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The Gallery of Dreams

I recently dreamed that the store where I taught for 10 years moved into a sprawling, glamorous space, complete with parquet floors, rosewood walls and a molded ceiling with chandeliers. The counter resembled a large pulpit. Drum kits sat against the back wall, each one perched on its own stage. Guitars hung opposite the counter with angled mirrors providing multiple views of each axe from a single vantage point, like a dressing room stage in a clothing store. The floor layout was spacious and browser-friendly, letting customers admire every object with no effort. Everything looked expensive; everything looked worth every penny.

Catering to the 20 Percent
I don’t claim to be a Freud scholar, but I believe this dream stemmed from my disappointment when visiting many music stores. Not every retailer has the capital — or the margins — to be Abercrombie & Fitch. Still, some invest to make their stores resemble a Rolls-Royce dealer while others take their cues from Joe’s Garage. The former attracts high-dollar boutique customers while the latter seals bottom-dollar deals, so to speak.

With Best Buy now competing in MI retail, capturing the discount customer will be harder than ever for mom-and-pop stores. Qualified teachers will help sustain lesson programs and some entry-level customers, but amenities like ample parking, clean bathrooms, hot coffee and Wi-Fi for waiting parents are required.

Savvy shoppers do research online, so even well-informed salespeople face uphill battles in proving their worth. However, high rollers won’t be satisfied shopping anywhere less than posh establishments providing great service. If that’s your target customer, you’ll need to look the part and have the stock to back it up. Eighty percent of business comes from 20 percent of your customers. Make that 20 percent the ones with the deepest pockets.

Feng Shui Music Retail
A sense of flow and organization throughout a store is a must. Stew Leonard’s, a successful supermarket near my hometown, has essentially one aisle that winds though the merchandise. Shopping there is an experience with a pleasant surprise around every corner — samples, costumed employees, exemplary product displays. The New York Times called it “The Disneyland of Dairy Stores.” It’s even in the Guinness Book Of World Records as “the greatest sales per unit area of any single food store in the United States.” Ikea, while not as festive, is another example of successful flow.

Granted, most music stores are not nearly the size of Ikea or even Stew Leonard’s, but the concept still applies. One must either lead the customer through the inventory or, as in my dream, draw customers into a center space where they can admire most everything. Having electric guitar players leave the store without passing some gorgeous acoustics because they are all hidden in the acoustic room is a missed opportunity. Hang a few eye-catchers on the way to the register.

Make sure students walk through the store to reach the studios, and rotate inventory monthly so they see everything. If possible, make the showroom viewable from the waiting room. Be creative with mirrors if necessary. At the very least, have a sandwich board of monthly specials for waiting students and parents to consider.

A successful floor plan balances customer convenience with inspiration by providing a natural flow from entrance to exit. Assuming customers don’t feel like they are scrambling to vacate a Vegas casino, most will welcome the journey. MI