The apparel department can be a profit center - it just needs the right mix of product, merchandising and placement to do its job. Generally we place the apparel section at the front of the store, mainly to give it the most exposure.
Softgoods do bring personality to the store. It's something everyone can relate to - you know, clothing! It makes even the most novice rider feel like that is a section of the store they understand. Most importantly it is something that brings freshness to the store every season. It is important to have a good selection of styles and sizes, as that is what the consumer is used to when buying apparel.
Merchandising is creating those visual impressions. As apparel is a spontaneous buy for the most part, it is important to create as many visual impressions on the wall as possible so the consumer sees the apparel selection coming into the store and leaving the store. They may not buy it this time, but if you did a good job merchandising it will remain in their mind for a possible later purchase.
Creating stories, both in the form of color or telling a technical story, will increase sales. If you have bought the apparel correctly you will be able to create color stories and outfits. Women especially respond well to having outfits laid out for them. Placing a jersey, jacket, shorts, socks and gloves that go together in the same section will cause them to buy something they hadn't intended to buy - the whole outfit. The same idea can be followed through with a technical story all grouped together in the same section.
Men's and women's sections should be separate whenever possible. Sales increase when the consumer knows which section they need to be in to shop for themselves. Mannequins are the best way to differentiate these sections. Cycling apparel has low hanger appeal, meaning it generally doesn't look good on the hanger, so, forms and mannequins leave out the guesswork. The consumer can get a better idea of what garments look like on and are more apt to purchase products displayed on mannequins.
Learn how to use visual merchandising, color stories and mannequins to better sell apparel in the third video in Bicycle Retailer's Minute Makeover series on youtube.com/bicycleretailer.