Designing for Good Merchandising

Garanimals might be a great way to teach kids how to mix and match clothes, but, as we get older (and hopefully wiser), our sense of style evolves.  So too does the way we select our clothes.  A solid wardrobe is built around well-fitting, beautiful basics punctuated by special signature pieces.  As another design season gets underway, we aim to create a collection that offers both great basics and pieces that stylistically push the boundaries of what’s expected from an outdoor company.

I think that a seasonal collection is working when it feels complete if merchandised by itself on the retail floor but also harmonizes or interacts with other lines. I like making connections for people so they know they can combine old with new, outdoor with street, funky with refined and so on. If a customer can easily envision pairing a favorite Italian silk shirt bought two summers ago with one of our skirts or pants, then we’ve done our job. This also means that the line is easier to merchandise on the floor because there are so many possibilities.

Each season, we consider the following questions:

  • Style. How do we address current trends without being trendy?
  • Functionality. Where are our clothes most likely to be worn? We consider the things that we do ourselves – go to work, take summer road trips, eat out and travel the world.
  • Color. Color is a big deal. We go to great lengths to have the right mix of color because it is a huge component of merchandising. Since customers entering a store are greatly influenced by the visual information they gather in the first split second, the visual element of color greatly affects mood and receptivity. Creating comprehensive color and design stories are key to our collections.
  • Tell Merchandising Stories. How can we create a collection that can be combined in multiple ways to tell different merchandising stories or broken into subtle aspects of the seasons?

The mixing & sampling approach to merchandising is important because it’s otherwise easy to miss sales based on the way products are displayed. I have seen, for example, good retailers departmentalize their apparel sections by category or climate zone (shorts and tees, layering, outerwear). While this method is functional, it encourages single item purchases, promoting an either/or decision. Selling by collection, whether singly branded or cleverly intermixed shows possibilities and helps make connections that surprise and inspire shoppers – the goal is to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.

— Kate Larramendy, Horny Toad Director of Design