By: Logan Breer and Keith Winge, Staff at MMSC
Each business downtown is as unique as its owner. Each storefront is a blank slate ready to burst with character and opportunity. Many business owners understand their product, but some may not understand merchandising or product placement principles. Experts in the field of merchandising utilize data and study shopping behavior to create impactful store layouts and product placement to appeal to customers and their buying habits. Some simple changes can help a small business make a huge impact on the bottom line.
Missouri Main Street Connection (MMSC) offered a grant program to bring merchandising experts to the state through the My Community Matters Grant that allowed communities and businesses to have access to individualized services that addressed their specific needs. MMSC’s mission with this grant was to increase net new jobs, increase local investments, expand support in downtowns, and increase the capacity of recipients. The grant was implemented by MMSC and a team of consultants in 2020.
The team consisted of Seanette Corkill and Anne Marie Luthro with Frontdoor Back and they provided individual services for small businesses in five Missouri communities. All of the business owners in the five communities were invited to a presentation called, The How Behind The Wow! Creating Stellar Stores and Storefronts. The presentation set the stage for the individual business visits by providing some foundational elements of store layout and store design while educating the audience on shopper behaviors.
Before meeting with the consultants, Brittnee did not know what to expect especially since she was a new business owner. After the initial How Behind the Wow presentation and the building walkthrough, Brittnee shared, “I felt so much better knowing that there were many changes that could be done following their constructive criticism and I had a lot of hope for my business after learning so much about the shopping experience.”
Monroe City, located in Northeast Missouri, was one of the communities that received individual business consultations by the Frontdoor Back duo. Monroe City joined MMSC’s network in 2017 and was awarded the My Community Matters grant in 2019. Brittnee Hinch, who is the owner of Everything Under the Sun, ran a consignment store at the time of the consultation. She shared with the consultants that she was dabbling with carrying newer boutique-style clothing, but was fearful of making the leap away from consignment.
The in-person consultation provided Brittnee with some short-term recommendations that she tackled immediately. During the virtual presentation of the final report with the consultants, Brittnee was showing off the changes she had already made to her window display and sales floor. She even made the comment that she could not keep product in the window display because she kept selling it. The final report provided more dynamic and doable changes that appealed to Brittnee. She shared, “We did all the renovations and implementations ourselves with our landlords’ permission. My husband and I sacrificed family time to make it work and often took turns working on the renovations and parenting.” She created the store she always wanted. Changes were made big and small from a full remodel of the store space to small details to improve the shoppers’ experience. The experience cemented the importance of things she was already doing right and providing solid advice on why to follow the recommended operational procedures.
Brittnee prioritizes the needs and wants of the community and her shoppers in her shift from a consignment store to a full boutique with the confidence gained from speaking with the Frontdoor Back consultants. Where once a 25-minute drive stood between women and fashion, now a short drive downtown to an inclusive boutique that has a variety of clothes. “We don’t reorder clothing once we sell out…this is because our community is pretty small and no one wants to be wearing the same thing as 10 other people,” Brittnee said. There are racks of a variety of sizes including plus sizes so everyone can find something no matter their size.
The impact these services have had is beyond expectations. After a short hiatus of repositioning, renovations, and implementing the consultants’ recommendations, the store saw their first month’s sales exceeding those of the entire year of 2020. With money flowing from the federal government in response to COVID-19, Main Street programs across the country should bring these types of services, trainings, and resources to their small businesses in support of their local economy and livelihood.