Mr. Chuck Denton left me a very nice comment on the 'Gilt Complex' post. (Thank you, Chuck!) In it, he brings up the subject of 'NFS' tags ( that's 'Not For Sale', for those of you who don't know)...and I thought this subject was worthy of a bit more discussion.

I am a big proponent of the idea that everything you use in your store/shop/booth/space/etc. is for sale. If you are going to sell china, then sell the linens and table & chairs that you display it with! However, sometimes, this is neither practical or possible... like the fifteen foot tall birch tree I hauled into Columbia Winery last winter. It's a great display piece, but not exactly something you can have a customer haul out the door and onto their vehicle!!!

When I have a stellar piece of fabric or furniture that is mine and I love it, but that will just 'make' the display, I use it - and put an NFS tag on it so it won't be sold or removed. (Such as the darling white lawn chair in the photo above....I found that dumpster-diving, and use it all the time). We all know that if you don't tag it, a customer will move everything on it to get to it, remove it, and drag it up to the register to buy it. The poor cashier will have to explain that it's not priced, then the customer will argue that they want it so give a price already, and then the cashier either calls the dealer (in a booth/space scenario) to get a price, or she calls the manager to put a price on the item. Meanwhile the customer is getting impatient. To avoid this, just pin a visible NFS tag on the item, or 'Display Only, NFS'...something to indicate that the item is not available and should not be removed from the display. (Of course, this being retail, a tag does not guarantee that the item will not be removed from the display and chaos left in its wake - you know this, right?!)

In my current retreat display at Faded Elegance, I used a gold brocade tablecloth on a low round table. I tagged this NFS for two reasons: One, it's not really a table. It's an MDF round balanced on top of an old green potato chip tin that just happened to be the correct height for my setup. Not exactly gilded and gorgeous, so I don't want anyone to see it! If that tablecloth sold, then the ugliness would be visible. It would ruin the display. My second reason is that I have a large, heavy crystal lamp sitting on a small table on top of the damask tablecloth and ugly 'table'. In order to purchase the cloth, the rest of the display would have to be removed. I don't want that messed up or broken. So, I removed the temptation for a customer to undo the whole display, just to grab the tablecloth and inevitably hold it up, see it's square, and say 'Oh, I need an oval...' and toss it onto a chair.

Now, a store selling a line of linens can easily unfurl one across a tabletop and add accessories in the display - and put a basket full of the same linens on a chair next to the table, or on a shelf nearby. Many shops do this and actually put an NFS tag on the linen used in the display - then when the stock gets low or the display is dismantled, the used linen is priced at a discount. In a situation where things are one of a kind (antiques, collectibles, handmade, art), it gets harder.

When I want to use a tablecloth in a display but I also want it to sell, I'll drape it across the table diagonally or only on one half of the table (never laid flat, by the way - fabric should add a fluid sense of movement to a display), then place accessories on the surface of the table itself instead of on the cloth. This makes it easy for a customer to pick up the cloth, feel it, look at the size, and then place it back if it's not right for her. The display may then have a less-than-artfully draped piece of linen in it, but at least the whole display design is not totally destroyed.

The other thing tagged NFS in my current retreat display is the sign 'Gilt Complex'. It's Scrabble letters and a gold pipe cleaner - not irreplaceable, not expensive - BUT it sets the stage for my story. I don't want it to go because it gives people a laugh, and makes them see that this is a bit of merchandise that has been thoughtfully prepared for them to enjoy.

I often use things in a display that are not 'merchandise' - that birch tree, for example. An old wooden fence, or a garden trellis, a rusty bike or a wheelbarrow, perhaps. These items get an NFS tag, as well, so that they remain trusty helpers for all kinds of displays. (The white chair in the photo is a grat example of this).
That being said, if I can purchase a new garden trellis at Lowes and use it in a display, I'll price it to sell. That way, customers can re-create the whole look if they desire. Yes, I know I could put a little tag on there saying 'You can buy this trellis at Lowes!' but no one is ever going to go buy a trellis at Lowes to use on their dining room wall to display china plates with flowers on them - the way I did in the display. Trust me. If they love the idea now, and can buy it now, they'll do it. If it's any more effort than that, forget it. And if I bought the trellis new at Lowes, it isn't irreplaceable and therefore should be sold.

Knowing when to sell a prop and when to tag it NFS is not an easy thing. But selling an item that you really do love or use frequently, only to regret it later, is worse. I still lament the darling little childs' chair I sold years ago.... never seen another one like it. (Maybe that's why I hang on to more things now?!!!)


  1. I am in total agreement with you on tagging or not tagging and which to use. Say you have a prop that you have used over and over, I will tag it Display Only. I have found people say do you ever sell your display pieces and I can sell or not at that point. If I have tagged it with NFS, they tend to get agitated and ask why is it here then? So my point is let them think they are special by allowing them to buy a display piece.

  2. and I just sell everything without thinking (and then regreting for just a bit!)
    suzi finer

  3. Interesting post - good information. Thanks for sharing!