I truly believe that almost everything in life can be broken down into a science – even a merchandise table which yields a high response from people in its vicinity. I didn’t always think this way. I used to walk around with CDs in my knapsack and conduct hand-to-hand sales.
Let me back up for a bit; I hate giving homework, but I think you’ll appreciate this guide a LOT more if you go back and read my guide entitled, “Should Musicians Pay to Play” – in that article you’ll find a few solid ideas for relevant merch to sell. A good merch table needs good merch; period. Go ahead and read it now if you haven’t already; don’t worry, I’ll wait. 🙂
Anyway, as I began touring with other artists, I couldn’t help but notice how elaborate their tables were and realized that selling out of a knapsack was no longer going to cut it. Fortunately, my girlfriend at the time was a manager at one of Canada’s largest clothing retailers. She explained to me just how much money was spent by these major stores on strategic displays and store merchandising – right down to how their clothes were folded.
I gave it some thought, and figured that if it worked for major retail stores, then perhaps some of those ideas could translate to my merch table and sell me more merch. My perspective and thinking instantly shifted when it dawned on me that my merch table was in fact, a retail space of its own.
With this history in mind, what I’m now about to share with you are things I learned from the retail world as well as little tips I picked up from touring with signed bands. Take note.
But first, if it's your aim to do music professionally, you'll want to check out our free ebook while it's still available:
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Update: How To Make Your Own Merch That Makes Money
If you don't yet have merch, or your merch isn't selling well, I suggest you watch the above video. It should be able to help you out with both. 🙂
Dress Your Merch Table For Success; Use A Tablecloth
There are a few reasons for this: one, a tablecloth gives your set up a more professional, well-put- together look than having your merch displayed on just a bare table. Two, and more importantly, it discreetly hides your remaining inventory and any personal belongings you may have brought with you. If you’ve got boxes of CDs, T-Shirts, and your suitcase; you obviously don’t want all of these items out in plain sight of the public. It’s distracting and takes away the customer’s focus from the one thing that demands real attention – your merch.
There’s a reason most retail stores draw you in with a flashy display but hold most of their inventory locked away somewhere at the back of the store. You the customer see only what you’re meant to see. In the same way, when selling your merch, it’s your job to keep the customer’s interest squarely where it needs to be.
Make Your Sales Or Discounts The Main Attraction
The next time you visit the mall, take a look at the display windows of the stores there. Typically, you’ll notice large signs advertising whatever sale or current promotion they’re running at the moment. You know what I mean – “Buy one and get the second half off!” etc. No matter what economic class they belong to, people everywhere love to save money.
Make sure you create a package deal or discount for your table. At my own table I often sold 1 for $10 – 3 for $20 and it worked very well for me. Combo packages also were a hit. For example, you may combine a T-shirt, poster and CD for $25 or any other items of your choosing; just make sure you’ve got something special for your customers and make a noticeable sign calling their attention to what’s in store.
You shouldn’t have to verbalize your sale to every person that walks by; they should be able to clearly read it. Remember; you must think of yourself as a retail store now. It’s your mission to get the customer buying, buying, buying.
Highlight Your Merchandise Table With Extension Cords And Lights
Sometimes you’ll find yourself in poorly lit venues, or if you’re outside, you may not be under a street lamp or near any other light source. I learned this the hard way, so please don’t make the same mistakes I made. always equip yourself with an extension cord and lights / lamps. It’s very hard for people to admire your table if they can’t see it. If they can’t see it, they won’t spend. Don’t lose money because of poor lighting. Be prepared.
Have Something Eye Catching
Depending on how elaborate you want to become, this item could get pricey. I personally prefer stand-up banners – they’re about 6 ½ feet tall and they’re very easy to carry. Typically, they sell for a little over $100 (USD). I didn’t start out with those though. If you’re on a budget the way I was when I started out, then you’re going to need to get creative. I went to the local toy store and bought a police siren light (you know, that bright red light that continuously spins in a circle – the kind you see on top of police cars and fire trucks).
It was a silent light and it cost less than twenty bucks. Tons of people approached my table simply to ask where I bought that light; after I told them they stayed, examined the table and bought stuff. Prior to the light, they’d had no incentive to walk in my direction or even look my way. Remember, not everyone may have caught your performance; sometimes people will make purchases based solely on the strength of your merch display. Get your table an attention-grabber for those people who may have missed your killer performance.
Use Mannequins To Highlight Your Merch
Retail stores routinely use mannequins to display their latest fashion trends, and with good reason too; mannequins work. If you’re selling T-shirts, I strongly suggest you pick up a couple of torso mannequins from Amazon.com, they’re about 30 bucks a pop. See the picture below as an example:
Let me state the obvious here as well, shirts which are folded, should be folded neatly with the logo or design clearly displayed as in the example above.
Don’t Display Too Many Cd’s
Let me clarify here; if you have multiple projects for sale, by all means display each! However, if you’re just starting out and you only have one album to sell, for goodness’ sake don’t COVER the table with your entire inventory of CDs. Give the illusion that your CD has already been selling wildly and that there aren’t too many left. Scarcity is one of the most successful marketing strategies still being used to this day in various markets. The example picture above shows a handful of CDs in the middle of the table – believe me when I tell you – what you see is NOT their full inventory. In this case, less is more.
Have Some Float Money
In other words, make sure you’ve got change in your cash box BEFORE you start selling. This is not sexy, I know, and it doesn’t make your table look any fancier; I know. However, don’t drop the ball on this. Not being ready with proper change can and most likely will cost you sales. Again, this was a lesson I learned the hard way. I remember getting set up and being excited to make some sales, but in my excitement, I’d forgotten to fill my cash box with float money. My first customer was an elderly gentleman with his son who wanted to buy a CD, poster and hat from me. He gave me a $50 dollar bill – I opened up my empty cash box and politely apologized for not having any change. He was cool about it; he said he would shop at the other tables first, get some change from them and then come back to me. I’m sure you can guess what happened – he never returned. That was the absolute last time I started off the day with an empty cash box.
In closing, I hope these points have been helpful and that you’re able to see an increase in your merch sales from implementing them. Remember to keep viewing your set up as a retail space and managing it as the stores do with their own displays. Your merch table- and your revenue- will be all the better for it.