Creating Impulse Sales with an Effective T Shirt Display- Part I

You probably know the story of brothers Bert and John Jacobs who started a T-shirt business after graduating from college. They sold their t-shirts out of their van, in college dorms, and at street fairs. After 5 ½ years they had just $78 in the bank. It was at that point they decided that our country was in a national funk driven largely by negative media messaging. That insight led them to create a t-shirt with positive messaging: Life is Good. They printed 48 Life is Good T-shirts, took them to a street fair, and sold out within the first hour. They went on to build a $100 million company that sells t-shirts, hats, apparel and other items online and in 4500 retail stores. Yes, the T-shirt industry is big business. In this first of a two-part series, we’ll discuss why in-store merchandising of t-shirts is becoming increasingly important.  We’ll also review a number of conventional but relatively ineffective ways to display t-shirts. Then in our next blog, we’ll share what we think are better, more visual appealing more ways to display t-shirts, and we’ll discuss how the right t shirt display can help to drive impulse sales.


So why is merchandising t-shirts becoming increasingly important? Well, for one, t-shirts are the type of apparel item that can easily be purchased online. Purchasing online is generally more convenient. Selecting the right size is not an issue. Shipping is free in most cases. The selection is better than you can find in a retail store.

Furthermore, it’s easy to see the t shirt graphics on line so you know exactly what you’re getting. And finally, it’s become easy to customize your own t-shirt on the web. In fact, the online original design t-shirt industry is growing at more than 20% per year which has created a lot of competition and choice, thereby eating away at traditional brick and mortar retail t-shirt market share.

Historically, t-shirts have been both a destination and an impulse item in retail stores. However, with the rapid growth of the online t-shirt industry, purchases of t-shirts in physical retail stores have become much more impulse-driven, which in turn, places a greater burden on in-store merchandising to drive impulse sales.

Despite the shift toward impulse, many retailers continue to display t-shirts in the same boring and unappealing ways that have been used for the last 100 years. Let’s review just a few of these common but relatively ineffective merchandising approaches:

1) Hanging on rounders- Many retailers, particularly discount retailers use generic rounders to display t-shirts. Rounders are a big-time commodity in the display world, and aside from their high capacity and potential use as closeout racks, they accomplish little from a merchandising standpoint. Rounders make it difficult for the shopper to see the t-shirt graphics, and most of the time these racks are so jammed that it is difficult to see the t-shirt without removing it from the rack.


 2) Hanging inline or on a Straight Bar- From a space utilization standpoint, this side-facing method is relatively effective, but it gets miserable marks as a merchandising technique. This common approach suffers from the same shortcomings as rounders as discussed above. It’s a great idea for your closet but not so hot if you want to sell t-shirts in your retail store.


3) Rolled T-shirts- Rolling t-shirts is a little less common, probably for obvious reasons. This approach by itself makes it impossible to view t-shirt graphics, but it also can lead to a messy presentation as shoppers are typically less careful about putting merchandise back where it belongs.


There are many other common and ineffective ways of displaying t-shirts, but rather than dive into more examples we invite you to read our next blog where we’ll share some more creative ways to merchandise t-shirts.

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