Melanie McIntosh

Article Summary:

Creating Attractive Retail Store Displays

Retail is a competitive business. Don't fool yourself. Even if your product is completely unique, you still have competition. There is always another store down the street - or in the next cyber-mall - that is aiming for your customers' wallet. Customers have a limited amount of disposable income, but their choices of where to spend it are infinite.

While there are many aspects involved in marketing and gaining customer loyalty, one of the most important is your visual presentation.

  • Does your merchandise display attract and interest the customer?
  • Or does it overwhelm and confuse the viewer?
  • Is the display simply bland and unremarkable?
Here are some tips to help you create displays that will get the customers' attention:

1. Create a focal point
An overwhelming display or a boring one can both have the same problem - a lack of focal point.

Where do you want your viewer to look? Is there one main feature you want them to notice?

Where will the eye travel through the display? Don't leave this to chance. Plan what the customer should do when they see the display. Perhaps a new product is the main focal point, with complimentary items placed in close proximity to encourage multiple sales.

Many window and table displays are too low. The focal point should be at eye level to most viewers. Visitors will not work to get a good look at your display, they will simply walk on by without noticing.

2. Use line and shape to plan your design
Don't just put your products together willy-nilly. Practice drawing a quick layout to help you visualize the plan for your design.

Will your layout be horizontal or vertical? Will the products be arranged in straight or curved lines, in a pyramid or circular shape? Will the design combine a variety of elements, or just one?

To experiment with this, draw rectangle that is roughly the same shape as your display space. Sketch geometric shapes such as squares, rectangles, circles, semi-circles and triangles in various combinations to get a sense of an appealing layout. For instance, a large triangle could represent an arrangement of gift ware. A long vertical rectangle to the left of the triangle would represents signage placement.

3. Create balance
Strong displays have visual balance. Dark colors appear heavier than light ones. Large objects appear heavier than small ones. This seems straightforward, but you need to think about this as you plan your display. Generally larger, darker items would be placed near the bottom of a display, with lighter items at the top to avoid appearing top heavy. Placing too many items, or heavy looking items on one side appears unbalanced. A grouping of many items on one side of the display can be balanced by one heavy item in just the right place on the other side. Think of weights on an old fashioned scale to get an idea of how this works.

Does balance matter? We all respond emotionally to visual stimuli. Creating a display is about creating a mood and a desire within the consumer. A lack of balance creates an impression of instability and anxiousness. The consumer is not even aware of the feeling, he or she simply searches out an environment or merchandise presentation that gives them a positive feeling and creates an appealing mood.

4. Keep it simple
Don't try to do too much. The goal is to attract attention to the product. On a slat wall, often simple rows are the best way to show the merchandise. Too often I have seen displays where every row or shelf has a different arrangement.

Your goal is to make it easy for the customer to find what they are looking for and to make sense of your product arrangement. Keep your groupings logical by grouping similar products together, with complimentary products nearby.

5. Use proper lighting
Lighting is overlooked far too often. When budgeting for store fixtures and merchandising, display lighting is not an 'extra'. Lighting your displays properly can make the difference between a display that makes people yawn, or makes them stop and look.

Displays should not be lit directly from the top, or you will get unattractive shadows. Lights should be slightly off to the side, and to the front of the display. They should enhance the 3-dimensional quality of the product. Preferably the display will be lit from more than one angle. Lighting should be adjusted every time you change your display.

If you don't have positionable lights in your key display areas, especially windows, get some as soon as possible. A good lighting store will have some for a reasonable cost and can give you advice on installing and using them.

6. Look at the display from all angles
After you have completed your display, step back and look at it. Very few people will see it standing directly in front of it. Most displays are approached from the side and seen from an angle.

Approach your display from all possible angles and view it as a customer would.

Is your focal point still placed appropriately?

Do you need to angle the display to the customers viewpoint?

Is the signage visible and readable?

Does the arrangement still appear balanced?

Observe the direction from which most customers approach the display. Make sure that the best view of the display is the one that most of the customers will see.

Melanie McIntosh is a Retail Consultant and the founder of Inspire Retail Solutions, a British Columbia firm that helps retailers create strong, professional business images that attract customers.

Melanie is currently offering a free consultation for interested retailers. She can be reached by email.

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