before & after: retail display solutions

A successful retail display doesn't just happen.

it is the result of a combination of knowing the science of retail principles
and the art of composition and placement. 
Both combine to create a 3D work of art that invites customers in - 
and results in sales of product.

There are some retail display design principles that are oh-so-perfectly illustrated
by the following 'before and after shots',
and to discuss them means that I have to critique the 'befores'.
So while I point out all of the flaws in the design below,
know that I realize someone worked hard putting it together...
they just didn't know the most effective way to do so.

continue reading as i describe what was wrong -
and how easily those challenges were addressed...

Take a peek at Columbia Winery in Washington state, circa June, 2003:
This display ran front to back on the right side of the winery gift shop.
The view is from the front.
It was made up of approximately 17 different fixtures:
shelves, tables, stands, racks, planters, etc.
I don't have an exact accounting of how many different products were in it,
but I believe it was somewhere near 50.

Not a quantity count of 50 products, but 50 different products in various quantities.
From candles and soap to wine and food and linens and dishes
and glassware and tchotchkes and florals and silver and glass. Whew!
The display from the rear of the shop.
That one single display setup ran the entire length of one side of the shop -
2o feet, to be exact. Yes, the display was 2o feet long.
The shop is approximately 35 feet deep at that point. You do the math.

Ok, so just what are the problems there?

*First off, in either view above, you just don't know where to look.
There is no focal point in the display.

No use of color or scale or theme in the product selection to draw your attention in...
your eye just sort of bounces all over the place trying to find a place to land.

*The mix of fixture styles is distracting.
(oak & glass shelving, maple tables, dark wood shelving, mixed metal stands)
You tend to be overwhelmed by this cacophony of furniture styles,
instead of looking at the products.
Also, putting this many fixtures together creates a wall in the middle of the space -
very overwhelming and detrimental to traffic flow and visibility.
(I now actually refer to this formation as 'the train'!)

*The mix of products here is not a good example of 'cross merchandising'.

This is a bunch of varied merchandise filling tables and shelves.
Cross merchandising is judiciously choosing several lines of product that work together
to create a story, mood, serve like purposes, etc.
and arranging it purposefully to show it effectively.

*The props are small in comparison to the fixtures, and they disappear.
(Did you even see the flowers and branches?)
Scale is important, especially when you want to capture attention.
Now let me show you some of the displays
that have been placed in that same area of the shop since i took over the visual merchandising:
Columbia Winery, circa Spring 2006:
This display is seen from the front of the shop.
The fixtures/tables all match and are placed in a way
that cascades forward and shows the products at their best.

The props match and are large in scale
(all black metal shelves & planters, with a large grapevine in one).
The color of the props is bright and coordinates with the merchandise
so it draws your eye in while setting a mood.
The merchandise mix is all built around the main products:
wine and the ceramic line.
There are approximately 15 products in this display:
ceramics (2 lines), wine, linens (2 lines), florals (2 types - hydrangeas and grapes),
metal planters, glassware, metal plate pedestals, food (3 lines), books (2 titles), and candles.
This display was approximately 10 feet deep, front to back, and eight feet wide.

Then there was a six foot pathway, and another display setup behind it
(which you can see in the rear left of the photo above.....)
This display is smaller than the one in the front: About 6 foot square.
Again, the fixtures/tables all match ( and cascade to the rear of this display).
The tower on top matches the black iron props/accents.

The green shutter props add color and coordinate with the merchandise(the ceramic plates have artwork of outdoor cafes on them - with awnings and shuttered windows).
The flowers add fresh spring interest.
By limiting the items to a sort of French Bistro theme,
the look remains simple and crisp.

There are about 12 product lines in this display:
ceramics (3 lines), glassware, linens, the iron bike pieces, wine,
florals (2 lines), fondue pots, and food (2 lines).

Columbia Winery, circa winter 2005:

Height is important, as is using color to pull a customer in closer.
That being said, note that the height is in the center of the display area,
not across the entire width of it -
room is left for the eye to focus on this display,
and then look beyond to see what else the space holds.

The stepped placement of the tables helps create levels
that hold products and entice the eye.

Summer, 2006: Wild vibrant color, fun props (sooooooo cheap)and you've got a fiesta.
note: The ceramic ware shown in many of these photos is all from the same line, in varied colors - 
by combining them in new ways along with new linens and accessory ceramics from other lines, 
a whole new look and mood can be created. that drives sales!

Spring 2007: Two separate displays, on new fixtures.
Two stories, different products,
but the colors relate to one another so the effect is not jarring to the eye.
This is the principle of 'adjacencies' - coordinating factors when displays are close together.

One other noticeable thing:
Removing the old dead grapevines overhead and painting the walls a lovely sage green
has made a major visual impact in the shop.
That helps all of the displays look better.
Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do the big jobs. The expensive jobs.
Trust me, the visual impact will be well worth it.

successful Visual Merchandising is all about presentation, 
and effectiveness is in the details!

this content originally appeared here on my blog in 2007

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