Chinese tariffs have created plenty of tough issues for retailers in our industry, the most obvious of which is increased prices. A less apparent consequence of these pricing changes is dealing with tagging all of the affected products. How do you handle updating tags with hundreds or even thousands of items available in your store?
“Get yourself a good eraser,” Steve Goldberg, President of retail consulting firm The Grayson Company, says in jest.
All jokes aside, keeping tags up to date can seem daunting, especially for small, independent showrooms who run a lean business; retailers are lamenting that nowadays, they feel like it’s all they do. So what, if anything, can be done to make this process more efficient?
What’s working now
Long gone are the days where handwriting product tags made sense, but even handling them digitally does not necessarily make the job easier. Showrooms across the country are changing their processes and trying new things to tackle tagging.
Wiseway Design Showroom in Florence, KY, uses the Solar Eclipse tag printer to keep up with price changes. Among other features, if the system detects that a product has experienced a price increase, the tag is automatically thrown into a printing queue. So while the employees still have to physically tag the product, they no longer have to produce the information, which is a large part of the battle.
“We’ve tried many things in the past, from handwriting, label makers or spreadsheets printed on address labels,” says Caitlin Skaggs, Showroom Manager. “You’d have to have a full-time person creating tags, especially if you have a large showroom.”
Michael Lichtenstein, Owner/Principal Designer at Lighting Gallery in Huntington Station, NY, has started piloting a bolder approach — not printing prices on tags at all. Instead, the tag lists the item number, and for each cloud of fixtures, a standalone sheet has product details and pricing available. This sheet can then easily be updated if any price changes occur.
“We’re not a self-service target — we want lots of one-on-one interaction — so pricing should not be an issue for our customers because a staff member will be there with them,” Lichtenstein says. “Half of our sales come out of catalogs anyway, and there are no prices in there.”
In an ideal world
In our industry, what would make for the best solution to the product tagging dilemma?
Jamie Franklin-Bernal, Owner and Founder of Jonathons Coastal Living in Fountain Valley, CA, says that at her store, they use two types of tags — one for items that clients can take home immediately, which only has the necessary details like product name, price and SKU, and a second, larger tag for items that are considered customizable or available in various sizes. In her perfect world, a system would create a unique code for their store and house all of the vendor information for employees without showing it to the customer, as some may take that information to find the item cheaper elsewhere.
“A business like ours is built so much off of having a working relationship with our clients and customers and them being able to trust that we have the best of the best in product and design knowledge for them,” Bernal says. “If a tagging system were able to give my employees easier access to product knowledge, then that means more time could be spent on the floor building those relationships instead of behind a computer looking up details.”
For Lichtenstein and Lighting Gallery, although they are on their way to a more efficient way of tagging, his ideal would be to implement iPad stations into his store’s system, replacing the standalone pricing sheets.
“We’re starting to have staff walking around with iPads now,” he says. “Customers are open to this approach, but we also need the buy-in from the staff.”
At the end of the day, there are indeed many options that customers will be open to, both utilizing technology and without. But the important thing, says Goldberg, is that the customer does want to be able to see the price easily.
“It’s a burden, but there’s no magic solution to these kinds of things. Whether you go into a HomeGoods, where people are printing tickets all the time, or to more upscale environments, there’s information there, it’s just maybe not as obvious.”
Approaches to Consider
Steve Goldberg, President of retail consulting firm The Grayson Company, offers several options for product tagging that would work well when faced with frequent price changes:
$ Shelf pricing, where products on one shelf or in one area are the same price and one piece of signage is used.
$$ Scanner pricing with QR codes, where the customer is in charge, browsing and looking.
$$$ Dynamic POS pricing, which has a digital price display and updates through radio frequency-controlled price tags.