Best Practices On Aisle 3

The nation’s most successful retailers put a lot of thought into their brick-and-mortar floor design. Why shouldn’t credit unions?


Earlier this year I wrote about the changing face of U.S. department stores and the implication for credit unions’ sales strategies. “Gen Y” and “exclusivity” are the current big concepts for those big stores, and to garner the same positive performances as Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Kohl’s, I suggested credit unions incorporate strategies that embrace personalization, innovation, and differentiation.

It seems I’m not the only one drawing parallels between retail and credit union best practices. In March, the Financial Brand ran a list of 20 Things Financial Institutions Should Do (But Don’t). No. 15? Act like a retailer.

Quoting Bancography director John Mathes, the Financial Brand points out, “Banks have brick-and-mortar, multiple locations, products to sell, display areas to merchandise, staff to train, promotions to run — all basic fundamental tasks of effective retailing — yet banks seldom approach their business with this mindset.”

For those credit unions contemplating a good branch spring cleaning, might I suggest taking into consideration a few best practices from discount retailers Dollar General and Walmart and clothiers JCPenney and Old Navy.

“After years of expansion, many retailers are halting building plans and closing stores as sales and traffic shift to the Web,” reports the New York Times in its April feature, “An Eye for Retailing.” “That means the main way to increase revenue is by selling more stuff at the existing stores.”

For JCPenney, selling more means using empty wall space to display merchandise. “One of the ways to improve the productivity is to get more things out on the floor and to show the product in a better way,” JCPenney SVP and general merchandising manager, Jan Hodges, told the Times.

Dollar General is more prominently displaying popular or bundled items via “speed bumps” that “don’t really impede or slow down the shopping in a physical way, but highlight in a consumer-friendly way items that we know our customers are interested in, or items that go together,” says Dollar General spokeswoman Mary Winn Gordon.

And finally, after two years of pulling merchandise off floors and streamlining the shopping experience, Walmart is attempting to boost sales by adding inventory, filling aisles, and stacking shelves.

“If you have the temptations there, it will lead to additional sales,” advises retail marketing consultant Ben DiSanti.

Of course, letting your members know what you have to offer doesn’t mean you have to turn branch floor plans into cluttered mazes, but an additional display or flashy signage might be just the thing to turn your credit union into your members’ primary financial institution.

For more lessons from the retail industry, read:
Retail Industry Harbors Customer Service Lessons
Retail Revival


May 13, 2011


  • You will likely also enjoy this article, "Put the Milk in the Back of the Store," that explores a list of reasons why tellers belong in the back of branches:
    Jeffry Pilcher | The Financial Brand