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15-Oct-2014

Make your store displays shine

If I were to walk by your business, what first impressions would your business project? Is your business attracting attention? Is it communicating a welcoming personality or something of interest that taps my curiosity? In a short eight seconds, I am making various assumptions about the impression your business is communicating. 

These first impressions, which are difficult to reverse or undo, lead to conclusions about whether or not I will become your customer. First impressions are critical and can be managed with time invested in visual merchandising and window displays. If done well, an effective merchandise display can provide a competitive edge when it follows the simplicity of the AIDA formula: Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

A good merchandise display pulls customers into and throughout your business. It works for you  as a “silent salesperson,” communicating and motivating your customers to take notice, get interested, seek more information, and make purchase decisions.


Merchandise displays don’t require a sophisticated, creative mind or budget. In fact, there are many low-cost ideas and design tips you can adapt and make your own. If your business lacks display windows, turn your attention to interior foot-traffic patterns and identify focal point areas for your display(s).


Select a Focal Point Focal points capture attention and are the main feature of the display. They guide the eye and are created with color, lighting, movement, featured merchandise and props. I often show my students how to incorporate movement by hanging light weight items on fishing line and adding a discreetly hidden fan or battery-operated gadget that moves in a repetitive pattern.


Select Unexpected or Unrelated Props Props are essential and add levels of attention and interest that highlight merchandise. For example, when visiting Minneapolis I photographed a four-wheeler placed in a high-end women’s boutique window. The four-wheeler was draped with women’s scarves and sparkly jewelry and there were red lipstick kisses all over the window with the signage “Pucker Up.”  The unique and creative choice of this four-wheeler certainly got the attention of husbands and boyfriends who would have no excuse to forget an anniversary. I repurpose items such as shelves, tables, racks, and dressers for displays by painting them with chalk paint, stencils and faux paint finishes.


Embrace Color and Interesting Shapes Color is often the most noticeable and memorable component, grabbing attention when you alternate, repeat, or mix-up patterns. Color creates mood and atmosphere and boosts the spirit. Bold colors are recommended because they vie for attention but pastels and rich, deep colors will enhance merchandise, too.


Vary Heights in Product Placement Create varying heights to showcase more merchandise and add visual interest. Anything can be used to raise items off the floor, so think beyond standard shelving or tables. Wooden crates, large vases turned upside down, pillars, and sturdy cardboard boxes covered in fabric are some examples. Just be certain to stay away from straight or horizontal lines of products when layering merchandise.


Signage Signs are often necessary, but keep them brief and easy to read. The professionalism of the sign should match that of the product. It’s a simple process to print signs with your computer and printer, so don’t cut corners. Properly position your printed signs in  decorative frames or other professional sign holders. They are very inexpensive, reusable and available in numerous sizes.


Ongoing Maintenance Gravity is not your friend, so check your displays regularly. Props can topple and hanging items can loosen. Always keep your display area clean, free of dust, and pick up every stray staple, pin or thread. In the light, these items can be illuminated and are distracting. Plus, this oversight reflects poorly on the image of the business. 

Update every two to three weeks It's very important to strike your displays and create new displays on a planned two to three week interval. When displays remain too long, the message sent is "nothing new here." The message you communicate should be fresh, new and exciting.


About the Author

Laura Bulas
Business Administration Instructor, Central Community College

Laura has been a faculty member in the Business Administration Department at CCC, Hastings for 29 years. Her emphases are marketing, management and sales. She earned her BA at the University of South Dakota and her M.A.T. from Hastings College.


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