As a visual merchandising, interior design and event design/coordination specialist, Amanda Sancen is a valued member of TechTown Detroit’s Ask an Expert program and Professional Service Network. Amanda is the owner and designer of ARC Design Studios.
ARC Design Studios is a visual merchandising and retail design studio serving Detroit and the metro area. Amanda utilized her years of experience, educational background and passion for small businesses to educate and empower entrepreneurs with the knowledge of how visual merchandising and store design can benefit their brands.
Q&A with Amanda
TechTown’s Entrepreneurial Education team had the chance to connect with Amanda to discuss her experience and journey to entrepreneurship. She provided excellent advice for aspiring entrepreneurs through the Ask an Expert program!
What is your favorite part about working with clients?
My favorite part about working with clients is their creativity and passion. I pride myself on how I collaborate with my clients. Each client has their vision and sales goals, and it’s my job to pull them out of them into a feasible design plan that can be executed. My goal is to always exceed their expectations and help them celebrate their creativity and hard work in building their brand.
It’s always an amazing feeling installing a display and seeing the client’s excitement when customers compliment it or when they have a great session at a market with their pop-up. My goal is to always make my clients more profitable and help them build brand loyalty and excitement with their shoppers.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to entrepreneurs?
Don’t give up. Entrepreneurship is very hard, and it is a roller coaster. There will be days when you want to quit, people who are difficult to work with, finances, social media, or production will stress you out, and you will question everything. I challenge you in those times to always go back to your why! Why are you doing this, why did you start your business, why do you do what you do? This will help ground your ability to move forward.
I also want to encourage you to get help when you need it. Everyone is new to entrepreneurship at some point, so you cannot expect to have it all together all the time. You need to reach out to organizations like TechTown and ask questions, invest in your education, work with professionals and build community!
What should entrepreneurs prepare for going into the holiday season? What should they implement into their businesses to be more successful?
Over the holiday season, entrepreneurs should prepare to observe their selling space, shoppers, setups, marketing efforts and more. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for any selling season is to understand how you’re doing things now so you can evaluate and improve in the future.
Take photos, ask for reviews or general feedback, collaborate with others; get an idea of what works for you during the holiday season and what does not. Ask questions from others that you admire or look to. Monitor if the items you invested in for marketing, display and collaborations have paid off. Compare selling locations for your pop-up, decide what markets work better for you, and choose your selling opportunities wisely.
Educate your team throughout the season. If you have a team helping you at your location, have them observe, take notes, and allow them to collaborate with you on how to make the most out of each holiday.
Also, I want to remind businesses to experiment. One of the ways we test visual merchandising methods is to experiment! You won’t know what works until you try it. So maybe you do an over-the-top window display this year to see how it impacts shoppers coming in from the street, or you decide to put all your best-selling products towards the back of your store so that clients must explore the whole space to get to them. Explore different holiday signage options or items in your cash-out area. Feel free to try new things and evaluate how they do after.
How can small business owners best utilize sales analysis data to guide merchandising decisions?
Sales analysis can sound like a scary thing or be something that feels overwhelming, BUT it doesn’t have to be. When starting your journey into sales analysis, I suggest making sure you have a system that tells you what products sell when, simple as that. So, if your POS (point of sale) system tells you that you sold 10 lavender candles in October and 50 in November, you are already on your journey to starting your practice in analyzing sales. If you run a pop-up or e-commerce business, this is where I recommend starting.
Sales analysis can be done by analyzing how much of what product sells and when to help you determine your assortment needs month to month/season to season. But you can also analyze sales to help you design your display methods. Understanding sales per square foot helps do this, and sometimes when working in a small space, like a pop-up, sales per square inch can also be made. This allows you to start thinking about whether the space you dedicate to specific products and displays has been profitable.
Are there any platforms you recommend for sales analysis?
Many POS systems will allow you to look at different reports of what products sell and when. I believe both Square and Shopify do. You will want to ensure you have a proper system for differentiating your product in your POS system. But I suggest you dive deeper into each item to optimize your assortment. This can take time, but it is worth it after you get it set up.