Tennis Industry magazine


Retailing 123: Sign Language

Informing and educating shoppers is a key objective of an effective in-store sign strategy.

Your store environment is all about making shoppers and customers as comfortable as you possibly can. The more comfortable they are the longer they stay and shop.

Having a “sign strategy” is a big part of your overall annual operating plan, because when properly done, in-store signage creates an environment of professionalism and warmth…and most importantly builds your store brand and the comfort and trust that comes with it.

The first thing you should do, though, is get rid of all hand-lettered and handmade signs and hangtags. While quick and easy to make, they convey an image of an amateur retailer, and can be the catalyst for shoppers wanting to bargain about price. Think about it — if your store looks like a “bargain basement,” customers will assume they should treat you that way.

Invest in a good computer program to make signs, including hangtags. For larger signs, establish a working relationship with a local sign shop.

Next, walk through your store and identify the various sections or departments. Even if your store is small, it needs signs that guide and direct shoppers. Directional sign placement takes into account your shoppers’ line of sight; in other words, what do they see as they navigate your store. Effective sign placement interrupts, or gets the attention of shoppers, and intercepts, or becomes the focus of their vision. As an example: “Ask About Our Racquet Demo Program!” or “Sign Your Kids Up for 10 & Under Tennis!”

As you walk through your store keep in mind that shoppers walk in at least two directions. They enter and walk from front to back, but also have to walk from back to front. So make sure you place signs to interrupt and intercept along the line of sight of shoppers walking in both directions.

Informing and educating shoppers is an important objective of an effective in-store sign strategy. Most specialty brick-and-mortar retailers think Amazon is a pain in the neck because of price — but the reason most cited by Amazon customers as to why they shop Amazon is that the company provides superior information about products.

Start with hangtags that your store creates for the products you carry. Ask your staff and your customers what they want to know and what they feel are the most important features of products in your store — and put this educational information on your own hangtags you create.

We realize most hangtags won’t have the room for the whole product story, so create educational signs that are placed on and with displays of products that provide more general product information, with the specifics on the individual hangtags.

You can use QR codes on both general informational and educational signage and product hangtags. QR codes will allow you to inform and educate shoppers … and engage with shoppers who are doing their research with a hand-held device like a smart phone. (You can find QR code generators online to make your own codes.)

You can also provide more in-depth customer feedback about products with general product signs and QR codes on these signs and on hangtags. Endorsements and testimonials about products are fine, but what more shoppers are looking for are both good and bad comments about a product so they can make an informed decision before they purchase.

All products are about their story, and there is no reason a specialty tennis retailer can’t do a better job of telling product stories than online retailers by utilizing well-thought-out and effective in-store signs and hangtags.

This is part of a series of retail tips presented by the Tennis Industry Association and written by the Gluskin Townley Group (



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