The Best Way to Sell Tactical Apparel

Selling tactical shirts, pants, boots and other apparel requires a visual merchandising approach. It’s time to beef up your displays.

The Best Way to Sell Tactical Apparel

The tactical apparel market is no longer just tactical — it’s also fashion. In addition, the tactical apparel market, especially pants, is growing inside and outside our industry. Competition is everywhere — not just online but also among retailers who have no connections to the real tactical marketplace, the fashionistas, who may be located just down the street from your shop.

How do you garner your piece of the pie? How can you enjoy more than one little piece of the pie?

Tactical Retailer talked with mega tactical-apparel brand 5.11 and the Retail Doctor, Bob Phibbs, about a base plan for servicing your customers and your bottom line. Phibbs has catapulted many brick-and-mortar stores out of the retail-sales ashes since he launched Retail Doctor in 1994. Our interviewees agreed that identifying your customer segments and learning what customers are looking for in tactical apparel is paramount.

“Some key factors to increase tactical pant sales include: understanding your consumer’s needs in order to be able to meet them by recommending the correct product; ensuring you are offering quality and durable gear that lasts; being able to offer a warrantee as, especially in today’s climate, consumers are looking for extra value for their dollar,” says Mark Parker, senior vice president, Omnichannel Retail (5.11).

There are many ways to define your customers and their needs, from focus groups held in your store, to surveys, sales receipts (what they’re buying), and educational opportunities you can provide. All provide critical feedback. You probably already know your customers well, but perhaps you haven’t identified your key segments and those offering possible growth. The task really can be as simple as writing down each group you service, their activities and needs, then visualizing what appeals to them. And don’t forget to consider the women, paintballers, fishermen or even golfers who might find a reason to come into your store. Crossover between sports gives you more ways to market and show product value. Certainly, the shooting sports, concealed carry, and law enforcement are your bread and butter, but a display showing the versatility of tactical apparel in a variety of settings helps customers visualize added value — more bang for their buck.

Customer needs are No. 1, period. Give patrons what they want and need and you’ll be quite a way down the retail trail to selling success.

Displays that offer product visualizations are perhaps the easiest step to take to increase sales. In our industry, they also may be the most underutilized tools in our arsenals. Phibbs shares seven tips for visual merchandising in your brick-and-mortar store to increase awareness, knowledge, and desire for products.


Phibbs says:

1.              Invite shoppers to peruse your shop using engaging in-store merchandising. So, avoid putting a display table perpendicular just inside your entrance. It stops customer flow.

2.              Move a product from its regular shelf location to a featured end cap, which has been proven to lead to an average sales increase of 25 percent. Regularly move your products around.

3.              Tell a fuller, specific product story with digital displays. Beware, however, that although they can sell product, they can also detract customers from the products the displays are near. Digital displays should support the product; they aren’t the main show. If conversion doesn’t improve with the digital display, change messaging or location.

4.              Look through your entire sales floor for distractions. Are there too many messages to try this or do that or buy this or look here? Or is your store bare, with little or no signage or displays? Streamline a shopper’s experience so they linger, not bolt for the door.

5.              Select fixtures with wheels so you have unlimited opportunities to change your entire store around quickly and efficiently.

6.              Feature your best merchandise at the front of the store, as shopper interest wanes the further they go into the middle of a store.

7.              Put sale items in the back so thrifty consumers must move through your sales floor to get to the items.

“Beware. Sloppy or poorly coordinated displays rob your store of its ability to make additional profit,” Phibbs says. “I saw an end cap at a grocery store that had Oreos, toilet paper, and bleach displayed. You never want a shopper to scratch their head, trying to figure out why your items are displayed the way they are. For that reason, you want to know your display choices.”


Image is Everything

The “Empirical Study on Visual Merchandising and Its Impact on Consumer Buying Behavior” was conducted in 2016 to test how visual merchandising and outlook factors impact store image and customer buying behavior.

The main objective of this research was to identify the visual merchandising factors that impact store image and further examine the relationship of the identified independent variables of store layout and design, lighting, colors, mannequin, window display, promotional signage, product presentation and in-store displays with the dependent variable that is store image and purchase intention.

The results show that promotional signage plays an important role in establishing a store image. The in-store signage and product information displayed over the aisles and shelves help retailers attract customers and increase sales.

Most consumers respond to in-store signage positively. They specially mentioned that signage: helps them to select precise products; reduce the time spent searching for products; and feel comfortable during the shopping process. Best of all, signage is cost-effective for conveying a message or informing the customer about the merchandise available in the retail store.

Indications show most people are drawn into a store to buy a product after looking at the shop's visual and mannequin displays. In the case of apparel, mannequins play a great role in giving customers an idea of the latest trends and the visual appearance of the merchandise.

Store window displays are great ways to entice customers to come into the shop, as they give potential customers a look at products they can assume to be present inside the store. They are also a great way to highlight certain types of merchandise, based on customer profiles and desires. No windows? No worries. Street displays that can roll in and out of the store are also viable visual merchandising options.

But in-store displays are the major drivers to purchase, as they compel customers to view products creatively presented and displayed, to learn about new technologies or trends, and show customers how the products fulfill their needs.


Segmenting Tactical Apparel

A look into 5.11’s focus on segments may help you better define your own customer segments.

“Our segmentations are defined by what our consumers are doing,” says Matt Page, vice president, Global Product at 5.11. “Then we ground those segmentations in our Always Be Ready® mindset.

“Our Duty Ready segment consists of professional pants that are intended to be worn on the job. Everyday Ready pants are worn on the job or in everyday life. Adventure Ready pants are worn in the outdoors, and Physical Training Ready pants are worn by our consumers primarily for fitness. We have several pants that have a specific intent, but they can sometimes cross over into other segmentations.”

5.11’s best-selling pants are its Stryke Pant, Apex Pant, Ridge Pant, Icon Pant and Taclite Pro Pant. Duty Ready pant styles like the Stryke, Icon and Taclite Pro feature a traditional exterior cargo pocket design, which is overtly tactical. The Everyday Ready pants styles like Apex and Ridge feature an interior cargo pocket, which provides for similar functionality in a more covert design.

“We also offer our Defender-Flex Jeans, Page adds. “They might look like an average pair of jeans, but the mechanical stretch and two hip pockets in addition to a traditional 5-pocket-jean design make them quite unique and very comfortable.”


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