If we have learned anything from the pandemic it’s that independent retailers are highly resilient and can turn on a dime. We also know that you never have enough time to do everything you want to do to you sales floor, and that your customers require constant change to keep them coming back for more. While we can’t make the days longer, we can help with the tools necessary to help you plan your visual merchandising, the big part of your store that keeps shoppers interested.
You may have read that goldfish have an attention span of just nine seconds. Sad, huh? Yet we humans tend to lose interest after just eight seconds; blame it on the effect of technology. When it comes to in-store displays we tend to lose interest in about five seconds – this is why the days of “this display is good enough for now” just don’t cut it anymore. So what’s a retailer to do?
We’re glad you asked!
This post will be one you want to tear out and keep handy because it covers what you need to know to be prepared to set meaningful displays.
Elements of a Great Display
We both began our retail careers in the department store industry, back when these stores were not-to-be-missed examples of great retailing. One thing that has never left us is that it takes time and preparation to build a themed experience each month, and that a plan of action is necessary to make it happen.
Great displays don’t just happen. Sure, sometimes you get lucky and throw one together, but that’s exhausting month after month. It’s far better to know where you are going. Consider the following areas in planning your displays.
1. Theme: Choose a theme for each month of the year (note: some months may have more than one theme – but not together, one at a time.) Think about your overall theme and what it will take to achieve the look you are going for. When it comes to themes, remember that the store is always the story, not a single display. Carry elements of the theme throughout the sales floor to create a unified story.
2. Platform: This refers to the type of fixtures that are needed to create displays on your sales floor and in the windows. For example, what platform will you need to build your speed bump display? List each piece needed individually, taking into account what you already have and what you may need to buy.
3. Props: The little touches that you add to a display can add the pop that takes it over the top. Think texture: baskets, smooth woods, glass, metal, even different fabrications. Inexpensive Plexiglas risers are nice to have on hand to elevate featured products. Consider also the big props, like decorated Christmas trees during the holidays and trim throughout the store and windows.
4. Product: Choosing items to be displayed well in advance helps you focus on telling a complete story. While you are already purchasing lines seasonally, look for additional items to be merchandised on end features and other areas to carry out the theme. You can swap out or add additional product from the floor as needed.
5. Display Techniques: Consider the best technique to make the product stand out. We know that product set in a vertical segment is almost always better than product spread horizontally across a fixture. Vertical Merchandising causes the shopper to see more of the display because they look up and down at the display as well as forward. Cross-merchandising – placing items together that complement one another – is another strong technique to embrace. It makes buying more than one thing an easy decision for shoppers, plus you are exposing them to items they may have not considered before.
Each display will also need a Focal Point, the spot a shopper’s eyes go when looking at the display. Is the shopper drawn to a product you don’t want them to overlook? When there is no focal point browsers may be confused about where to look and simply move on. If the fixture itself is the focal point then it’s time to change the fixture.
6. Negative Space: This is the empty areas of the display, the white space frames the product. Your store is an explosion of color; let your key displays breathe a little.
7. Color: When you are searching for theme ideas color is a powerful choice. We are naturally drawn to color, but it’s also important to keep in mind that colors can have an effect on shoppers: Red is an aggressive color that makes some people anxious and can actually speed up the metabolism; Pink is happy, romantic, light-hearted and soothing; Yellow is optimistic, warm, cheery and the first color our eyes see; Green is calming and refreshing and said to be the easiest color on the eye; Brown signifies warmth and security; Blue represents trust, loyalty and confidence; Purple symbolizes luxury, wealth and sophistication; and orange just makes us happy.
8. Communication: In-store signing is incredibly important, yet often underutilized component of a good display. Signs answer questions about the product and can highlight features, price points, etc. On the sales floor women read signs for information but men rely on them, especially for big ticket items where features are so important. Remember that eye level – 4’-5’4” from the floor – is buy level. It’s also the best-selling area for adult shoppers, so if a sign can help encourage purchases, add one.
9. 5 Senses: Each of the five senses play a role in the customer experience and enhances your chosen monthly theme. Sight and touch obviously relate to merchandise, taste is limited to anything that’s prepackaged during the pandemic, but hearing and smell can make your monthly display themes even better.
Hearing in store design is really audio architecture because the right music can influence sales by providing a background that entices shoppers to stay longer and buy more. Disco, or any music that’s up beat, is our favorite because young or old, it makes shoppers smile. Music can also energize your store associates.
Research has proven that a pleasant-smelling environment has a positive effect on shopping behavior. A fresh pine scent during November and December, for example, will put shoppers in the holiday spirit. If you add scent to your themes do it safely using diffusers or machines specifically made for that purpose. But please, don’t burn candles on your sales floor.
10. Marketing: This involves any events or promotions that are tied to your theme, plus where the theme and related products will be marketed. Consider Facebook, Facebook Live, Instagram, Pinterest and bi-weekly email blasts.
Areas of Importance on Your Sales Floor
Knowing in advance which areas of the sales floor will be part of your monthly theme is a time saver. You can spread your theme wherever you like throughout the store, but there are key areas that need to be involved for one reason: If you mis-merchandise, these highly visual areas it can cost you in sales.
o Store Front Windows are the “eyes of the store”; they are the first thing a shopper sees as she approaches your door. Unless you are in a high traffic area where you need to change or tweak your windows weekly, plan to change your windows about every 30 days. More often if you have multiple themes planned for that month.
o Speed Bump Displays work the same way speed bumps in parking lots work: they slow shoppers down. They are also the first display shoppers see once they enter the store, giving a good indication of what to expect as they peruse the floor. Plan to change or update your speed bumps displays once a week; more often if your store has a lot of repeat customer traffic.
o Lake Front Property (LFP) on your sales floor is high end real estate. And since 90 percent of customers enter a store and look or turn to the right, your LFP has a big impact on store sales. If your store has a center door you will find your Lake Front Property at the front right side of the sales floor. If your door is at the far left your LFP will be on the right as shoppers enter, it’s the reverse if your door is located in the right corner. Regardless of where your LFP can be found it is important selling space that needs to be included in your themed displays and updated regularly.
o Power Walls, the one located at the front right in particular, is the most important selling wall in your store. Use it to feature merchandise you want every shopper to see.
o End Features, aka End Caps, are high-impulse shopping areas that are located at the end of gondolas or similar shelving-type fixtures. End features should not be used to house product permanently, they are best used to feature new items and promotional goods.
Theme Ideas to Help You Get Started
There are dozens of real and made up holidays to celebrate each month, like National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day in January – we can see an entire window dedicated to this theme! Listed below, you will find several holidays and ideas for each month to help get your creativity flowing. Brainstorming ideas with your associates is always a good idea, so is googling “goofy holidays”. Check also for state holidays and local events such as festivals and celebrations.
January: New Year’s Resolutions, New Year, New Projects, Fresh Start, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. February: Black History Month, Groundhog Day, National Wear Red for Women Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, President’s Day, The Oscars. March: March Winds Blow, Women’s History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, Coming of Spring. April: April Fools Day, April Showers Bring May Flowers, Spring, Take Our Daughters & Sons to Work Day, Easter, Arbor Day, Earth Day. May: May Day, Kentucky Derby, Mother’s Day, Cinco de Mayo, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day. June: Juneteenth, Vacation, Kid’s summer camp, Father’s Day, Flag Day, Summer. July: Independence Day Patriotism, | BBQ | Picnics, Family Time, Hooray for the Red, White & Blue, Summer. August: Dog Days of Summer, End of Summer, Back to School. September: Labor Day, Autumn, Fall leaves, Patriot Day (In honor of September 11), Grandparents Day. October: Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Indigenous People’s Day, Halloween, No tricks, Just Treats, Columbus Day, Sweetest Day, Oktoberfest. November: Family, I am Thankful For…, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday. December: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter, Snowman, Santa and Mrs. Claus, Love, Family, New Year’s Eve.
Much of your success at retail is contingent upon your visual merchandising skills – shoppers are not drawn to sparse or poorly executed displays, and stores that are the same no matter what time of year are often bypassed for those with a better in-store experience. Every fixture, every product, and every detail has an influence in whether a customer stays to buy and if they return to shop with you again. Yes, setting displays is an art, but it is also a science. And with just a little planning you can eliminate the last minute “what am I going to put there?” blues and give yourself a head start to creating great displays.
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