Visual Merchandising by Popular Brand: Make the Most of Your Rack!

by Elliott Wessel, Print Music Product Manager, Schmitt Music Co.010a13b7-3def-4824-b289-ecfee9ac3a5f

In the print music industry there are two ways to organize the product:  the right way and the wrong way.  Which is the right way and which is the wrong way is still under discussion, even here at Schmitt Music, even after 120 years in the business.  It’s a popular debate when you have an industry full of creative people, and often it is a “spirited” one.  While we could and do like to talk about this topic at length, let’s focus instead on a quick and relatively easy way to use visual merchandising techniques that really work – and by work, I mean sells more print.

While the browser bin is (probably) still the most efficient way to display and organize print music, racks (waterfalls, pockets, etc.) are a great way to feature specific items in a more visible and shop-able way in your store.  If you don’t currently have any racks, you should probably have at least one or two.

So, how do you make the most of these fixtures?

The trick is to start thinking not only about the visual impact of the display, but also about the driving motivation for an impulse purchase, the brand.  Put some careful thought into what titles are using the increased visibility of the rack fixture.  Does the customer need to see more of those covers?  Does the customer need to see the entire assortment for that category in order for them to shop it?

What is a print music brand?   Branding  is a marketing strategy used to create a relationship in the mind of the consumer with the seller’s products, often using a symbol or logo or memorable phrase.  We are all too familiar with popular brands in our everyday life.  Coke, Chevrolet, Nike, Apple, Microsoft, and so on, but in our industry, the world of print music, a brand  is more often a series of songbooks, or method books, or works by a specific artist, composer or arranger.

Popular music often has a powerful brand associated with the music.  Soundtracks like Frozen and Star Wars, or marketing powerhouses like Taylor Swift and Disney, are good examples of mass market brands  that also have extend to print music sales.

(Your company also has a brand.  What do you think it is?  It is worth giving that some thought.)

Usually, right or wrong, we organize print music by arrangement first, and then by content or style, and not by brand  like many other products on retailer shelves.

For example, a customer looking for Taylor Swift’s Grammy Winning “1989” songbook would likely be directed to the Piano-Vocal-Guitar section first, then to Popular Artists, then to books filed alphabetically under the letter S, or something along those lines.  If that same customer wants a Taylor Swift songbook for clarinet as well, they would then be directed to the instrumental section of the department, to Woodwinds, Clarinet, Popular Clarinet, etc.

Efficient and well organized, but what about someone who is just walking by your print music department?

What about those students who come in for lessons but don’t have any time to browse or ask for help?

What about those customers who didn’t realize they wanted a Star Wars songbook for recorder until they actually saw one?

EW1Let’s borrow a page from mass market retailing visual merchandising techniques and use multiple facings, or displaying the same product image over and over to create a bigger visual impact.



(Our industry has a big advantage in this regard, because the high cost of creating or licensing images generally motivates the publishers to use those images on a variety of books.)

This looks pretty sharp, right?  But it is more than just an attractive display, it is a quick little impulse assortment of print music products with something for a lot of different customers, organized by brand  (the most popular brands), using multiple facings (cover images) to create the biggest visual impact.

So, if you have a Star Wars or Frozen fan in your store, it’s now a one-stop shopping experience for that customer.  “Did you want the piano solo songbook or the easy piano songbook? We also have books for all of the instruments, including the recorder!”

The most popular arrangements are all in one spot.  PVG, Easy Piano, Play-Alongs, Recorder or Ukulele, all right there.  There are still other Frozen titles out in the browsers, but the top sellers are right there, and those Frozen or Star Wars or Taylor Swift cover images stop people in their tracks, especially if the rack is in a high traffic area.

Again, you have to consider what is motivating the impulse customer.  Is it “Hey! A Big Note piano songbook!” or are they more likely thinking “Cool!  Star Wars stuff!”  It’s a different way or organizing your print music department in order to capture a different customer, the impulse shopper, and customers whose shopping habits have likely changed over the last few years.

Ok, so you set up a rack like this.  How do you keep your new carefully planned rack looking nice?  Make a map!  (planogram)  Cover images are readily available online and since we are focusing on the visual, make things easier for everyone in your store by using a picture!

(And if you stick with merchandising your rack by columns (vertical theory of visual merchandising), instead of as a whole rack, you can easily swap out one brand  of products for a newer, more exciting brand  and still keep the same overall design.  In this example, I’ve replaced the Disney column of books for all of the NEW Adele books!)


Top Brands Planogram

Think about moving your racks away from walls too.  Put them right out in the middle of the floor by themselves, or back to back, or in a fun little island of all of most popular titles.








Again, a brand  isn’t just a licensed movie or artist or studio, there are a lot of brands  that most of the publishers have created that you can easily promote with visual merchandising.  While this technique works best for popular music, it will also work well with whatever print music books you want to support.

Publishers create series (brands)  of products in order to build loyalty and to gain repeat customers for their products, whether it is popular music, classical, or educational systems.EW6













Lastly, why are you still using dull, boring, plain old black & white headers and signs?  There is probably someone working in your store right now that has some experience creating and working with graphics.

If you want to use licensed images and official logos like the ones shown in this article, contact your publisher sales rep and ask for help to make sure you are using those images properly and legally.EW11 EW12