Consultant tells Breckenridge merchants to stick to their guns |

Consultant tells Breckenridge merchants to stick to their guns

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge merchants need to stop trying to be everything to everybody.

That was the message Lisa Duncan gave to Breckenridge Resort Chamber (BRC) members Wednesday morning at a forum designed to help merchants get the most out of their marketing bucks.

Duncan, who presents speeches and seminars for retail and wholesale fashion organizations, colleges and corporations, said merchandising is the most powerful tool a retailer can have. And by keeping in mind image, inspiration and intention, merchants can reap the most benefits in a variety of simple ways.

Among the biggest pitfalls to which merchants succumb, she said, is trying to please everybody with every fad that comes along. Those same fads, however, can be utilized differently to market the store’s primary merchandise.

For example, a store called Just Add Water sells nothing but two styles of swimsuits.

“They could add beach umbrellas and suntan oil and thongs,” Duncan said. “Instead, they left that to Wal-Mart. They’ve stuck to one thing: swimsuits.”

And the company has fared well.

California-based Chico’s sells nothing but pull-on leisure wear; the only difference in any given item is the fabric.

“There are two or three things that they keep on doing over and over and over,” Duncan said. “They have taken their money and concentrated on exactly what they sell.”

The firm posted double-figure profit increases last year, she said.

Such success needs inspiration, and often, that means incorporating trends without becoming completely wrapped up in the hype.

Beanie Babies in a hardware store probably isn’t the best way to go about reaping money on the latest fad. Neither are Harry Potter magic wands in a sports store.

“Put your money somewhere else,” she said. “Put your money into the best-selling hammer. Put your money into the best-selling tennis racquet.”

That’s not to say, however, that Harry Potter’s book can’t be used as a prop, say, in a store’s handbag. That, Duncan said, would show shoppers that the store is up on the latest trends, all the while showcasing their own products.

Duncan also discussed window displays, a bone of contention among many retailers on Main Street who believe the town suffers when other merchants don’t change their displays often enough.

“Take the film festival,” she said of Breckenridge’s upcoming event. “Use it as a backdrop. Have a mannequin wearing your clothes to the film event. If you’re a sporting goods store, have a mannequin carrying your camp chair to the lawn.”

And if a trend works, Duncan said, use it once and get out.

She recalled a time she was working for Nordstrom’s that she ordered $40,000 worth of woolen resort wear for a store in Minnesota. In the first three days, she sold 80 percent of the inventory. She ordered more – and it sat on the shelves.

“I got greedy,” she said. “I call these “one-hit wonders.’ You have your bread-and-butter merchandise. You have these exciting hits; do it once and get out.”

Another way to excite customers is to let them know your intentions. Beyond announcing sales, Duncan suggests vendors hold clinics and style shows to showcase the merchandise and convince people they should buy those items rather than something else down the street.

“It’s important to tell people what you intend to do,” she said. “If you don’t create and communicate your mission, it’s your fault if sales are down.”

Part of letting people know one’s intentions will always remain advertising, however.

“Print out things you’re going to do anyway,” she said. “Let people know. You have new snowboards? Who’s your customer? Call them. Tell them, “I want you to see this first.'”

More information about Lisa Duncan can be found at

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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