahead of the consumer and their habits are changing rapidly These shoppers are time poor and using new technology to find out about products The choice is whether you provide true value or a discount and what will work most effectively for your business. Concept Shopping Inc in the US produced a report in December 2008 which helps retailers look at their merchandising and to develop a strategy for the new world. There advice is first of all you have to be Relevant to your shoppers. You need to know what the customer is buying and what they are not buying and take the appropriate action in store. An example of how to do this is Ferndale Garden Centre in the UK. As part of their mix they sold gardening books, or should I say they did in 2008. This year the books have gone and have been replaced with another product range. I have a client in Spain, Jarlimcant, who last year were in outdoor clothing and this year that category has gone. If a category is not generating the return you would expect, be ruthless and kick it out. In today’s complicated world, the consumer is looking for a simpler life, especially when they go shopping. They are still looking for an experience when they go shopping but they want the selection process to be simpler. Shoppers often do not know what they want, so make the decision for them. Pre select the products. If you do the chances are you will increase the average sale per customer and it could cost you less as it can enable you to reduce the range. This can be achieved with signage such as Best Seller, Just Arrived, Latest Fashion, Best in Town, Cheapest in Town and other such signage. Plus once you have got to know the customer you can offer add-on’s that can enhance your customers life or enjoyment. The last think you want is for shoppers to get bored, a bored shopper becomes a lapsed shopper , keep shoppers entertained. One of the simplest ways of doing this is to keep introducing new products to them. Make an event around new products. The event will keep the customer entertained. They may not buy that particular product, but they will come to the store to see what is new. I have mentioned in previous articles that coupons are still major attraction to consumers. Research by DM Neeves/Pitney Bowen Bowes in 2008 revealed how customers prefer to receive coupons, that research carried out in the USA revealed the following: 78% like coupons to arrive in the mail 63% via email 52% as a newspaper insert 34% via a webpage 3% don’t want them sent Consumers still like getting mail. The grocery industry is the one where consumers like to receive the most coupons. The key to success is to ensure that you are in close touch with your customers and merchandise and communicate with them to make their lives easier.