The World's Largest Resource for the Cart, Kiosk, and Temporary Retail Industry

Summer 2007 How to Avoid Setup Day Hell

You’ve pulled an all-nighter to set up your cart, only to discover in the wee hours of the morning that your key prop is too wide, someone forgot the glue gun, and you expected the cart to have panels but you’re looking at stacking tiers.

Welcome to set-up day hell.

With a little planning, though, you can experience set-up day heaven, or at least something close to it: a relatively smooth execution of a well-thought-out merchandising plan that’s bound to catch the shopper’s eye.

Of course, the one thing that will get you there is preparation. As the military saying goes: “Prior planning prevents poor performance.” That one sentence is the key to a great set-up day.

Here are four steps to get your planning going.

Size-up your cart or kiosk

Take a close look at the design of your retail unit. What kind of space do you have to work with? Grid panels for hanging? Shelves that might need risers? Are different areas of the cart or kiosk better for displaying larger, or smaller, items?

Measure all available display space and shelving—width, height and depth. Write the measurements in a notebook where you’ll keep all your visual-merchandising-related notes for easy reference.

Develop your theme

Pick a theme to unify your overall display. If you want a jungle theme, decide which accents and props you need to achieve that look. Do you need greenery to carry out the theme? Would risers with animal-print or leaf-print fabric help reinforce your theme? Remember, you can find props anywhere—and they don’t have to be expensive.

Once you’ve decided on your accents and props, refer back to your cart or kiosk measurements to make sure your props, etc. will fit. (And consider what tools you will need for installation on set-up day.)

Think about how your product will look once all props and accents are in place. Is all of the packaging one size and if so, how will that give your display some visual excitement? Consider how you might add shelves or individual risers to break up the uniformity. Your display also needs to be versatile enough so that it can be easily changed to keep it fresh.

Keep in mind that your final theme is designed to showcase your product, not distract shoppers’ attention from your product. Be careful not to overstock; too much product is difficult for the eye to take in.

Meet with your leasing rep

Have a visual merchandising meeting with your specialty leasing representative. Before the meeting, ask yourself if you have the visual skills and capabilities to develop—and execute—an attention-getting cart or kiosk display. You might be an accomplished specialty retailer with great business acumen who simply does not have an eye for visual merchandising. If that’s you, ask your leasing rep to put you in touch with a visual merchandising pro who knows what it takes to make your product shine.

Bring samples of your product to the meeting, along with color swatches of fabric or paint colors, and any props you plan to use. If you’ve had other carts or kiosks, bring pictures of those locations. Review your merchandising plan and get approval on all props, etc.

Be sure to cover what the mall provides versus what you are expected to provide. Does the mall supply flatbeds to move in inventory? Are the mall doors large enough to bring in your oversized prop? What kind of power is supplied? Who provides the surge protectors and what about the fire extinguisher?

Confirm your set-up day and time. A set-up time of 9 pm on Thursday means you can’t spend all day Friday finishing your display. If your contract states that opening day is Friday, you’ll be expected to be up-and-running Friday when the mall opens for business.

Stock your toolbox

If you’ve done your prep work prior to set-up day, you will know what you need in your toolbox to install specific props, etc. Remember, most stores will be closed while you’re setting up, so you won’t have access to stores for last-minute supplies.

A basic toolbox should include: a hammer and nails, a screwdriver and screws, scissors, straight pins, double-sided tape, floral wire, a few pencils and a hot-glue gun. (Lots of retailers can’t sew a stitch, but can hot-glue with the best of ‘em.)

A set-up-day-heaven toolbox will also contain: S-hooks, jumbo paper clips and a roll of 10-pound test fishing line (you can hang a lot of product with those three items alone). Plus touch-up paint and paintbrushes for any painted props, etc. You won’t be able to spray paint inside the shopping center so last-minute touchups will have to be done with liquid paints. (Also take steps to protect your props, etc. during transport to the mall and while you’re setting up, so you can avoid touchups in the first place.)

Two items that probably won’t fit in your toolbox but that you’ll want on set-up day are a cordless drill with drill bits and a staple gun with staples. (A few strategically placed staples can hold together lots of things until you can make a true repair.) A small stepladder will come in very handy, helping you reach those top shelves and hang product without straining your back all night long.

Another item that will simplify your life on set-up day: an apron with pockets where you can stick a pencil, extra nails (yes, in the apron and not in your mouth) and other miscellaneous items for easy reach. You can get these inexpensive aprons at most hardware stores.

Last but not least, some cleaning cloths, spray cleaner and a broom will be useful as you put the final touches on your beautiful display. Get rid of any visual clutter, like the bags on the chair, the garbage can sitting out, the drink cups on the shelf, and your final presentation will be neat, clean and ready for all those sales you’re about to make.

Set-up day heaven can be yours, if you plan ahead. There’s no guarantee that if you follow these steps your set-up day will go absolutely perfectly, but if you keep in mind that “prior planning prevents poor performance,” you’ll be able to avoid “pitiful planning produced poor profits.”

Gail Noland Dowell -- Noland Dowell is assistant general manager of WestGate Mall, a CBL and Associates Management, Inc. property.

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