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Stores to get tips on design


A consultant from Texas will conduct a merchandising workshop this morning, followed by visits to downtown Westminster businesses to give them advice on how to give their shops more eye appeal.

Scott Day, a visual-merchandising expert from San Antonio, is a senior program associate specializing in design on the staff of the National Main Street Center in Washington, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

"Of all the things we can look at in terms of bringing back the small independent businesses," Day said, "working with your merchandising can be the most cost-efficient way to improve sales - and it doesn't have to cost a lot."

Day's visit in Westminster begins with a lecture and workshop from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. in the training room of Westminster Police Department, said Donovan G. Hammond, Westminster's Main Street coordinator.

"He'll tell them how to make the shops more appealing to the eye," Hammond said. "For instance, Giant Food puts food they want you to buy at eye level, to make you want to buy the product. While big companies have in-house experts, Main Street people can't afford that kind of advice."

Day's services are courtesy of the Main Street Maryland program, which has designated Westminster as one of seven Main Street communities in the state, said Cindy Stone, coordinator of the Main Street Maryland Program, under the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

The program provides free technical assistance for selected downtowns with a significant number of historic buildings. Others include Denton, Taneytown, Oakland, Easton, Cumberland, Mount Rainier and Charles Village.

"A lot of times small businesses need a little expertise from someone else, to give them suggestions and ideas," Stone said.

Hammond said this will be the city's first visit from the design consultant.

Twice this year, an architect and consultant to the state program visited downtown shops to suggest ideas for building exteriors.

During his lecture, Hammond said, Day will discuss how store owners can:

* Make more profitable use of their space

* Measure true return on their inventory investment

* Develop floor plans that introduce new products

* Use inexpensive graphics to improve visual appeal

* Divide a store into departments and merchandise categories to make buying decisions easier.

Day said he uses a grid system categorizing shops as traditional, contemporary or funky, and ranking them from low- to high-income clientele.

Among his five key points are developing an "open to buy" cash flow, which means having enough money to keep a store looking full. A store owner doesn't want money tied up in unsold snow shovels in June, leaving nothing to buy wading pools.

Day said he also will discuss inventory control, profitability models, floor plans, and visual aspects that signal a store's price level and style.

After the lecture, Day will visit seven shops: the Olde Liberty Shoppe, at 39 Liberty St.; Harvestin' Natural Foods, at 66 E. Main St. in the old firehouse; Ladies Exchange, at 37 E. Main St.; the Stitches shop, at 25 E. Main St.; Rexall Pharmacy, at 99 W. Main St.; Hickory Stick, at 28 Liberty St.; and Inspirations, at 13 Liberty St.

A contingent from Taneytown plans to attend the workshop, Hammond said.

The free workshop is open to the public in the Police Department's training room at 30 Locust St.

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