This week on our podcast Brick & Order, we spoke with Gretchen Kroll, VP of Sales and Marketing at Tripar International, a brand that specializes in visual displays and giftware.
Tripar is a family owned and operated brand, founded over 50 years ago. In 1968 Gretchen’s father, Siegfried J. Claussner, saw a world of opportunity in serving the giftware retail market through import and distribution and expanded those roots into being a leader in the industry of visual displays and decor. The journey began small, with giftware items in 1969 followed by display accessories for the collectibles market in the early ’70s.
Throughout the next decade, Tripar blossomed into an established and recognized name in the industry and never looked back. Gretchen brings a wealth of knowledge from her experience building beautiful stores and homes through unique accents such as easels, risers, displays, and more.
Gretchen shares merchandising strategies that every shop can use to increase conversion and delight their customers.
The area I think that retailers and businesses miss the most is window displays. It’s the attractor to your store, you want people to be able to see it from across the street and it needs to be loud. It’s an indicator that you’re thriving and you’re alive.Gretchen Kroll
Here, we’re sharing an abridged version of our chat with Gretchen. To listen to the whole interview, head over to the tenth episode of our podcast Brick & Order.
Faire: I’d love to learn a little bit more about Tripar and your mission. Take us back to the founding story in 1968.
Gretchen Kroll: The business was started by my father more than 50 years ago. It started as a gift importer for collector’s plates, figurines, ornaments, and creating accessories for those items. Now Tripar is recognized as a source for display products and ideas. My sister and I run the business. We are [interested in] beautiful environments. We went from decorating products to really creating ambiances in homes and stores.
Faire: The rules of in-store merchandising have changed immensely in 2020. What’s the single biggest shift you’ve seen?
Gretchen: There’s a huge shift in our understanding globally of what we need to do to survive. We experience the world through our senses, and their sole purpose is to bring us pleasure or to avoid pain. So COVID, this crazy invisible virus, has created a massive shift in human perception and ultimately in consumer behavior.
Faire: How have you noticed that your behavior has shifted as you’ve been shopping?
Gretchen: It’s changed so much. I think consumers, in general, have changed — we’re conscientious about our health. Space proximity has become extremely important. For social reasons, we’re spending a lot less time in stores. We are very focused. We want to be inspired right away when we get into those stores. We’re used to shopping online. We’re used to having people give us inspiration, and now we want to take that virtual experience and move it into a store where we can quickly find things and be inspired and get what we need.
Faire: As retailers reset and refocus with these new challenges in mind, how can shop owners create a stronger store given the new constraints around shop safety?
Gretchen: It’s important for us to understand the primal function of our senses. When people think about visual display, they don’t understand how sense really has a physiological effect on our bodies and how we function. We’re looking for danger and for pleasure. Our goal is to live a long and healthy life. So as businesses, we need to address that. It’s a science based on aesthetics. It’s a silent selling technique of getting into the psyche of consumers and connecting with them through visual stimulation.
Faire: How do you implement these new safety measures while still reinforcing your brand message?
Gretchen: Brand is more important now than it ever was. This pause, this gap, is just such a wonderful opportunity for businesses to totally realign. My saying always is, “Beautiful store, beautiful home.”
First of all, safety has to be the priority. We all know those guidelines, but visually how we interpret that data is so important. For instance, it’s amazing how we feel congested all of a sudden. Consumers want to have a sight line. They want to be able to digest information or get to what they want quickly and get out of the store. That component of visual design is transforming how stores function.
Faire: How do you maximize sales with less product on the floor?
Gretchen: If we get into the science of how we see, we were designed to see the tiger in the trees. We scan for things that stick out that could possibly either endanger us or bring us safety. So when we think about it that way, how do we create things to stand out? It’s white space.
Our brain wants quick information, and it’s by properly grouping items together that you’re going to be able to help people see. By creating better white space in your store, by defining those themes and those ideas, you’re going to sell more. People will see more than if they go into a store that’s packed with product.
Faire: What are some things that you would suggest for retailers to start off with?
Gretchen: I would start outside. It really doesn’t matter what kind of business you have. I can’t tell you how many parking lots I’ve had to drive into see if a store is open. You can open your door and put flowers, or pumpkins, or a nice fall arrangement outside. Those are all indicators that you’re thriving and you’re alive. The area I think that retailers and businesses miss the most is window displays. It’s the attractor to your store. You want people to be able to see it from across the street and it needs to be loud.
Faire: What are other shifts that retailers should consider as they set up their shelves?
Gretchen: Traffic pattern is really important. Having the store laid out in a way that is logical. People don’t want to bump into each other. You also want to keep your employees safe as well as make people feel safe when they’re checking out. Make signs because people don’t want to touch a lot of things, help educate them regarding the product or how it’s used.
Faire: What is giving you hope this holiday season, Gretchen?
Gretchen: I think that when you look back in our history, the dark ages, the Renaissance, there is this new beginning, this new way for us to look at life and to move forward. I know that 2020 has been a difficult time for people with businesses. We’ve been in this time warp of sorts and it has us searching for understanding, purpose, passion. We all get to reset. We get a total do over. We get to look at our lives and our businesses and figure out how we really want to participate, and that’s huge. So is there hope? You better believe it! It starts with us looking for those solutions and for how we can serve and how we can change. I really believe that with my whole heart.