Everything In Its Place …

Organize your product and store to increase their worthiness

I wasn’t stalking her, per se, but I knew what she was up to; it was apparent from the moment she picked up the carton of Rocky Road ice cream in her cart and then looked longingly at the display of Hostess Ding Dongs facing her. Back and forth her head turned; it was obvious an epic gourmandise battle was being waged in her brain. I also knew that, as soon as the decision was made, the ice cream would end up occupying the Hostess shelf and within an hour there would be a waterfall of melted mess ruining several boxes of tasty treats on its journey to the floor. This was a problem because, as you know, ruining Hostess snack cakes is like pouring out a beer—it’s a sacrilege, of sorts.

By assuming the primary shopping duties in my family over the past several years, I’ve become quite accustomed to witnessing the habits of other shoppers. Further, I tend to do my grocery shopping late at night when the crowds are sparse but unsavory characters seem to be aplenty. This tends to present the greatest number of "shopper incidents." I’ve witnessed many people doing many stupid things within the confines of Wal-Mart’s walls and the lady upon whom I was now spying was among the most blatant of offenders.

Many people would say that policing of this sort is none of my business—if someone wants to leave a box of ice cream on a store shelf, what’s it to me? But, being a businessman myself, I recognize how one person’s issue eventually becomes a problem for all. After all, who is going to pay for those 20 or 30 ruined boxes of Hostess cupcakes? Ultimately the costs will be passed along to you and I through higher prices.

So I watched. She made her move and even looked over her shoulder before shelving the ice cream, which told me this was no crime of passion. I knew this was calculated, pre-meditated laziness.

As the lady started to push her cart away from the scene of the crime, she suddenly did something else that made me cringe: She pushed several boxes of Hostess cakes in front of the ice cream container, blocking it’s view from the aisle. Was she trying to hide her crime of laziness? Was she making sure that the ice cream would fully melt and do sufficient damage before being found? Was this a vendetta against the big-box retailer that I was witnessing or just a second-thought by someone who felt guilty about her actions?

As the perpetrator strolled away in search of other destructive opportunities, I pushed my cart over to the Hostess display and found her ice cream. I put it in my cart and headed back to the ice cream freezers to remedy the situation.

Most likely the ice cream lady didn’t misplace the container based on some long-standing feud between her and the store. I’d say the probable cause is that she simply didn’t want to walk the several acres back to the frozen foods section to properly return the rocky road. This happens. Often.

Even if we’re not talking about days-old packages of rancid meat or melted ice, you spend a great deal of time, money and effort to keep your store looking clean by creating displays that will spawn that impulse desire in your customers, and, the fact is, just one indecisive person can ruin a great display through laziness, vandetta, whatever.

Tomorrow morning take a walk around your showroom and count how many items are not where they’re supposed to be. Even if you have an employee who is devoted to walking the stock, you’ll likely find several items out of place.

When you get your count, take the employees on the same tour. Point out the things that are out of place and let them do the same. Maybe they’ll see something you don’t. Then, after you’ve accomplished that, take them on a field trip to the local Wal-Mart and engage in the same tour. Chances are, your team will find all kinds of things out of place. When you’re done, point out how much those items stood out in their minds and how it detracted from the clean, organized look.

Organization, after all, appeals to us. When I find a product out of place, it detracts from its worthiness. Do I want to spend money to add more disorganization to my life? No.

After you point this out to your employees and have their complete understanding of the importance of a clean store, there is one thing left to do before leaving Wal-Mart and cleaning your own shelves: Walk back to the automotive section where you’ll find an assortment of low-priced, Bell helmets on display. Hand everyone a helmet and send them out to drop them off in various departments of the store … lingerie, frozen foods, electronics and housewares. Between that and cleaning your own store, you’ll have given yourself a much better shot at additional sales this month. Take that, Wal-Mart!

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