We're Hiring!

Retail Greatness Blog

Visual Merchandising: Make Display Themes Work for Your Stores

Regardless of your ability to have input on any given set, you should always strive to up your skill level. You never know when you'll be asked to run with a given set; and if you're prepared with awesome skills, you have a real opportunity to help your customers, their customers, and your career.

Visual merchandising can make the difference between a happy client and a satisfied one. I’ve talked to interior designers and merchandising consultants who’ve provided some great ideas that can help merchandisers create more attractive – and effective – floor, shelf and window displays. Here’s what they tell us…

Visual Merchandising: Make Display Themes Work for Your Stores

Whether you’re merchandising a grocery store, fashion outlet, or pet mart, display themes provide an opportunity to not only feature certain products, but to evoke emotion, stimulate thought, and, most importantly, spark the impulse to buy.

Themes can act like magnets if they are conceived, designed, and constructed the right way. Here’s a good way to approach each step:

  • Conceive – Think of the buyer first. What sort of themes will generate excitement, curiosity, confidence, or other buying drivers. Develop a theme that will stand out among the other displays in the store.
  • Design – What thematic elements help to drive purchases? Consider the colors, shapes, textures, etc. that will bring the theme’s point home for shoppers. Then use those elements to construct your display.
  • Construct – Make sure to use sturdy, durable props that will withstand traffic. Of course, the products should be the primary feature of the display, so use spacing and visual planes (eye level, slightly above, slightly below) to accentuate the products.

Theme selection should be more than simply trotting out some goal posts and pennants for the big football game, YOU MUST THINK DEEPER.

Think of how you can take a different approach with traditional display themes. Take Valentine’s Day, for example. Instead of hanging red and white hearts behind a selection of candy, use thematic elements to show how your shoppers can mend a broken heart or lift the spirits of someone who has lost a loved one.

Match themes to the product promise. For instance, if you’re displaying gardening equipment in the springtime, use a centerpiece of a manicured lawn or small garden to connect the products with an outcome or result.

Use a color plan for your theme that visually paints the space to accent focal points within the display. Select flattering colors that evoke emotion. Include bright colors where possible to attract the eye from a distance.

Have your display theme tell a story that convinces shoppers to buy. Everyone has done the traditional Easter theme with flowers and rabbits or a Christian-themed display. But how about an Easter egg hunt theme that reveals the routine local changes that take place every year? 

Use the element of surprise to generate more interest. When possible, avoid the predictable, traditional “here is our product” themes. Without going overboard, infuse shock and awe in your themes to evoke emotion and create curiosity.

Keep your theme “clean”. Avoid cramming too much into the display, because this can actually distract and turn off shoppers. Your display theme should also have a clear perimeter and sharp visual definition among the design elements. If the product being featured is small, consider assembling items into a larger form, such as using individual candy canes to construct a Christmas tree in a holiday display.

Match display themes with retail advertising. If a store will be using a specific color scheme and visual elements in its advertising, then your display should mimic those features. Don’t select blue and gold colors for seasonal holiday display if the advertising will feature red and green.

Use your theme to educate whenever possible. For instance, if you’re creating a theme for a spring auto maintenance group of products, put up some basic instructions for DIYers.  You can also add a little fun and excitement by including a contest to increase engagement with your displays. This can be a simple paper entry and ballot box or you can infuse technology with a QR code that opens a contest info page on their smartphones.

Keep this in mind: Avoid repeating themes, even year over year. Customers will get tired of them and sales for featured products will suffer. However, you can – and should – reuse elements or rotate themes among multiple stores. 

Look at what competitors are doing for thematic displays. You may get some good ideas that you can mimic or adapt to fit into your own unique display. By examining multiple theme-based displays in the field over time, you can get a sense of what is working for others.

New Call-to-action



Topics: visual merchandising merchandising skills field rep greatnes merchandising success