Colour Gets Customers Shopping, Go Bold!

By: Jim Bradley

From: Garden Chic, IGC Show Issue, 2012

Colour Gets Customers Shopping, Go Bold!

THINK COLOR FOR A PICK-ME-UP Colour is an inexpensive way to lift the mood when older, trusted ways are beginning to crack at the seams. It is a selling opportunity.

No need to worry about heavy grey clouds and gathering storms. Bad weather just happens. At times, the sun may break through, even in the lousiest weather, and we may get a rainbow. This rainbow is the inspiration for using colour in your garden centre to influence customers. Colour is an important tool in finding a path to success, just as the rainbow leads to a pot o' gold.

Many colour research studies emphasize the meanings of people's relationships with colour. The colours we see and interact with, in both the natural and man-made worlds, have strong influences on what we do and how we react. In fact, about 80 percent of the information our brains absorb is visual. We even use colour terms inadvertently and subconsciously, without realising it, to describe feelings and evoke emotions, like "golden opportunity," "green with envy," "seeing red" and "tickled pink."

In this soft economy, many companies have splashed around vibrant hues of green, purple, yellow, orange and pink. General Motors says its bright orange Solar Flare Metallic is one the most popular colour choices for its Hummer H3, standing out in a sea of sameness.

If you want to break away from the pack, be bold and dramatic. Prospects need cheer and inspiration in a soft economy. It's similar to the great swing music era during the Great Depression.
Colour is an inexpensive way to lift the mood when older, trusted ways are beginning to crack at the seams. It is a selling opportunity. Grey, according to The Washington Times, has become the favourite neutral in place of beige. And according to Design Army, a graphic design firm, people are responding to rich, bright colours.

Colour is a secret weapon. All you need to do is look at what's happening in fashion and retail in the consumer realm.

Use colour properly in your marketing mix to guarantee better results. "Colour" is a power word like "new" and "added value."
How We See Colour
There are gender differences in preferences for colour, but, according to research, women are more receptive to differences in hues. Women tag four times the number of colours with specific names than men. That's because they understand colour and connect with it. Women and men both see the same general colours, but women appear to be better at adding the real life tag associations to them.

Just as women perceive colours differently than men, your customers are not all reacting to the recession in the same way. "Mainstreamers," the bulk of the population, are risk-adverse and generally adopt an economy/value approach to their purchasing decisions. Others, referred to as "explorers" by marketing and communications agency Young & Rubicam, are a small percentage of the population who are fairly insulated from the credit crunch but in control of a huge percentage of the cash. These are the people you need to target - follow the money! In the United States in 2010, a mere 20 percent of the workforce earned 49.4 percent of all generated income. Customers can provide growth rates greater than any stock. The best way to keep them is to sell them more.

Retail Colour Principles
Colour will give you authority to sell. Here are some important guiding principles that, when applied consistently, will help you reap dividends.

1. If you recognise that colour influences consumers, you'll become a better retailer. Soft pastel colours introduce the feeling of warmth, serenity or intimacy in a more sophisticated shopping environment, and vibrant palettes stimulate and excite, encouraging a bold, younger, thrill-seeking clientele.

The fact is, we are all hard-wired in to colour. We just can't help it. By recognising and understanding target markets, demographics and the products you want to sell, you can then develop a colour strategy. Remember, colour isn't simply creating the most beautiful garden centre; it's about coherence, how the palettes work across the entire shop floor and plant areas. If you want a definitive and simple book on sample palette colours and the significance of those colours, look no further than Color Messages & Meanings: A Pantone Color Resource by Leatrice Eiseman.

2. POP colours matter. Research by Shopper Culture has identified the best colours for POP. Having obtained the results, it was easy to see the logic behind the selections. The best recall by shoppers in an exit survey was yellow, recalled by 65 percent of shoppers. Greens "disappeared" into the background, even if on a store shelf and not in the plant area. Red didn't rate, maybe because so many SKUs in the aisle were also red, so the message then merged into the background. The logic is so simple.

Car-loving America sees green, and it means just drive on, don't pause - whereas red means stop, foot on the break. Yellow, on the other hand, has undertones of mental conditioning - slow down and pay attention. The sale sign in my store isn't red, and it doesn't even say "Sale." On a vivid yellow background it says, "Lemons and Leftovers." If you're making decisions about colour in POP, do so in their natural environments, which is more expedient than in the office.

3. Women retailers get the colours right. Too often, retailers second-guess their prospects' requirements and forget about the overall colour experience. Women are successful retailers because they think longer and harder about what customers want. There are two prime examples in the U.K.

Cath Kidston, who makes and sells housewares with a retro feel in cherry flower and polka dot designs, recently tripled profits during the U.K. recession.

Similarly, Emma Bridgewater's housewares and gifts are fast becoming an institution. Here, colour is tops! You pick the pattern and colour, and then see what "shapes" you can buy it in! Some of her colours and designs have even been transferred onto other top-class established brands, like AGA cookers.

4. Trends in colours: You can research the hot and hip colours of the moment - or make it up yourself. It's probably easier to research at first. Five minutes online, and you'll get there. Savvy gift and plant suppliers will have also done the research and, perhaps, perfected a range for you. For this season in the United States, that hip colour is orange. Build and display the "orange" story in your plant area and gift/decor areas. If you can tell the "story" both inside and out, it becomes more compelling for your customer.

You can also make up your own colour story, buying merchandise from different suppliers to make up your own unique offer. This is preferred since it sets you apart, gives you a unique "look" and guarantees your competitor has not purchased the same themed merchandise as you.

Maximise your potential for cross-selling with colour. It's the easiest way to link merchandise from across the "divides" within your store. Choose merchandise, packs, POP and information, all with colour in mind. Good colour gives you authority to sell. The right colours give you authority to sell even more.

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