Dec. 28, 2009 – Training Day-Eliminating dead zones and aged inventory

OTTAWA, Ill. — The area behind a cash register, that zone that is guaranteed consumer eye placement, should be considered prime dealership real estate and be dealt with accordingly.
That was part of the message Jennifer Robison, Tucker Rocky’s retail environment specialist, gave to the parts and accessory department at Starved Rock Harley-Davidson, the site of Powersports Business’ recent “Training Day.”
Robison touched on a number of merchandising and inventory issues during the day, including the importance of identifying and then disposing of aged inventory as well as correcting dealership “dead zones.”
“A dead zone is a fixture or part of the building where nobody goes to and nothing sells out of,” Robison explained, noting, “The one thing that nobody can afford is a dead zone.”
One of the areas Robison identified at Starved Rock as a dead zone was the back of the parts department cash register. The wall behind the cash register had two seats mounted to it, but lacked the signage to indicate why consumers should be intrigued with these two particular products, Robison said.
“Are these new?” she asked. “Are these the best seats ever? Are they limited? Are they exclusive? What is it about those seats that means they should be placed on the wall?”
Besides adding signage, Robison also noted the area behind the cash register should be changed routinely, at least once every 30 days.
“If this stuff is fundamentally the same, they stop shopping it,” Robison said of consumers.
Robison noted the wall behind the cash register could be a great place for holiday gifts, noting that highlighting bike covers there — including a prewrapped one to give consumers a visual cue — could result in impulse purchases.
Besides triggering impulse buys, Robison advised the Starved Rock parts staff to focus on finding aged products in their inventory and make a plan to get rid of it. A simple inventory search on a chrome wheel resting on one of the dealership’s walls found it to be 53 months old, meaning the wheel had been in the dealer’s inventory since at least 2006.
“Your job isn’t just to man the counter and wait for somebody to get here,” she said. “Your job is to find homes for all of this homeless stuff so you can get fresh, new stuff.”
Part of that means posting aged inventory to eBay — something the dealership has started — or being creative with promotions on those specific hard parts. For the wheel, Robison advised the staff to contact owners of 2006 Harley models that could use the wheel and offer them a terrific deal on it.
“One wheel may represent some batteries you need, or some other product that you’re holding back on to get the right inventory level on,” she said. “It’s all about generating cash flow.”
Improving cash flow also could be attained by doing more with less inventory, especially in this traditionally slow time.
“Your walls are a bit light right now because your inventory is down. That’s understandable,” she said. “But they always have to look full.”
Robison noted some of the Starved Rock parts displays had “holes” or areas where product was either missing or especially light in. She advised putting together displays to use these areas more effectively, perhaps showing off traditionally high profit margin items like windshields, saddlebags or helmets.
“It’s important that you walk the showroom floor often,” she said, “Stock the walls often, at least once a week, and if there’s nothing to stock them with, change them up, keep them fresh.”
— Neil Pascale

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