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Inside Boundless: Merchandising A Store

Whether it’s an employee gifting portal or an eCommerce experience designed to share brand swag with your company’s loyal customers, promo merchandising is equal parts art and science. It’s something Boundless brand merchandiser Lauren Smith knows all too well. 

As a brand merchandiser, Lauren handles the ins and outs of merchandising, diving headfirst into industry trends and staying in touch with clients to stay on top of what’s hot in promo. From brainstorming sessions to final product selection, Lauren's day is a whirlwind of creativity and strategy. 

Check out this guide for an insider’s look at the art and science of merchandising with Lauren Smith. She pulls back the curtain to share how she merchandises stores—and her 2024 trending product predictions.


What Does a Brand Merchandiser Do?

Brand merchandisers handle a little bit of everything. At Boundless, Lauren fills in wherever products are needed. “We all wear a bunch of hats,” Lauren says. “But my main skill is what I call ‘source-ery power.’” 

No day is the same for Lauren, but her daily to-dos usually include:

  • Sourcing products: This is Lauren’s bread and butter. She searches high and low for items from both existing and new suppliers, looking for unique retail items that align with brands’ images and customer needs. “Sometimes our sales partners will have very specific requests. They need this brand, but they can't find it. So I will then come in and then do outreach to different retail brands to ask if they can work wholesale with us,” Lauren explains. 
  • Creating lookbooks: Lauren helps the team compile Boundless’s product lookbooks twice yearly for holidays and annual trends. 
  • Themed product collections: Beyond lookbooks, Lauren creates thematic or vertical product collections, like healthcare or education-focused products. She decides on the products that fit these themes, collaborating with other Boundless teams on graphic design and layout.
  • Virtual product showcases: Not everyone can meet in person to learn about the latest promo products. That’s why Lauren also helps curate virtual product showcases. She selects items to be featured on camera and coordinates with suppliers to showcase these products.
  • Event planning: Lauren helps the Boundless marketing team pull off jaw-dropping events. She fills in wherever she’s needed, but specializes in sourcing promotional items for trade show booths and preparing welcome bags. 
  • Online store merchandising and curation: Unlike traditional merchandising that involves physical stores, Lauren specializes in merchandising for online stores. Boundless partners with various clients to create tailored online stores that cater to different end-users, including employees and corporate teams. Lauren takes a personalized approach to each store, selecting a variety of items based on the brand’s target audience and goals. 

Pro Tips for Merchandising a Store

Lauren’s seen a lot in her years as a brand merchandiser, which sharpened her ability to spot hot trends for Boundless and its partners. Check out her pro strategies for merchandising a store. 

Ask the Right Questions

Some consumers like quirky, off-the-wall T-shirts, while others might not like that style. This is why the first step to any merchandising strategy is to understand your clients. 

Lauren dives deep by asking questions to uncover the best products for every brand. Who are the buyers? What are their preferences and limitations? Are they price-sensitive or more focused on quality? Knowing the audience's profile makes it possible to tailor a more effective merchandising strategy, boosting ROI while reducing landfill waste. It’s a win-win!

See What the Research Says

Data is Lauren’s compass. “I subscribe to so many different newsletters and reporting and data analysis sites, just to keep on track with that. So I think a big part of my job is the research behind picking the products,” she explains. 

While industry data and quantitative research matter, firsthand experience is also important. For Lauren, that means looking at bestselling products and repeat orders. Products that buyers repeatedly purchase are a clear indicator of what resonates with an audience.

Keep Your Ear to the Ground for Trends

Merchandising is all about trends. The challenge isn’t finding trends, but spotting enduring trends that translate into consumer interest. Lauren spends months gathering information and conducting research, but she typically finds trends via: 

  • Pantone’s Color Of The Year
  • Fashion trends from Vogue and WGSN
  • TikTok
  • Chatting with sales partners to see which products are consistently in demand

However, it’s important to remember that not all brands benefit from trends—or even want to follow them. Corporate brands tend to avoid trends and go for more classic pieces. “There are brands that want those very tried and true, more corporate apparel pieces, corporate-looking drink wear, and that's all they're looking for,” Lauren says. “They are not doing any trend colors. They're doing their brand colors, and that is it.” Ultimately, it comes down to what the brand needs and what its customers expect. 

Demographics Matter

Different age groups have varying preferences and values, which have a big influence on their purchasing decisions. Gen Z, for example, is particularly interested in eco-friendly products, trends, and giving back—and they aren’t afraid to ditch brands that fail to meet their expectations. Boomers, on the other hand, are less likely to be interested in trends and tend to stick with the brands they know and love. 

The key is to cater to multiple generations. “We like to make sure that we're still in the know and aware of what problems and questions older generations are still looking out for. What are they still questioning? We want to be sensitive to that,” Lauren says. 

Feeling Stuck? Price Is a Tie-Breaker

Price is Lauren’s ultimate guide. So many options are available in any promo category, and narrowing down choices based on price point can streamline the merchandising process. For example, if you want drinkware, it comes in a huge range from pricey Stanley cups to more budget-friendly $5 options. Having an idea of price makes it way easier to narrow down the product selection.


Lauren Smith’s 2024 Product Predictions

Lauren pours a lot of work into merchandising. While she doesn’t have a crystal ball, her thorough research helps her spot the most promising promotional products of the year. 

Curious to see what’s in store for 2024? Lauren predicts these product trends will take over the industry: 

  • The reign of drinkware: Stanley might have taken the drinkware craze up a notch, but Lauren predicts drinkware will continue to dominate promo.  “Drinkware is one of the biggest promotional products. And so, do I see Stanley going anywhere? No, they're still huge, even in our industry,” she says. 
  • Fun colors make a comeback: Brands are embracing more diverse, out-there color palettes that make a splash. It’s a breath of fresh air for the blue, gray, and white promo you normally find at trade shows. “I've only been with Boundless for two and a half years, and when I first started, it was so hard to find things in trending colors. It's like you have all of your primary colors, but now more than ever, I'm seeing all of these really fun colors coming out,” Lauren explains. 
  • Sustainability at the forefront: “Every year we get more and more products that are coming out with eco trends, but I think what's really fun and exciting is seeing the level of the materials is also changing,” Lauren says. This year, expect innovative products from materials like cactus leather, seaweed, seeds, and algae.

How To Make the Most of Trade Show Promo

Trade show season is almost here! If you plan on exhibiting this year, follow Lauren’s quick tips for boosting the ROI of event promo: 

  • Consider the three-piece combo: If you’re trying to pare down your promo swag down to the essentials, Lauren recommends three critical pieces. “I'd say a drinkware piece, a bag, and probably an apparel piece,” she says. 
  • Know your audience: This tip might seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how many companies buy promo without considering their audience. Tailor your choices to the needs of the audience attending this specific trade show. “You can have a really cool drinkware piece, but if it's not going to hit your audience, then it doesn't matter how great it is,” Lauren says. 
  • Find synergy between items: Find a cohesive theme or connection between items. They should complement each other in function, design, or message. This consistency reinforces your brand identity and leaves a lasting impression.
  • Stick with eco-friendly options: “Everything being eco-friendly, that's not even a trend anymore. It's almost like a must-have lifestyle,” Lauren says. Go for eco-friendly promo products to align with consumer preferences and boost your image as a socially responsible brand. 


Merchandising Mastery in 2024 and Beyond

Store and event merchandising is a labor of love, and Lauren Smith wouldn’t have it any other way. As a seasoned brand merchandiser, she loves trend-spotting and tailoring personalized promo collections for any type of client. 

Of course, Lauren is just one critical piece of the Boundless team. If you need to revamp your promo strategies for this year, get the full backing of Boundless’ team in your corner. It’s time to Create Brand Love™ with your audience. Get in touch with Boundless for hands-on help with marketing, ordering, and much more.

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