Visual Merchandising

During a marketing course I attended, I recall my Professor saying, “People don’t know what they want until they see it.”  Not long after, I read a study which suggested that nearly two-thirds of shoppers are more likely to buy the items that they see on a display.  “Seeing is buying” is a philosophy many businesses and retail stores go by – and it is for this reason that visual merchandising is being heavily invested in, by retail stores, corporates and small businesses.

Every few weeks, London based chocolatier Choccywoccydoodah nominates different staff members to work on decorative edibles to occupy their elaborate window displays.  These displays are a huge part of the store theme, and are one of the biggest revenue generators for the store.  Popular retail brand Abercrombie and Fitch has created a niche target segment by means of their store layout and displays.

Be it a big budget campaign for a multinational organization or a small retail store, many businesses use visual merchandising as a first point of contact with the consumer.  Here are a few tips to keep in mind while trying to capture the attention of consumers, and getting them into the store to make a purchase:

  1. Using color, light and graphics – this is an inexpensive yet effective way of getting the consumers attention.  Be it the use of bold or pastel colors, using decorative wallpaper or cozy lamp shades, these simple themes speak a voluminous story and create maximum impact on a visual display as well as on the ambience of a store.
  2. Pyramiding – using a triangle like structure to assemble products provides the consumer a top down approach of viewing items.  Place the focal product at the top and gradually introduce other products going down. 
  3. Working with the power of odd numbers – placing three or five similar products sideways on a display ensures that the eyes get familiar with a display faster than having to register different products at once.
  4. Storytelling and cross merchandising – let the merchandise be the star and tell its own story.  It is also an effective idea to display complementary products next to each other.
  5. Using unexpected props – there is no limit to creativity here, so go ahead and use props such as cycles with baskets to hold products, surf boards, decorative ropes and ribbons, butterflies, baubles and even disco balls!  Who doesn’t appreciate a bit of cheer?
  6. Consistency and repetition – focus on creating simple, clean yet attractive displays.  Use stacking to ensure more products can be included, and try to use either vertical or horizontal merchandising to create an easy pattern for the eyes to follow.

Before you set to work on creating merchandising masterpieces, do keep in mind that every business is different, has a different target market and sales strategy, and it is hence very important to follow the below mentioned fundamentals prior to creating a merchandising display:

  1. Organize – understand the available assortment and sales force, and then decide on how much time and money a visual merchandise project can justify.
  2. Plan – try to plan displays or themes by season, upcoming trends and sales strategy.
  3. Test – run a pilot to see if the merchandising effort is generating the expected outcome, and try to have an easy back up plan to fall back on.
  4. Analyze – sales figures are often times a good measure of success and will also help lay a foundation for future initiatives.

Do not center your focus on merchandise that is already selling very well, is on sale or is being discontinued.  It may also be a good idea to draw inspiration from current trends or themes such as those discussed in fashion magazines, business journals or celebrity endorsements.

So go ahead and work on a visual eye catcher – and remember – show, don’t tell!

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