Discover the right mix of product, merchandising, and marketing for retailing success.

Every successful retailer knows at least intuitively that finding the right mix of gift product, merchandising, and marketing is an ongoing process of discovery. There isn’t one silver bullet retailing formula that fits all communities all the time. Every local store is a laboratory of active retail experimentation. Many variables contribute to find what works.


Finding the right combination of gift inventory isn’t as easy as just bringing in items the buyer likes. (In fact, that is often a formula for failure.) The right product mix starts with knowing who the customer is now and who the store wants to have as a customer in the future—and buying for both.

Interactive Marketing Specialist Michelle Amster suggests that Christian stores look at their communities and note if there are places to buy things that people need outside the realm of the typical Christian store product. She notes that products you can’t easily find in your area are what others also are looking for, too.

In her UNITE 2017 merchandising workshop, Amster noted that it pays to look with fresh eyes and discover if there’s a local source to buy items if you were:

  • planning a party
  • looking for a baby gift
  • craving sweets
  • needing back-to-school items
  • going to a wedding
  • starting a small business

In addition, think about people in the community who are new to the area, who need a place to meet, or who have access to others you want to bring into your store. Brainstorm with staff, community leaders, and focus groups on how the store can intersect with and become a part of new groups.


If a merchandising fixture has been in the same spot for more than six months, it’s time to think refresh with either a new location, a coat of paint, or a partial reassemble in a new form. Refresh merchandising staff by giving them time to review Pinterest for ideas, watch the UNITE workshop “Merchandising: Does It Matter?”, or go to a flea market to find even just one new item to use in displays.

Choose one or two previously untried merchandising techniques to try, such as the focal point, the pyramid, or the unexpected prop, which was demonstrated in the UNITE 2017 merchandising workshops. Note what’s revealed in customer comments, reactions, and sales from the display. Review how these can be tweaked or how the techniques can be reapplied in other areas of merchandising.


Independent Retail Consultant Val Buick suggests that every gift campaign should have a marketing aspect to it. According to Buick, “A Christmas gift campaign can feature a marketing event like a Christmas open house on Dec. 2, a coupon drawing on Dec. 9, a friends and family night on Dec. 15, with a discount or drawing for special product you were able to get at a good price, or a men’s shopping night to allow them to shop the registry their ladies signed up for earlier.”

In addition, think about ways to involve customers in gift campaigns through social media. For example, if the store is doing a vintage Christmas campaign, invite customers to share their favorite Christmas photos/memories on the store’s Facebook page. Offer a photo contest and giveaway a vintage ornament. Let store staff pick a favorite from the posted photos as the winner.

And, speaking of contests, put these tips and your creative ideas into action then share your best merchandising displays through CBA’s Facebook merchandising contest. The winning store will receive gift product from the UNITE merchandising workshop display, valued at more than $1,500, and be featured in the January issue of Christian MARKET. The deadline to submit photos is Nov. 17. Get all the details at

—Sherry Morris