Mastering Visual Merchandising

Retail is a competitive business. Even if your product is completely unique, you still have competition. There is always another store down the road or online that is also aiming for your customers' dollars. The days of running a traditional family business lacking any real commercial sophistication are almost over. How you present your store is a very strategic aspect of your business. In a world where you can find identical merchandise in multiple stores, layout and presentation have become key differentiating factors. Going the extra distance with your displays and merchandising can not only impact immediate sales, but can also help you create a unique identity and ambiance that will contribute to building yourself a loyal clientele.

Don't fall into the trap of viewing merchandising and displays as frivolous extra expenses. This is especially important for small business owners who are just starting up. Today's competitive retail environment means that retailers cannot afford to consider merchandising as 'frills'. There are more choices out there for consumers than ever before, so retailers must continually work at capturing the consumer's attention. After invest money on important priorities such as a high traffic location, great merchandise, quality staff, insurance and advertising, your financial success depends upon whether or not your store measures up to customer expectations. To keep the customers from walking right past your door it is essential that merchandising and displays have a reasonable budget allocated. If you are on a shoestring budget start small, but make sure you include a plan for growth. You don't necessarily have to revamp the entire store; rotating merchandise, updating displays, and changing signage makes customers feel that your store always offers them something new.

In the Beginning...

The main purpose of visual merchandising is to create a logical and visually pleasing environment that will capture consumer attention and translate into increased sales. Retailers must create an environment that attracts the customer, is comfortable to shop in, and encourages the customer to return. The basics of visual merchandising include a clean, well lit store, with products displayed in orderly groupings. However, visual merchandising delves a lot deeper, focusing on the psychology and motivations of the target customer. Your entire store concept must be built around your target customers. You can have the most unique and creative store on the planet, but if it isn't consistent with what your customers desire and expect, then the effect will be lost.

Visual merchandising requires analysis and planning. Before you begin adjusting the design, display and merchandising of your store, you must have a clear understanding of the image you wish to project, and understand the demographics of the local community. What age groups are represented? What is the average income? What lifestyle do they currently live and/or aspire to? What interests them? Identify the type of individual you hope to appeal to and work out the best way to attract them. Look at competitors within your market to see if there is a void you can fill. Whatever approach you take, understanding who it is that you are appealing to and the message you wish to convey to them, will make your displays more effective and easier to create.

Visual merchandising begins outside your store. Posters covering the door and windows, hand-written signs, bad lighting and shabby displays send the message that your business isn't serious. If your store looks bargain basement, customers will expect bargain basement prices. Poor presentation may lead customers to assume that your product is poor quality as well. Your storefront must build your image and tell the right story about who you are as a retailer. Take a look at your storefront and try to see it as the customer would see it. What do you notice? What is lacking? Make some notes on possible improvements you could make to better achieve the image you want for your store.

Sameness and mediocrity are ubiquitous in most retail store designs today. There is a distinct lack of innovation and creative flair. Too many retailers look at a successful store chain, and then try to copy its look. If you can't separate yourself and be better than the competition, you might as well just go and work for them. You must give the customer as many reasons as possible to shop in your store. If you look the same, or worse, than the competition, then the customer will be less attracted to your store.

Focal Point & Visual Balance

An overwhelming display or a dreary one can both have the same downfall - lack of focal point. Ask yourself, where do you want your viewer to look? Is there one feature in particular that you want them to notice? If so, is that feature effect...

Read More


An often overlooked and underestimated tool available to retailers is store lighting. Lighting your displays properly can make the difference between a display that makes people yawn, or makes them stop and look. Simply changing the type or c...

Read More

Merchandising Similar Products Together

Displaying similar products together in a window is called creating an impact window. For example, if you stock an extensive line of bowls, you can create a dramatic presentation by simply stacking them in the window. This type of merchandising in...

Read More

Cross-Mix Merchandising

Displaying a variety of seemingly unrelated products together can create a comprehensive visual story. This type of merchandising communicates breadth of product and educates your customer about merchandise they may be unaware that you carry....

Read More


Accentuating displays with complimentary props will help maximise sales by presenting an appealing theme. For example, you can promote a "summer holidays" theme by using sand, seashells, towels, sunscreen, sunglasses and a beach umbrella as a...

Read More

Visual Merchandising and Display Supplies List

Calendar listing of all public holidays and special events
Double sided tape
Fishing line
Glass cleaner & paper towels
Hammer and screwdrivers
Hot glue gun and hot glue sticks

Read More

Assess All Angles

After you have completed your display, step back and look at it from a variety of angles. Try to view it as a customer would. Remember that very few people will see it standing directly in front of it as most displays are approached from the ...

Read More

Dynamite Displays

Merchandise displays generally take one of these three basic forms:
1. Storefront Window Displays
These usually open on to a street or shopping centre walkway and are designed to attract people passing by that might not ot...

Read More

Encouraging Impulse Purchases

Impulse purchases are the unplanned purchases customers make on a shopping trip. Savvy retailers maximise every opportunity to sell by aiming to convert customer visits into impulse buys. Point of sale add-ons can generate a significant amount of ...

Read More

Product Positioning

Successful retailers make the most profitable use of every square foot of costly space in their store. Floor plans, merchandise positioning and suitable displays are all key factors in the most effective use of space. Misuse of space can be a...

Read More

Graphics & Signage

Signs can be used to educate customers about merchandise for sale, announce special promotions or to direct traffic flow through your store. A significant percentage of sales are generated by in-store signage, displays and events; its impact ...

Read More

Seducing the Senses

The experience of visiting a store should be comfortable, rich and have impact. Create a sensual experience in your store by paying attention not only to sight, but also to smell and sound.

Reinforce your customer's...

Read More

Additional Merchandising Tips

An inexpensive tin of paint can be used to paint your fixtures, touch up chips and keep things looking new.
Use fabric or paper under or behind a display to provide an eye-catching backdrop.
Use motion to attract attention...

Read More

Merchandising Checklist

Are window displays creative, attractive & inviting?
Are all senses appropriately stimulated?
Is lighting effective?
Is all signage clear and professional?
Is the store interior clean, welcoming and...

Read More