Opinion: Time to Change Your Baby Again

A picture of NTP-Stag merchandising director Val Byrd

For some reason, writers (including me) like to use analogies involving babies when communicating ideas. Why? Everyone was once a baby, and almost everyone likes babies and/or identifies with the concepts surrounding them.

I like to conjure up thoughts of infants because they are blank slates, completely dependent on outside resources and nurturing to grow and prosper. Babies require a great deal of work.

The same can be said about your business operation. So, it’s time to change your baby again. It is time to assess your business’ current state, specifically your parts and accessories operation. You should make adjustments, then continue with more nurturing and following your plan.

You may be thinking you just changed your baby last year. Yes, I know. This message is for you, too.

Trends and customer behavior are constantly in flux. I would be remiss if I failed to mention we just experienced a worldwide event that has changed 50% of consumers’ shopping habits. Best practices dictate we conduct reviews annually, at least.

In many parts of the country, spring will be here soon. Flowers buds are showing, birds are returning and sweaters and coats have been replaced by warm-weather gear. Spring is often described as a time of rebirth, and I like to think rebirth applies to our business and personal lives. As Tolstoy once wrote, spring is the time of plans and projects.

It is the perfect time to refresh your RV parts and accessories store.

I get it—the task of running a retail operation is a never-ending story of ordering, receiving, stocking, conditioning and serving internal and external customers. Having store responsibility or ownership is a little like taking care of a baby. You have to feed, clean, attend and nurture your retail operation so it will prosper.

The ultimate key to retail prosperity is converting browsers into shoppers. Every single visitor to your dealership—no matter their age—is a potential sale. On average, you have three seconds to pull them in. We know shoppers are attracted to clean, well-maintained stores with relevant merchandise and eye-appealing displays. Store conditioning/maintenance and attention to visual merchandise will help you meet these objectives.

In recent years, the Cintas Corp. conducted a study with 1,000 U.S. respondents regarding store cleanliness and perception. The results showed 99% of respondents said any poor cleanliness issue negatively affected their retail store perception. Dirty restrooms topped the aggravation list and were rated more of a turn-off than poor customer service.

For store management, walking the store is an essential task. A store walk should occur at the beginning and end of the workday to assess the environment and ensure the store’s condition is acceptable. This tactic enables you to determine whether new items are selling, packages are being opened or damaged and whether the store is clean. NTP-Stag has developed a daily store walk checklist including the basic items you should review.

Visual merchandising’s importance cannot be undervalued. Developing a dealership’s distinct look and feel that appeals to customers is more than an esoteric concept placed on a second-tier objective list. Instead, your retail operation’s physical attributes should build your image and send a positive message. Color, signage, sound and product selection are infinitely powerful in influencing consumers’ behaviors.

New Items

Products have a life cycle, just like other creatures. Infusing fresh new items is critical for an accessories store’s success. Consumers are more likely to browse and cover more square footage in the store when they expect to find something new.

Be sure to check out your distributor’s latest parts catalog to view the best new items.

Next, consider dedicating an end cap to new items. Additionally, be sure to cut-in new items in their traditional primary category location, then use new item flags to draw the customers’ attention. New items should include “need-to-have items,” as well as “want- to-haves”—necessities and novelties.


One tried and true way to add retail interest is by using color and signage in critical store locations. The end caps, wall spaces and checkout space are precious real estate. The sparing use of an accent color in these areas will unite the entire operation’s physical space by coordinating with elements such as business cards and uniforms.

Color choice should be strategic, too. Research shows color does have a psychological effect on shoppers and their moods. Red is considered the color of passion or action, while various shades of blue can be relaxing or convey strength. The Home Depot is a master at using color to define and enhance its marketing strategy.

Point of Purchase (P.O.P.) Materials

Our supplier community offers a wide array of P.O.P. options, including inline displays and freestanding racks. Variables such as available floor space should guide your use of P.O.P. materials.

The right display is truly a silent salesperson. The display shows the merchandise in its best light and provides the information consumers need to make an informed purchase.

Popular floor graphics have been proven to lead consumers to specific products. The result: sales can improve with or without a price reduction. The power of these elements should not be underestimated, as even a small shelf talker can drive sales.

New Signage

Every sign in your store gives you an opportunity to communicate with the customer. Messages can include directional, policy, pricing and promotional information. The messages may not involve text at all.

A popular strategy for promoting positive connotations among RV shoppers is using lifestyle images. Pictures of families camping, fishing or engaging in other fun outdoor activities create an atmosphere that influences other merchandise’s sales. Average RVers are less likely to complain about a product’s price when they are happy and anxiously awaiting a chance to hit the road.

NTP-Stag’s 2022 Merchandising Idea Book contains numerous poster options available to order and display in your stores.

Change the Entrance

Finally, one quick and easy strategy for creating interesting store change is to change the store front regularly. The change can be subtle, such as a change in products on a display, or as dramatic as repositioning store shelving.

The result is higher customer interest and more impulse sales. Fixture manufacturers now offer mobile gondolas and various rolling rack sizes and shapes. These tools simplify the process of keeping your customers guessing.

Remember, merchandising is all about selling. The most successful, world-class retailers on the planet are committed to this science, from the organization’s top to the bottom.

Don’t neglect your baby. The time spent nurturing and fostering your store’s development will bring a harvest of increased sales and profit.

It makes sense—give customers what they want, how they want it, appealingly and they will buy.

Val Byrd is NTP-Stag’s customer merchandising manager. She has worked in the RV aftermarket for the past 20 years and is a leading RV retail expert on store layout/design and aftermarket product display. Previously, she worked in the grocery industry as a retail manager, buyer and promotions manager.

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