MJ Retail Displays & Merchandising: Q&A With Danielle Ulvila of Visual Options

October 29, 2014

What is one of the most important things a retail store owner can do in their shop to sell more products, provide a better experience, and create loyal customers? Properly display the goods you offer so they can be seen, sought after, and sold.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING AND DISPLAYS should be a main priority in any retail store, because doing it right can bring huge growth to your bottom line. Think of how many times you have walked out of a store spending more money than you planned to, all because you saw something on display– whether on a table, on a discount shelf, or hanging on a rack in the check-out line– that made you want to buy it.

I think back to my days as a dispensary manager and how easy it was to increase– or decrease– demand and sales of our products simply by showcasing them in various ways. When edibles were arranged on an overflowing center table that patients could walk up to, browse, and act out their “kid in a candy store” desires, we couldn’t keep enough medicated cake pops and rice krispie treats in stock. When we moved an expensive line of high-quality oils and capsules that weren’t selling well from a shelf in a display case to a back-lit display just behind the budtender’s shoulders– where they conveniently sat in the line of site for patients as they were talking to the employee– we grew sales of that product line over 400% in just one week.

I recently uncovered a secret weapon for providing my clients with outstanding visual merchandising and display services for their marijuana retail stores. Danille Ulvila, who represents Visual Options out of Tacoma, WA, is a whiz when it comes to creating eye-catching, sales-maximizing displays for retailers across the country. Chelsea and I recently toured their manufacturing facility to learn more about who they are, what they do, and how The High Road Design Studio can help our clients reap the retail benefits of their products.

Q: TELL OUR READERS A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHO VISUAL OPTIONS IS?

At Visual Options, we design and manufacture displays for retailers and product manufacturers across the country. On the retail side of the business we service 3000+ T-Mobile stores by providing secured displays, brochure holders, and a whole host of branded retail displays. From a point of sale standpoint, we design product displays for manufacturers from Bose Speakers to Giorgio Armani Cosmetics.

Through our long-term strategic partnerships with customers like T-Mobile, we provide all the standard fabrication services clients require from CNC machining and laser cutting to vacuum forming and everything in between. You can watch a video of how one kind of display is made here.

Q: WHY ARE YOUR SERVICES IMPORTANT IN MARIJUANA RETAIL ENVIRONMENTS?

There seems to be a mindset in marijuana retail that merchandise displays are frivolous and not necessary for success. I feel this mindset is prevailing right now because the excitement around the green rush is preventing people from planning for the future. Once the dust settles and all the press disappears, these retailers will have to compete for customers in all the traditional ways. Planning for that now will allow savvy retailers to be standing once the hype dies down.

Q: IN WHAT WAYS CAN MJ RETAIL STORE OWNERS BENEFIT FROM YOUR SERVICES AND PRODUCTS?

We entered the dispensary and marijuana retail industry because we noticed that as cannabis entrepreneurs began opening retail locations and dispensaries, the fixtures and decor they were using were very homespun and lacked the level of professionalism that the new customers entering this market will expect. MJ retailers are missing an opportunity to turn trial customers into loyal repeat customers.

As this industry grows beyond the traditional users, there will be a massive new demographic wanting to learn and try cannabis recreationally. They will expect a much different level of involvement at the point of sale than traditional users, and we feel we can be a part of elevating that retail experience. Safe and inviting environments that inspire newbies to explore retailers’ full line of offerings will be the most successful. Customers will want to interact with the products, pick them up, smell them, etc. They will also want them to be available in attractive packages.

The best analogy I can think of is someone who is new to using makeup. You can’t expect them to understand how to use and apply the dizzying array of makeup products if all they see when they walk in a store are rows and rows of brushes. The “try before you buy” model needs to be adapted for this growing industry.

Q: DO YOU PROVIDE CANNABIS-SPECIFIC DISPLAY AND MERCHANDISING PRODUCTS?

We offer a wide variety of off-the-shelf products, such as price card holders, that can have product information easily changed out to reflect new inventory. Also, we are working on a secured sniff jar. We even have a solution for those ubiquitous glass pipes scattered on the bottom shelf of the display cabinet. Additionally, we can create custom jar holders, and locking floor displays so that the product remains secured but the retailer is allowed to maximize their floor space.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DISPLAY THAT YOU HAVE CREATED?

My favorite display was the one we created for Nana’s Sodas. If you’ve ever met Cecilia, you know she is an enthusiastic and colorful cannabis entrepreneur. We thought it would be fun for her to offer her best retailers a point of sale display that allowed her sodas to stand out among the other cannabis infused drinks. Since she delivers many of the sodas herself, we created this custom acrylic soda carrier. I was really proud of the way it turned out and Cecilia was thrilled. We felt it was a great reflection of her brand and her personality. Our goal is always to make the customer shine.

Q: FOR THE DISCERNING, DETAIL-ORIENTED, HIGH-ACHIEVING SHOP OWNERS, WHAT THINGS SHOULD THEY COME TO YOU FOR THAT MAKE THE MOST OUT OF THEIR RETAIL SPACE AND ARE YOUR TOP-OF-THE-LINE PRODUCTS AND SERVICES?

We are here to assist with every part of the process, from store planning to countertop displays. We recognize that not every retailer will have a budget to start the design process from scratch. We can help at every level and make recommendations that are within any budget.

We understand that for this industry, there are issues beyond just attractive displays. We know how to create visually enticing displays that comply with the laws and ensure that the product is secured and protected from theft.

My approach to the process is to offer a high, medium, and low cost display option to all my customers. This type of consultation allows them to get the biggest bang for their buck and ensures the integrity of our advice.

To learn more about Visual Options and how they can work with your business, contact Danille Ulvila at dulvila@visualoptions.net or 253.677.9931.

If you would like our assistance in designing your store’s retail environment, including incorporating custom displays and signage from Visual Options into your business’s overall retail design, contact me at hi@highroadstudio.com or (480) 760-1825.