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April 2017 | HARDWARE RETAILING 51 Employees have also offered their ideas for enhancing displays, whether it's through creative arrangement of the products or decorative motifs that complement the products. "I encourage our employees to tell me about any good ideas they have," he says. While he can't always use everyone's, he tries to foster an environment that supports creativity. "If I'm open to their suggestions, it gets them excited about what they're doing, too." Last year, staff got excited when Lemanski and a manager from another T & M Hardware and Rental location created a friendly competition between employees at the two stores. Each manager set up a display of smoke detectors near the front counter and challenged their staff to sell more than the other store. Instead of relying on a creative display, they relied on their own selling skills. "The employees had a lot of fun with that," Lemanski says. "They would call the other store throughout the day to see how many they had sold. They got pretty competitive. But they also learned to ask customers simple questions, such as, 'When was the last time you tested your smoke detector?' to remind them they might need a new one. We sold a lot of detectors." Whether it's suggesting an add-on sale or making sure customers have everything they need for a project, proper training is essential. Merchandising and selling skills go hand in hand. With a bit of encouragement, employees can find new ways not just to merchandise, but to talk to customers about the sale. If they see it, they'll want it. Walk in to the Ellwood City T & M Hardware and Rental store, and you immediately see a lot of color and attention-grabbing items that will have you stopping to look. Similar to what Post encountered at the Bellevue location, Lemanski has the challenge of finding a way to encourage impulse buys without having much space for traditional endcaps or bulk displays. He overcomes the obstacle by utilizing the front space of the store to show shoppers new or seasonally significant items. As a start, he's placed several impulse-type items on and in front of the cashier counter. While he has snacks—always a good fit for this area of the store—he's also put out some necessities, such as anti-freeze, that customers may have forgotten they needed. Also at the front of the store, Lemanski uses rolling racks for items he wants to promote in the path of customers entering the store. Since bright colors attract attention, this is a good place for his lawn and garden yard decor items. When he runs out of space on the floor, he finds room on the ceiling. Hanging yard flags from the ceiling puts them in full view of customers. Place sample products, including yard flags and clothing, hanging from the ceiling to catch shoppers' attention as soon as they walk in the store.