April 2013
2012 Merchandiser of the Year Winner

Location: The Great Outdoors, Austin, Texas

One week. Four displays. One common theme.

In what was nothing short of a team effort that awarded the creative staff at The Great Outdoors in Austin, Texas, the 2012 Merchandiser of the Year award. They drew inspiration from the classical elements and produced four related displays — Earth, Air, Fire and Water.

In addition, the competition’s sponsor Braun Horticulture will award the retailer a $500 Wholesale Gift Credit and a 15 percent discount toward Braun’s 2012 catalog offering — something the staff on South Congress Avenue will most certainly merchandise brilliantly into displays and then sell like hotcakes.

Merrideth Jiles, The Great Outdoors general manager, explains that merchandising is a team effort and unique/crazy ideas are welcomed with open arms. Jiles was kind enough to share some of his merchandising philosophy with Lawn & Garden Retailer in a quick question and answer.

L&GR: How are new merchandising ideas introduced at The Great Outdoors?

Jiles: Brainstorming sessions are something we do quite often — whether it’s early in the day before the rush or after work and over a beer.

One Great Outdoors employee has plenty of retail experience and has even worked for Anthropologie. Another used to be a model and now does performance art — she can weld. We have a lot of different people that come from a lot of different backgrounds. I find this the best way to get everybody on board with all of their unique ideas.

L&GR: Does The Great Outdoors have a general display-building philosophy?

Jiles: Up until very recently, our display building places a heavy emphasis on inspiration — creating that “wow” factor — which is evident in our Earth, Air, Fire and Water displays. Moving forward, once this set of displays runs its course, I’m going to challenge my staff to create a “let’s sell some stuff” display that’s all about presenting information clearly and selling a product.

We know how to move product, but I want to challenge them to build a display that’s not just “Here’s 100 salvias — come buy one.” But, “Here’s a product, here’s why you should buy it and here’s a little bit about it.”

L&GR: Are there any other challenges when it comes to your merchandising efforts?

Jiles: I’ve been pushing my staff to spend money. I know that sounds a little crazy, but, I give them a display budget and it’s interesting how frugal they can be.

I’m trying to push them a little more to think less about creating a display when new product comes in. Instead, I say, let’s come up with a display and then figure out what we need to make that display happen. Think of it in the bigger picture, which is a fairly new thing for us.

My other criteria, if we’re working on a big display, is to ask the staff, “Why?” I want to know what they want to do and why they want to do it. Responses can’t just be, “I think this would be cool.” But I will accept, “I think this will be cool and make people stop in their tracks and tell their friends about it.”



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