Sounds like a silly question doesn’t it? But most retailers with high hopes lease or build spaces that are really larger than they need to support their sales. And of course, they buy merchandise to fill up the space.

Retailers need to buy to support sales rather than to fill space. Since all retailers want their stores to look filled to the brim with great merchandise, perhaps you need to make your store smaller. Bringing the rear of the store closer to the front is a good start. A false wall can do wonders in terms of decreasing your space and making your store look full.

Doing more and larger displays is also a way to eat up space. Customers buy with their eyes and the more visual suggestions you offer, the greater the likelihood of making sales. Just seeing endless racks of bits of merchandise is not going to help you make sales.

Think about your own experience when you go shopping. Do you really want to be overwhelmed with so much merchandise that it’s almost impossible to make a decision or would you rather be guided to the right decision from a more reasonable selection? If your customers see tons of merchandise, they can pretty much figure that they can check elsewhere and come back to you later since you have such a huge supply. Too much stock decreases any urgency to make a purchase.

You want your customers to feel that if they don’t buy it now, it will probably not be there when they come back. That’s exactly the mentality you want to instill rather than to essentially tell them: “Come back anytime, we’ll always have lots of these!” Trust me, they’ll buy it at the next store.

So, how do you know how much space you really need? If you consider how much you plan to sell and the rate you want to turnover your inventory, the answer will tell you how much inventory you need to carry and then you can figure how much space you actually need. If you go the other way and say you have so much space and try to fill it up so your store looks good, you will overbuy. When you overbuy, you create markdowns. When you have markdowns, you have no contribution to overhead and profits. In order to make up the difference in cash flow, you will have to take more markdowns. And the downward spiral continues.

The answer to this problem is simple. Open to buy planning is the only way to properly plan your buying so you can maximize sales with the smallest possible inventory. Once OTB is in place, you can focus your creative energy on bringing more customers in and serving their needs. As your business grows, you can gradually add back floor space to your selling area.

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