Display 101: A Guide to Visual Merchandising

(Part 2 of 2)

There are 5 Visual Merchandising Essentials to consider when merchandising and designing displays for your store:

  1. The Merchandise
  2. The Display Area
  3. Props & Display Tools
  4. Signs
  5. Lighting

All are important and should be given consideration. Here are some details to help your planning.

  1. The Merchandise
    • Right product for the right time: It’s important that you are showing products in your display that are relevant to your customers. Example: Bring seasonal products into your store 6 weeks before the season starts.
    • Too much product: This is a big concern I have for retailers. A lot of stores have too much stuff in them. Many times the wrong stuff, dated stuff. Lots to cover here for another time, another article.
    • Product that does not perform: Get rid of it. If it’s been in your store for more than a year and hasn’t done well, out it goes. Don’t get emotionally involved with your products, let them go.
    • Not the right mix of product: Know your customers; know what is relevant in their lives. Don’t know? Ask them. Do a survey in your store.
    • Products in displays are sales tools for your staff. Understand this and train your staff with the very best product knowledge on what you sell.
    • The product you sell determines the purpose and value of any display you do.
    • Display is very important to your brand – create a specific image, a look – this will help sell through.
    • End use displays: Your displays should suggest what the product or collection of products will look like when the consumer gets them home.
    • Look for your display inspiration to come from the products’ colors, shapes, sizes, symbols, slogans, and always ask “Is it relevant to the customers?”
    • Choose uneven numbers of merchandise to present in tight grouping. It’s a design thing.
  2. The Display Area
    • Windows are the eyes into your store. Plan to change your window displays every two weeks. It sends a message to customers that there is always something new going on in the store. And as you know NEW drives business. Also make sure your window displays reflect holidays, special events, and sales promos. You should have a separate display schedule for your window.
    • 5-7-9 Rule: Select 5 to 9 places in your store, including your windows, to set up special displays – for example, end use displays.
    • Consider the size of your display space. It has to fit into the floor plan. The rule here is aisles have to be 3′ minimum. You are now creating better traffic flow through your store.
    • Consider your customer’s eye level. The selling zone is from the customer’s eye to the knee. Customers very rarely look up and they most certainly do not buy from the floor.
    • Platforms: Yes, you should be using these. They give a feeling of presenting something very important. Like being on a stage.
    • Ceiling-mounted grids. You have to have them, both in your windows and throughout the store above each end use display. Why? So you can suspend things.
  3. Props & Display Tools
    • Props must help to create and reinforce the theme of a display. In today’s market your displays should self-prop, because you are using everything you SELL to tell a story.
    • Risers: I like acrylics because they blend into the background.
    • Furniture/ tables, chairs, etc… depending on your store mix you need these to help tell display stores. If you sell other types of products, contact me and I will share what you need specifically.
    • You need a focal point. This is always the largest mass in the display. It can be a sign, product, prop mannequin, furniture, etc. Focal points draw the eye into the display. Don’t be afraid of big or bright colors.
  4. Signs
    • In-store department signs: I’m big on this idea. You will influence a customer to move through you store if they are able to see a sign that suggests to them that you sell more than they see in front of them.
    • Signs create and reinforce the theme of a display. Try this one: Finish off your display by hanging a sign over the top – these further support the story of why you did the display in the first place.
    • Signs are silent salespersons: this works because signs can provide information on the merchandise and services.
    • Signs can be part of the creative display grouping if designed and placed thoughtfully. You may want to practice this one for a while. It takes skill to do it right.
  5. Lighting
    • Another key for you – my research shows that lighting is # 1 sales influencer. My many years of designing retail stores has taught me that retailers do not spend enough on lighting.
    • Do you have the right lighting on your display? You need bright white clean focal light on your displays.
    • Wall display lighting: Your walls need to be washed with light.
    • Window display lighting: Your window displays must have a designated light track washing the window area with light.
    • Each end use display must have a designated lighting source.
    • Lighting adds drama to your store and draws attention to your displays.
    • Lighting creates high and low light levels. You want this – I promise you.
    • Good lighting leads the consumer’s eye to the focal point areas in your store.

Read Part 1 of Display 101: A Guide to Visual Merchandising

New for 2009:

The Retail Makeover Business Planning Program

Display 101: Creating Strong Displays Part 1 of 2

Barbara Crowhurst

By Barbara Crowhurst, Retailmakeover™, 12/30/2008

Why Display is Important to your Retail Business

  • Over stimulated customer, and there are a lot of us around these days, need things made easy. Good displays make an easier shop with products presented in a unified way.
  • First Impressions. You don’t get a second chance here. Displays that are done right support your brand image and what you are all about as a retailer.
  • Competition. There’s a lot out there. Be the retailer everyone else talks about. Make a commitment to have great displays through out your store.
  • Entertainment. We want to be entertained as consumers. Display can be one way to bring a smile with whimsy or something a little out of the norm. Be the retailer to offer displays that entertain.
  • Create a strong focal point

    Educate the customer. Effective display can teach on so many levels. Best example of this – displaying the newest products in the hottest colors. May be your a retailer that believes in being eco friendly? Your displays show product from this important area. And so on.

  • Makes shopping easy. Having good display in each department of your store will help better traffic flow. Better traffic flow gets consumers seeing more of your merchandise and staying in your store that magic 7 minutes – when they start to make more buying decisions.
  • Multiple sales. Magical words to retailers.
  • Best use of space. Rents are going thru the roof these days. Commit to better displays you’ll be glad you did. You will see a dramatic increase in traffic and sales.

Guidelines To Creating Strong Display Groupings

  1. Develop a theme for your display, which will immediately explain to the viewer what you are promoting. A theme holds all your display components together, but every item, including every prop, must contribute to the theme.ok as though they belong together by doing this.
  2. Keep your display grouping tight, in strong simple arrangements. Overlap components so that there is no air between them. Even unrelated items can look as though they belong together by doing this.

    Create visual rhythm

  3. Create a strong focal point, to draw the eye to your display. This can be done with your merchandise, with a prop, with your signing and can be assisted by a strong focal point. Contrast is a great way to create a focal point. Don=t forget to consider where the viewers eye level is, and consider placing the focal point there.
  4. Create the visual rhythm, in the placement of your components to pull the eye through the display. The eye can be seduced by a ribbon that actually moves through the display. Try it.
  5. Repeating items in your display will make your message easier to understand and create a dramatic visual impression for the viewer.
  6. Keep your display high at the back and low at the front, so that the eye will flow down through the grouping and so that all the merchandise will be visible. Accordingly, place large components at the back of the display and small components at the front.
  7. Create 3-dimensionality by using the depth in your window display. This brings the merchandise out towards the customer and brings your display to life.
  8. High at the back and low at the front

    Be aware of how much merchandise you place in your display. Less merchandise usually creates a higher priced image, and more merchandise usually creates a lower priced image. This feeling can be overcome with excellent displays.

  9. A display must be professionally completed with professional signing and lighting so that you can get the full benefit from its visual statement. Everything must be perfectly clean and fresh, from the window glass to the floor covering in the display area.

All in the Family

By Caroline Kennedy, Gifts & Decorative Accessories, 2/26/2008
For retailers, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day offer an opportunity to boost second quarter sales. According to the research of the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers will spend nearly $25 billion for these holidays, with an average 35% of consumers doing some or all of their shopping in specialty and greeting card stores.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day also offer gift retailers an ideal opportunity to reach out to two hard-to-reach consumer groups: men and younger customers — teens and tweens — whose business they can cultivate for future returns.

Commando shoppers

One of the few occasions when men are forced to shop is Mother’s Day. When it comes to attracting their business, service is a key; and of course, service is the forte of the specialty gift retailer. Many men utilize “commando” or “strike force” shopping techniques. They locate what they want immediately, swoop down on it, make the purchase and leave. If they don’t see what they want immediately, they just leave.

Retailers need to engage these commando shoppers with a calculated counter strategy to seize their attention. Make shopping easy, putting your best display up front. Make sure your staff is on the lookout for men coming through the door. The offer of help and a good gift suggestion may be all you need to tip the scale toward making a purchase — especially when it comes to choosing something special for the women in their lives.

“People really appreciate gift-giving ideas,” notes April McCrumb of Catching Fireflies, Berkley, MI.. “It’s a tough job finding that perfect goody for someone special.” And when it comes to spending on gifts for their ladies, men tend not to be tightwads; if 2007 figures are any indicator, those commandos will spend upwards of $170 on Mother’s Day gifts.

The next-gen shopper

Next to Christmas, Mother’s Day offers gift retailers the best opportunity to draw younger customers into their stores. These youngsters represent the next generation of consumer, and cultivating their business early on will show them what your store has to offer in the way of merchandise and service.

Today’s kids have grown up with computers and the Internet; they are much more apt to shop — or at least go looking for product and gift suggestions — online. If your store doesn’t have a Web presence yet, you may be missing out on this demographic. (And not just with the younger set; tech-savvy men are also more likely to source and shop online.) You might also want to “get into their heads” a little and develop a sense of what appeals to younger shoppers. As Bettie Edwards of The Little House, Vashon Island, WA, puts it, “You need a WWTKWYTC — a We Want to Know What You Think Club.”

Edwards invites a group of kids to bring their own info and input to the table. “A little pizza makes them smile,” she says, and one of her club members always goes away with a small prize — earrings or such — for their efforts. “I’m also taking a sophomore and a junior [in high school] to market with me,” adds Edwards. “They will each actually make two complete jewelry line buys. It’s fun to watch their energy!”

Other retailers — such as Christi Tullis of Ambiance Interiors, Suwanee, GA, and Mary Liz Curtin of Leon & Lulu, Clawson, MI — have brought their offspring to market as advisors and/or junior buyers. The kids have a different sense of what’s cool and fun.

If you reach out to kids for special occasion shopping, get to know what they like, and offer some unusual merchandise, they might make your store a destination — not only for their gifting needs, but also for the shopping experience you gave them.

Selling the family

When it comes to merchandise for Mother’s and Father’s Day, experienced retailers advise evaluating what you already have on hand that can be merchandised in a fresh way as parental gifts. “We’re not doing as much ‘seasonal’ direct buying,” remarks Bettie Edwards. “It’s amazing how much we can find in the store, things that we carry all year, that can be merchandised with a different twist and lots of fun signs.” Presenting merchandise in a different context allows customers to see it in a new light.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore merchandise that is specific to the occasion, especially greeting cards and gift items that bear specific sentiments for Mom and Dad. And even those gift items have a shelf life beyond the occasion, re-merchandised for birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries or “just because.” Make sure to keep a range of price points in your selection, so there’s something for every budget.

© 2008, Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All Rights Reserved. First printed in Gifts & Decorative Accessories, February, 2008 and reprinted with permission.

The Buying Power of Men

Gifts & Decorative Accessories, 1/2/2008

According to market research firm Packaged Facts, the purchasing power of men totals $5.4 trillion. Packaged Facts forecasts major growth, to $6.7 trillion in 2009, or 24.6%.While the non-Hispanic white population still tops the charts at $4.2 trillion, the growing multicultural male market tops $1.1 trillion. Other segments include gay men ($337 billion), married men ($4 trillion) and single men ($1.4 trillion).There are a lot of men in the last category: 37 million men are currently single, counting never-marrieds, divorced and widowed men. The largest segment of the single men market consists of men 25-to-44 who have never married. They have an aggregate income of around $391 billion. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are nearly 3.6 million male consumers living alone who have an annual income of $40,000 or more. Their after-tax income averages approximately $69,000, and they spend an average of nearly $46,000 annually.

Men in the 25-to-49-year-old age group were responsible for 55.8 percent of total buying power in the men’s market. Gen-X men accounted for the largest single segment, controlling aggregate buying power of more than $1.5 trillion. However the importance of older demographics is growing fast: Between 2004 and 2009, Packaged Facts expects the buying power of 60-to-74-year-olds to increase by $552 billion, or 76.7 percent.

Published with permission from Gifts & Decorative Accessories.

What Men Want

By Mike Scott, Gift Shop Magazine, 4/25/2007

Men and shopping. Think the two don’t go together? Think again! More than ever, men are now shopping for themselves. With the market for men’s products set to grow to $6.7 trillion by 2009 there’s never been a better reason to pay attention to the male shopper. GIFT SHOP takes a look at the numbers and visits with retailers who are cashing in by reaching out to guys.

Sure, word on the retail floor might be that men and shopping don’t mix, but Candace Corlett, principal of WSL Strategic Retail, a retail strategy consulting firm in New York City, says its time to debunk that myth. A recent report published by her company found that innovative gift shops that cater to men, especially young men, with a comprehensive array of services are doing astonishingly well, and that they compose one of the fastest-growing segments in gift retail today.

“We have a generation of men around 18 to 35 who grew up in a household with a working mom, and now are dating or married to working women, who have been buying items for themselves for years,” Corlett says. “But many retailers still view that male shopper as the guy sitting outside the dressing room waiting for their spouse to finish trying on clothes.”

While this feature concentrates primarily on men shopping for themselves, Doug Fleener, president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group, a retail-consulting firm based in Lexington, MA, says retailers could use a few tips selling to guys buying products both for themselves and others.

Fleener encourages retailers to get their products into men’s hands as much as possible. “The best way to sell [to] a guy is to physically engage him with the product. Get it into his hands. Whatever it does, have the guy doing it,” he says.

On the other hand, Fleener says, if a guy is buying something for the woman in his life, the experience is completely different. “We have one goal: get it bought. Whether it’s a present for the wife or a quick trip to the store with our given list, we don’t want control,” he says. “We don’t like small talk; we want to be told what to buy. We don’t want choices, we want suggestions.”

Corlett agrees. Men have distinctly different buying patterns than the majority of female shoppers; they don’t enjoy browsing for long periods of time, or “hunting and pecking” for items, she says. “Men want to make quick decisions and be in and out of a store,” she says.

Corlett says this means that sales associates and owners of gift shops should be more attuned to the needs of men and understand that while they are less likely to ask for help, they often are more in need of answers to one or more questions.

“Men are largely afraid to ask a question, so it is important for a [retailer] to approach them and put them into their own comfort zone, so that those men will have a positive shopping experience,” Corlett says.

Fleener’s advice? Train employees to promptly assess the guy’s shopping needs and to make product recommendations. “The faster the buying process is, the happier the guy will be,” he says. Fleener points out that men buying for others are also open to suggestions for add-on items that can increase your sales.

Mike Scott is a freelance writer who has contributed to more than 80 national and local publications. He lives in White Lake, MI.


Facts at a Glance

The U.S. market for men’s goods (including apparel, accessories, durable goods such as televisions etc.) is projected to increase from $5.4 trillion in 2004 to $6.7 trillion in 2009. This represents a cumulative growth of 24.6 percent.

  • American men in the Generation X bracket (usually defined as those born between 1963-1978) accounted for the largest single segment of the men’s market and a controlled aggregate buying power of more than $1.5 trillion.
  • American men are getting more involved in purchases for themselves. In 2003 women were responsible for only 30% of men’s apparel purchases, compared to 52% in 1998 and 60% in 1985.**

Credit: Packaged Facts, a division of Marketresearch.com
** NPD Group