No, you are not stuck with slatwall

by Natalie Tan

Many retailers lease their space. Most of the time said space is clean and empty. However, there are times when the retailer is stuck with leftover slatwall fixture. What can one do? Taking slatwall off is costly as this could mean tearing up the wall.

What is wrong with slatwall? A good number of independent retailers love them as they are very modular. One can hang shelves, hangrails and hooks, or a combination of all. So, what is there NOT to love? Here are the top 5 reasons why one should avoid the slatwall:

  1. The repetitive lines with white and brown slats every 3” apart is very distracting to the eye. Unless you are a dollar store and the entire wall is filled with merchandise so the slats can hardly be seen. These repetitive lines take attention away from the very product you want to sell and funnel the eye to the wall, which you are not selling.
  2. For those using slatwall panels, you’ll already know there is a tendency for the slats to break away from the panel, especially when housing heavier merchandise. That is, unless you pay to have metal inserts added in the slats. However, there are much better and less expensive alternatives to using slatwall panels with metal inserts.
  3. Last I checked it is 2017, there are so many new fixtures around that not only give retailers the same modularity as a slatwall but also remain affordable. (Hello, slotted standards).
  4. Ask anyone (I mean the customers) and they will tell you slatwalls remind them of the early 80s.
  5. Just because it is still readily available in the market does not mean you have to use it.

Now, despite all of the above, what if you lease that perfect space and it has slatwalls. What can you do to mitigate the hypnotic effect of repetitive lines? Here are a couple of suggestions:

  1. Paint the entire slatwall panel matte black, and I mean entire surface including the slats. Yes, this is a pain, but a worthwhile endeavor when your sales increase.
  2. Hope that the slatwall panel has a light wood grain finish with metal inserts in between and when you close one eye, and peek through the other the wall may then look passable.
  3. Least expensive and least painful solution: break the horizontal lines with the use of vertical panels. The vertical panels can be fabric, thick paper material or art boards. Please note this solution in no way means that I endorse slatwall panels.

This is exactly the case Anthony Dubidad and Mona Shafiri Shakib of Kiddos Footworks found themselves in when they took over a retail space in Vancouver. They had an excellent merchandise assortment that hit the right target market. Removing the slatwall panels was not an option as this would have meant ripping the entire store down, so vertical panels were used instead to mitigate the undesirable visual effect. Take a look for yourself at the before and after photos.



Results? This is what Anthony had to say. "THANK YOU! The pull factor has definitely increased. A woman I often see has never actually bought anything. Today, she came in and bought $250 worth of goods. She purchased 2 raincoats and 2 rain boots – definitely due to our new presentation."

Natalie Tan has over 25 years in specialty retailing, offering her expertise to malls, retail shops and airport operators. She teaches Merchandising and Display Strategies at the BCIT School of Business and has served as a member of Retail BC's Board of Directors, as well as on the board of the BC Shopping Centres Association.

She is the author of "Ready, Set, Sell", an easy-to-implement guide to small business owners and a book currently used by her students. Natalie has been featured in several publications and is often called by the CBC for her expert perspective on current retail issues.

Effective Retail Strategies Designed to Move Your Merchandise
In this regular column, we explore retail strategies that are not only easy to implement but also aim to sell the merchandise. This will provide you with opportunities to view your own store in a different light and discover new ways to present your merchandise. Ultimately, our goal is to increase your sales. So let us know when you have applied one of the strategies featured here and yielded desirable results in your store — we’d love to hear success stories.

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