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Merchandising Mobility

How best to present headphones and related categories

February 5, 2014 By Bear Prelogar
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I suppose one of the few benefits of getting a bit older and having been around the industry as long as I have is that you can look back and consider the way that certain products and categories have emerged, grown exponentially, peaked, and then receded—and you can look at these trends through a broad contextual lens and utilize the resultant insights to guide strategic decision-making moving forward.   This, then, is akin to acquiescing that the age-old argument for wisdom being more useful than speed and agility may, actually, have merit.

Having specialized in the design and development of key strategic CE merchandising initiatives for nearly 25 years, I can say that without a doubt, the mad rush into the mobility sector for vendors creating headphone and Bluetooth portable speaker systems is truly unprecedented.    Nearly every week, a new company pops up with its own fresh spin on gadgets that will compete in this burgeoning space.   And as anyone who attended CES the past two years will attest, mobility products and supporting accessories have really taken center stage.   As result, consumers now face a dizzying array of choices at the point of discovery in the nation’s top retailers.

All this excitement is great for the industry, but creates fresh challenges for retailers and vendors trying to make the most of their plan-o-grams and associated shelf-edge promotions, respectively.  In the past couple of years, we’ve been tasked with designing and/or producing multi-thousand-unit display initiatives for Monster, Beats by Dre, Klipsch, iHome, and countless others which go on to live in the nation’s most formidable retail chains (Best Buy, Target, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Costco, hhgregg, Fry’s, In-Motion, Brookstone, etc.).   As a result, we’ve had the opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of the entire landscape regarding the design, distribution and merchandising for mobility products that few others enjoy.   Based on that, we’ve come to some conclusions about what works best, what doesn’t, and why.   This article is designed to share these insights in condensed form.

Building True Partnerships
It’s harder than ever to attract attention in an incredibly crowded field of me-too product offerings.   Retailers are inundated by super-competitive vendors vying for favorable plan-o-gram positioning.   As a result, they are often in a position to charge ‘slotting fees’—literally ‘selling’ shelf space to the highest bidders.   While this can create new profit streams for the retailers and serves as (presumably) an excellent way to separate the proverbial wheat from the chaff, there are inherent deficiencies in the model, because it automatically relegates the relationship to one of landlord/tenant subservience, rather than one built as a true partnership.

 

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