Keep That Cash-Wrap Magic—Even Now

Use these merchandising, selling and, yes, sanitizing tips to entice your customers to shop in person with you again—and to increase sales at checkout. 

Large round cash desk at Ballet Boutique gives owner plenty of room for social distancing and displaying last-minute impulse items.
Gaby Martinez at the cash wrap of her Ballet Boutique in Doral, FL. Its design gives staff and customers plenty of room for COVID-safe social distancing. Photo by Mayra Roubach

A well-designed cash wrap is more than just a place to pay. It’s where a storeowner gets a chance to give customers a positive last impression of their shopping experience—and to add to the sale. Today, that also means reassuring customers that this high-touch part of the store is safe and that they can finish up their purchase comfortably.

Follow these tips, and you’ll give customers the confidence to shop with you—and achieve your add-on sales while staying true to the branding of your store. 

Reassure customers (and staff) with obvious safety measures.

The starting point in today’s retail environment is to make the checkout space safe for your customers and your staff. Be sure both have enough room for social distancing; six feet is the standard recommended by the CDC. Protective plexiglass screens, hand sanitizer dispensers, six-foot markers for distanced queuing and contactless payment methods are common sights at dance retailers these days. Sanitizing the countertop and other touchpoints at the cash wrap between customers is best practice, and, of course, many stores also require staff and customers alike to wear masks to keep everyone healthy. 

Gaby Martinez, owner of Ballet Boutique in Doral, FL, is lucky to have a long cash desk that makes distancing easy. She’s set up two hand-sanitizing stations at checkout for customers, plus “after each customer, we disinfect, we sanitize everything with wipes,” she says. The store also uses a vapor cleaner that’s a smaller version of the kind used in hospitals and medical facilities.

Organize the checkout space to improve the customer experience.

Even pre-COVID, having enough room for staff and customers at the cash wrap was essential. Behind the counter, there should be plenty of storage space for shopping bags and other supplies, and enough room so that staff can work safely, comfortably and efficiently (thus giving better service). Facing the customer, be sure there’s ample, clean counter space so that a customer can easily set her purchases and her purse down, and so that you have room for enticing, on-brand displays of tempting product. 

Wow customers with last-minute temptations. 

Think creatively about the add-on sale possibilities at the cash wrap, advises retail strategist Georganne Bender, of Kizer & Bender. “This is where impulse purchases live,” she says. “Load your cash wrap with product customers just can’t pass up.” 

Headbands, key chains and jewelry displayed at Ballet Boutique checkout counter.
Headbands, key chains and jewelry make tempting impulse buys at Ballet Boutique’s checkout. Photo by Mayra Roubach

Small hair accessories, earrings and headbands line the front desk at Ballet Boutique. Martinez’s large circular checkout has plenty of room for staff to work and an expansive countertop for displaying add-on purchases in an organized, attractive way. What’s more, the front of the unit features shelves where Martinez can display larger-ticket products, too, like dance bags or warm-up booties. “We change the display every week,” she says. “When you come to the register you will always find something new right there.”

Martinez intentionally makes sure her cash wrap is full of product. “When you pack something, it looks less expensive than when you display a single item alone,” she says. “This gives the impression that this is just a little something, that it’s not expensive and it’s easy to add it to your purchase.”

Test new and nondance items.

If you have a wall behind your cash wrap, Bender suggests using it to create displays that keep customers thinking about product. “Put slatwall or shelves up so you can display a pair of shoes or a mannequin form wearing an outfit,” she says. This can be a great way to introduce new arrivals or categories you just started carrying. 

Bender also suggests looking beyond dance products for cash wrap displays. “I think today retailers have to be smart about their merchandise assortment,” says Bender, “and about who is coming into your store and what they want.” Masks are an obvious new must-have. Moms shopping with children may appreciate inexpensive books, puzzles, small toys—or even snacks—to amuse their child while they shop. 

If you’re not sure what else your customers might like, ask them, she says. People always need gifts—some stores have had success with versatile or on-trend bags that work for nondancers and dancers alike, and water bottles for staying hydrated.

After Phoenix-based Nathalie & Co. Dancewear moved to a new location, owner Nathalie Velasquez expanded its inventory to include dance, swim and activewear. Today, she likes merchandise displayed at the cash wrap to reflect all these categories. She rotates displays, and often adds things like fun socks and bags into the mix. In November she’ll display “Shop Small” tote bags for Small Business Saturday, and during the holidays you’ll find Nutcracker gifts. Right now, she’s displaying masks—no surprise, since it’s the new must-have item—along with stickers, scrunchies, pointe shoe keychains and jewelry. “We’ve also moved our training tools closer to checkout now,” she says. 

Velasquez also keeps gift cards prominently displayed on her counter and trains her staff to suggest them to customers shopping for that special someone, or just as a treat for themselves.

Checkout desk at Nathalie & Co. in Phoenix with rack of gift cards and notice that says "Your husband just called and said, 'Buy anything you want.'
The cash wrap at Nathalie & Co. Dancewear in Phoenix displays gift cards and rotates in other last-minute items. Featured right now: Masks! Courtesy of Nathalie & Co.

Keep a supply of easily forgotten items at the counter. 

In addition to a selection of small gifts, it’s important to keep easily forgotten must-haves within reach. They can be displayed in jars or stands on the counter, and extras can also be stored in a shelf behind the desk. When a customer says, “Oops, I forgot to get tights. I’ll get them next time,” your cashier can quickly present them with a pair, saving them time and energy, says Bender. 

“Our store is big,” says Martinez, “so at the cash we concentrate on these small things customers may miss before they check out.” Hair accessories like bun holders, bobby pins and hair ties are good examples of items dancers always need and are easy to forget. “Things that are super-marginal, super-cheap and don’t require much thinking can always be added on to a sale,” says Velasquez. 

Train your staff to talk up extra sales (in a nice way).

Beyond asking customers checking out “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” Bender suggests training staff to ask open-ended questions. “Who, what, when, where and why” are good conversation starters, she says. Consider questions like “What kind of Zoom dance classes have you enjoyed most?” “What about your recital are you most excited about?” and “What does your costume look like?” These can encourage conversation about (and sale of) recital-related products like makeup, hairpins and extra tights—or home technique tools and props.

“Everything on our desk is a talking point,” says Velasquez. “As customers stand there talking to you, the more you can increase your bottom line.”

Don’t forget to add signage.

Signage is important at your checkout, specifically any store policies around COVID practices, or steps you’re taking to keep your customers safe. The cash wrap is also the place to clearly display your returns policy, which customers should understand before they make a purchase. “You need a policy sign at your cash wrap, and it needs to be printed and framed,” says Bender. She adds that signage should never be handwritten or taped anywhere on your cash wrap, and it should be friendly and positive, not scolding. (Also, avoid leaving visible notes or instructions for your staff at the desk. “Your customers have no business seeing that,” she says.)

Velasquez is lucky to have a staff member who practices calligraphy and makes beautiful signage for the store. She uses small frames and chalkboards from IKEA to make signs that spotlight new products and feature fun sayings. She uses all-white frames since they are neutral and in line with her store branding and design. “We also print out pictures from our photo shoots,” she says. “Customers love recognizing dancers from their studios. They like seeing something they can relate to.” 

Last updated July 2020.

Libby Basile, a former editor of Dance Retailer News, writes frequently on retail design, displays and marketing.