Feb. 9, 2022



After 3 weeks of doing setups & buying at both the Las Vegas Winter Market & LA Mart Winter Market, Michelle has had time to decompress and reflect on the do’s and don'ts of how to act in someone’s showroom or someone’s retail space. From set up display tips (Architecture first!) to basic showroom cart etiquette, Michelle unpacks it all in this highly informative episode. 


Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier and this is the Retail Whore Podcast, The Stories and Lessons from a Life and Retail. Hi, guys. Welcome back. You know, I I've kind of thought about doing this solo for a couple of weeks, and during some of my setups, it became very aware that I need to do it. Today's episode is on. Etiquette on how to and how not to act when someone else's showroom. And this can go for working with. And for showrooms, as well as working in retailer space as well as other people working for you and working in your spaces. We, you know, as a merchandiser, you are either in someone's retail space or you are in a wholesale showroom. And bottom line is you are more or less a guest. You are there to do a job. And while you work very hard, you it is not your space, it's someone else's space. And I think people kind of forget that, especially for those of us who are freelance, you know, I mean, we, you know, often you are in someone else's store or some other location every single day. So you really don't have what is considered your own space. And, you know, you may work for a brand like myself for picking handicraft where you've been with them for, you know, I've been speaking 15 or 16 years. So, you know, you get very used to this is the showroom you work in, this is the showroom that you design. This is showing you the displays in. But the bottom line, it is not my showroom and there is a certain amount of etiquette that I have to hold myself by and and as well as anybody that I bring in that will work with me there is that you know, there are certain things that apply that you need to make sure you do and you don't do. And I think some of the setups I was on this last so social, so show circuit, I really, you know, I rarely have a chance to work with other merchandisers and I pay no attention to the girls barking in the background. But there is a couple showrooms that I worked in that I had a chance to not work side by side with, but they happen to be in the same showroom I was working in and it was very eye opening to see how some things are handled.

Michelle: And I just I felt like, okay, we should talk about this. And mostly just because, again, it just gets down to etiquette. And so for me, working at Peeking is a good example. We go to Atlanta twice a year. Our job is to tear apart the showroom, put it back together, do the display and the merchandising, and then you leave and it's all pretty and you don't see it again for another year. But the process to get it to that point is not easy. A lot of times you're working in showrooms that don't have a lot of room, and you basically when you're setting a new section, you have to literally take all the merchandise off all the fixtures, and then if you are doing a whole floor shift now, you have to take all those fixtures out. And you know, when you're working in small showrooms, you need a pathway and you can't often just throw them into the next space or in the halls where other people are going by in carts and are walking through. Or there are. Pallets being driven through. And I mean, you just can't we as merchandisers can't just fill an entire hall as if we're the only people that are working there. And, you know, and if you are putting it in the showroom, you still have to have some kind of pathway. I know that sounds like a very obvious thing to say. But, you know, in working with people this last show, they were in a small space and they need to clear it and put new things in. But literally, it was almost like they were the only people working. The showroom is tearing everything out of the showroom and throwing it in everybody else's pathway, including the hall that other people are working in. And it just it's you have to remember as a merchandiser, you are not the only person in this space. And ideally you when you are working for other people, you are cognizant that you are not the only person in the space and you are polite and you are treating it as if other people are trying to walk by. And again, I know that sounds ridiculously obvious, but it's not.

Michelle: And I think same thing is when you are taking apart displays that if you're taking them apart for somebody else is to keep them in an organized fashion. Stephen Young is a fabulous example of this, of not only how they process shipment, but how they organize it for the merchandisers. And it's down to the smallest minutia of detail. And for those of you who know Stephen and how Stephen works, I mean, it is a definite, well-oiled machine. And, you know, his the team that unpacks things and packs them like perfectly all the way down to the little pieces of Styrofoam that get stuck all over things like and it takes it's impossible to wipe them off because now they're like they have electric electrostatic, so they stick to everything they hand wipe down that they windex things down. When there's mirrors or cleaning involved, they're all put into banker boxes by collection and they are all lined up neatly, not in the not in the walkway, not in the pathway. They're all lined up neatly near and around the spaces. So you can still walk around, you can still set a floor. I mean, that is truly now at this point, that is how I the stain that is to me the ultimate standard of how to break down and prep your area for a merchandiser. Now, not everyone does that and not everyone is as organized, and I understand that, but certainly the sense of organizing products. So it is shoppable also if a customer comes in, even though the showroom may be closed, if a customer comes in, that's the other part of it is if a customer comes in, they should be able to walk around it. And yes, most buyers understand when it's show mode that the showrooms are blown apart. But if that buyer wanted to purchase something, they can walk in and around the space and see the items easily without having to dig through a stack up of them. And I will admit when we do peaking, because we don't have a lot of walk space, we are very lucky that we are on a floor that does not have year round traffic and that our neighbors are not that year round. Because I will admit, because of how many pillows we have to work with and how much space we're clearing.

Michelle: I have stacks and stacks and stacks of pillows out in the hall. But they are. There is a walkway. I pray to God that the showrooms that we've blocked are not coming. Usually they don't come until after we're there. But if they did come, I would have to obviously clear them. But I try to be very, very cognizant of of the space when it comes to retail and clearing spaces for us merchandisers. You know, I come from the school of anthropology where, you know, there's a reason why anthropology merchandisers work at four or five, six in the morning so they can tear apart the store. And they can put it back together to some semblance. So when the doors open at 10:00, customers can still walk around without tripping over something, without having the store look like it's blown apart. It's relatively put together. And I, I still tend to, as a merchandiser, go by that same philosophy. I go in at four or five, six in the morning. I will systematically tear things apart. And I will tell you about my system system in just a second, because I know, you know, a lot of people aren't quite sure how to tear apart their store and put it back together by the time the store opens. But I will do that. And then. Start shifting merchandise, putting the display back together. And by ten, 10:00, I'm very cognizant of the time. I'm constantly looking at my watch is that that is the goal is that you're literally you have one hour to get this section done and the display may not be done. But at that point, it's your time to start clearing and making sure there's no trip points for customers, etc. So when I go into a store and we're redoing something. Much like how I break down a wholesale showroom, I am pretty methodical about it because I believe that it's a domino effect. So I believe there is a relatively organized fashion. You can do it in the most organized, systematic way I've figured out how to do it. Is. This is. Looking at the space, what's going to change. So for Rock Paradise, we do a couple of big shifts a year, meaning there's two giant bookcases that are like the witchy kind of stuff, and there's two giant bookcases that are astrology, those two.

Michelle: Don't move a ton because it's you know, I don't want to become I don't want to treat it like an Easter egg hunt where the customer, each time who's coming back to buy astrology items, is constantly like, where did it go now? Where did it go now? So. But when we do these big shifts, I will pre map out what is moving and what is going to be just simply a fluff. And what's going to be a big shift. A lot of times now I'm not doing big, big floor shifts with furniture. There's some minor ones. But what I've realized is that, again, shifting the furniture every every time I'm there is same thing. It creates more of chaos than it does help. I realize the biggest effect we have is moving all the merchandise and creating big drama points again. And it also lessens the hours that I'm there. And it also has a bigger impact in sales than actually furniture moving. But nonetheless, I decide, okay, we're going to move this here. This is going to be the new, say, astrology section. This is going to be this new section that we're rolling out, which is this whole new moon phase that's going to go here. And I will first strike the section. That's relatively the easiest, that has the least skews. So say it's the old moon section. We're going to move into a bigger space. I will take all that product and align it up under and around the bookcases that it's now going to be moving into.

And now you have a completely empty space. Clean it down is rule number one. And for the merchandisers and retailers that don't clean down their surfaces every time you shift, this is a big one because usually your staff does not have time, nor do you have time to clean during the week. A lot of times this is the only time your store gets cleaned from ground up. And this is one thing Barbara Moon does. Days is mercantile. She is all about taking it down and cleaning it top to bottom. There's something about starting with a very, very, very fresh and clean surface. So I'll do that. And then at that point, whatever's moving into that section, I will literally go and shop it off the floor and place it as I move it, as opposed to gathering up all the items, putting them on the floor or a table nearby and then putting it in. I find it much easier to place it as I go. So I work on a theory of the largest items go first. So being my architecture, if I'm changing the architecture, we're changing risers, we're changing big scale displays. I will start there and then I go back to the largest items of the section that are going to be placed. So whether they're oversized candles, whether they're Buddha heads, whether they're the large crystal pieces, those will then go in next. And again, I am literally I will go whether we're moving a whole section, I'll move it section, I'll move that section piece by piece in that order, biggest elements, the largest of the SKUs for raw paradise. I have to mix in crystals with each section. I'll shop. What crystals are going to go in there? Whether they're been crystals or there are large crystals on stands, and then I will move over the rest of the product. But I am literally taking it off the shelf. It was on and I'm literally moving it into the space that it's now living in. And it I realize that it has taken out a lot of steps for me because at the end of that setup. Most of the time, the unit that you just cleared off.

Taking everything out of and putting it to the new section, you've pretty much almost cleared the whole thing. So that is my next unit that I will accomplish. And same thing if there's pieces on it that I didn't use, I'll kind of walk around the store, shop it. Where are these going to live now? Lisa Steven Young and I have a theory or a saying is that when there is an item and you know, you have that item that it's like, where are the fuck does this go? It doesn't go with anything. And Lisa and I always say it will reveal itself. So we will put it to its side and we'll come back to that later. But we make sure that we put everything to the side in under bookcases and or around areas that are out of walk spaces for customers so they don't trip on them and they can still shop from them, albeit unfortunately it's on the floor, but they are still shoppable, they can still see it, they can still reach it and they can't trip over it. Same thing, clean down the whole thing, whatever that new section is going to be. I shop the whole store. I have a cart there and I will say this, that I'm very lucky in the sense of Rob. Paradise is massive. It's 5500 square feet. We have several carts, which I highly suggest. If you don't have one and you have the space on your floor that it can maneuver in and out and you have space in your back room that can house it. The Rubbermaid busboy, rolling carts, the rubber ones that have two levels are seriously the best invention ever. That's what we used in Anthropologie. That is still to this day what I recommend stores that have room to do it, the ones that don't. If you have baskets, baskets are an easy way to shop to move the product and stage it where you need it or moved across. Because for stores that have a lot of SKUs, that has a lot of back and forth walking and unfortunately. Inside that could suck up a huge amount of your time. So that that's kind of what I do.

And again, you know, the stores open once the doors are open. It really it's really about making sure that you're out of the way of the customers, that the product is shoppable and that you more or less are kind of invisible granite. That's kind of impossible when the store is blown up. But hopefully by the time you've opened, the store is relatively put back together and you can kind of seamlessly move in and out around the store. You know, I see this all the time that I understand when we're merchandisers, we have a lot to do. But you know, in the. Much like the grocery stores that have a job to do, they have stuff to put out. But there is a way of maneuvering in and out around customers when you're trying to stock. I see it all the time at certain grocery stores where the person is trying to stock and will not move to the side if a customer needs to reach in and grab a lime from the space that they're working in. You don't my philosophy. I never want to be that merchandiser. We have a job to do. But honestly, the customer at the end of the day is buying or trying to buy products and merchandise. And if you are somehow in the way in not making them able to have a a nice customer experience, a easy shopping experience, you are in fact, not doing your job and you are actually, in fact, making your making the retailer look worse because you are there on their behalf unless you work in house. Then same thing then. You are unfortunately not doing your retailer any good by acting like that. And I know we all get like that and we all get super stressed and we all have a timeline we're working on. But at the end of the day, the customer experience is the most important and the customer experience is what is paying for us to be there on the floor so that that's more or less like how I handle retailers and what. And when it comes to, again, working in showrooms and whatnot, all I can say is, is please remember, we are not the only people in these showrooms.

There are showroom managers that need to somehow maneuver around what you're doing. There are deliveries that have to come and go with UPS, guys that are trying to carry things on carts or Costcos delivering and they've got it on a pallet. That pallet has to be able to maneuver in and onto the floor without having to shift everything under the sun. And if they do it, the shift stuff under the sun, you know, hopefully it's a relatively easy shift because show mode is no joke and it's also no joke for the poor people that have to do deliveries during this time. Like, Man, I feel for the UPS guys in Atlanta when it's about a week away from the show, especially the furniture floors where like all the furniture is in the aisle. I mean, I've been on some of the Christmas floors and there isn't a walkway like I just don't know how I don't know how you do that as merchandiser and I don't know how the poor person that's trying to deliver something, how they are supposed to maneuver around that like. I just you know, like I said, this last show season was eye opening on a couple of different things that that was a big one for me. And realizing that there is a etiquette that we all should be working by that only makes our industry look better and seemingly like. I don't know, just run smoother. And that's you know, that's my little $0.05 on that. The other part is please and thank you goes a really long way both for the merchandiser that's working as well as the people that you work with. I think all of us get again, like we're all under crazy deadlines. You have a week to take care of something, then you clear out. It's done, it's pretty and you're on in the next job. But that that timeline that I think all of us put us under ourselves under. And if you unfortunately under guesstimate the time that it will take you to do something because something was not broken down properly or the samples didn't come in or you don't have enough, like all of these little elements will literally stress you out beyond the beyond.

And, you know, there I witnessed poor merchandiser have a full blown meltdown. And I had said when everything was said and done, I said, you know, I completely understand where that person is coming from because, you know, you go into a job and you think it's going to take me five days and then you get there and you start, you know, you're in your head. You literally have the mantra, I can get it done, I can get it's OC it's I can get it done, I can get it done. And I have this moment all the time and it's usually the first couple of days because I'm overwhelmed and my husband has reminded me, you do realize this is the same thing you say every set up and then you you end up mowing through it. But all of us merchandisers go through this like I can do it, I can do it. And then you hit a moment and luckily I've not hit as many of these moments, but for those who have shorted themselves time or haven't been able to get there and only have this amount of time to set up, you hit the moment where you realize, Oh, shit, this is not going to happen. I don't know how this is going to happen. And you basically just kind of lose it. And I had said, like, I've been there, I feel for them. I totally and 100% understand where their stress is coming from now. The difference is how you act after you have that meltdown. Usually, most people get it together. I've had my meltdown. I'm just going to put my. And, you know, there's only so much you can do. I'm going to do the best I can do. And at that point, hopefully you have a turnaround in your own head and you are able to turn around and talk to the people that you work with and people who are working for you. Hopefully you can turn around and you can. So. Sorry. Moving on. You know, I got that off my chest. Moving on. But when you perpetuate it and you continue talking about how frustrated you are or how the situation is not perfect and continued to complain and and just keep on exactly that perpetuating that feeling that really does nothing to help you.

And it certainly doesn't do anything for the people that are working around you. And I. I am not perfect in any sense, but I can tell you if I did that. Which I like I said, I've had those meltdowns, but I have had to bounce back because there are people counting on you and no one wants to be around Debbie Downer. And the more you talk about what a jacked up situation it is and how pointing fingers on why it did and didn't happen, the more you are perpetuating that really ugly feeling. And ideally, you want your team to be on board with you and excited and you want to have fun. And that's one thing that in my stress I tend to lose. Is that fun? And I'm I won't lie like I've gotten so serious in my job. I may be in a good mood and I may not there may not be a melting point or something that's happened, but I get so hyper focused on the job that I don't talk much and I don't interact much with the team. And I will admit that that has kind of backfired on me. And I'm trying desperately now to move backwards from that and try to have fun again. And this industry is fun. And I've I think somewhere along the way of stress and also working so much by myself, you kind of forget to like, you know, a song comes on and starts singing so badly, or as Krystal, who used to work for me dancing so badly that she used to call it the inappropriate dance, not for any other reason, other than it was inappropriate to be dancing at that moment. I've forgotten kind of how to have fun. And so with all of these things I've noticed over the last last year of setups, I really my goal is to have more fun in. My goal is to be cognizant of everywhere I'm working in order to be that team player and to be the one that pushes the ball forward and is not complaining about it and is not so overwhelmed. They are stressed out of their mind and not having fun. I know that is a huge and for the please and thank yous.

Please say thank you to people that you work for. And please say thank you for to for the people that hire the merchandisers. Please recognize that all of us have giant. Loads on our plates and we do nothing. All we want to do is to make the people that we work for happy and to have the retailers get excited about what we've created and to get the reps excited about what we've created so they can show them a line and how it looks different and how they're excited about. And Fred Segal is right. Energy creates energy and not. That excitement and that that overwhelming gratitude that people will show, like when they see the line or the space for the first time, that is as we merchandisers. That is literally what we live for. Like I, I get so excited when I have somebody walk through and go, Oh my God, it looks amazing. It looks totally different. Or I love the way this changed or whatever that that is. We as merchandisers, that is what we live for. And I think sometimes retailers and wholesale showrooms and I think a lot of times everyone forgets about a lot of time, I think is also because they are super stressed out. But ideally somebody recognizes the work somebody put in. Ideally you recognize the work that people around you have done to make your job easier or to set up your space or break it down or clean it or put something together for you or whatever it is. Show gratitude. Say thank you. Tell them you appreciate them. Buy them a coffee. Bring them donuts. One morning. I just I can't say it enough that all of us in this industry work so hard on making the end result for the retailers experience. You know, amazing. And there's a lot that goes into it. And I think a lot of us forget about all the people that are working with us and that are helping us do our jobs better. So that's it. So that's that is my little overview and musings from this last show set up. If you have any questions, feel free to DM me over at MC Design Collaboration and and tell them I will see you in stories on MC design collaboration and joy and have a happy.

And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com