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From Store Displays to Point-of-Sale, Retailers Must ‘Practice What They Preach’

When customers walk into a Bath & Body Works retail store, it’s impossible to ignore the wonderful smells of passionfruit, mango, coconut, peaches, fresh linen, lilacs, rose ivy, lavender and more. But walk into the beauty and home section of other retail stores, and customers often smell nothing.

This simple sales technique is one of many reasons why Bath & Body Works continues to be a success. According to Forbes, the retail chain has brought in continuous incremental revenue growth since 2015—even more than big hitters like Victoria’s Secret. Known for its body wash and lotion, hand soaps and home fragrance sprays, the skincare products are available in approximately 1,630 nationwide locations.

So how is it that this retail chain continues to do well while malls and other retail chains are shutting down by thousands? One of the arguable methods that they are using is practicing exactly what they preach, by making sure customers know the products are being used as opposed to just displaying them and hoping to make a few sales.


Don’t just sell the goods, incorporate them

Department stores have long figured out why presentation is everything. It’s the primary reason that fragrance representatives are hired to spray away, using the products on themselves and any open-minded customers. Meanwhile, customers can easily ignore the same enticing scents that sit behind locked store display cases.

The keyword here is “using.”

And it’s not just beauty or fragrance departments that use their products to back up their brands. Icicle, a Chinese eco-conscious fashion brand, stands by its “Made in Nature” theme. The store’s architect (Andrea Tognon) uses energy-saving LED lighting, greenery and natural materials (i.e. marble, solid walnut, glazed porcelain and concrete) for furniture.

Starbucks, which is also known for its sustainability practices, is testing out a new BioPBS™-lined cup to add onto its 10 percent post-consumer recycled paper fiber recyclable cups. Also, when the restaurant retail chain opened its first American Sign Language store, it backed the location up with ASL aprons, digital displays and notepads, and “I Sign” pins to make customers feel even more welcome.

Even home improvement retailers like Home Depot lead by example. As the winner of Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)’s Climate Change “A-List,” the chain also has retrofitted LED lighting in more than 1,300 stores; installed energy-efficient heating, air-conditioning and ventilation systems in 133 stores; and updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units in 467 stores.

While some of Home Depot’s installations aren’t immediately obvious to the average consumer, their light displays are pretty easy to notice upon entry. And depending on the store location, shoppers may be able to check out the plant displays throughout the store, not just the Garden Center.

And this is just a few of many examples in which stores are actively making their products work for their needs.


What’s not sold speaks volumes, too

On the other end of the retail argument is whether stores should not sell products that they encourage customers not to buy. Supermarket chain Whole Foods Market not only breaks down the eco-scale rating system for natural cleaning supplies, but it also won’t sell red-rated cleaners.

While straws are commonly found in the average restaurant, Starbucks has eliminated more than 1 billion straws annually. And according to its official site, customers will be offered paper or alternative material straws for blended beverages instead. Straws will only be available by request in hopes of customers utilizing the lightweight, recyclable strawless lids instead.

And even though Victoria’s Secret is under the same L Brands, Inc. as Bath & Body Works, the latter store bans any products, formulations or ingredients that are tested on animals. (Victoria’s Secret does not.) When Bath & Body Works encourages customers to use cruelty-free goods, there’s no need to look at the back of the bottles; customers already know everything in the store is animal friendly.


Should stores demand that their products be used?

Using the examples above, an obvious question is this: Are stores who encourage certain cultural values or products hypocritical if they themselves don’t use them? Depending on the customer or the issue, this can go either way. For some customers, seeing Nike employees wearing adidas or Puma shoes may seem peculiar. For others, the only priority may be consistently finding their own shoe sizes instead of checking out the cashier’s footwear.

Other customers may find it strange to see the Barnes & Noble employee reading a library book in the cafe. Meanwhile, there’s a crowd of customers who couldn’t care less about anything other than purchasing enough new copies of their book clubs’ Pick of the Month.

It is, of course, smart advertising for retailers to make store appearances and products appealing to customers (and employees). But it’s really up to the customer to decide what he or she wants. Just because a store sprays it, wears it or displays it doesn’t always mean a consumer will buy it. But these tactics certainly don’t hurt to help get them in the door.