25 May 2021, 07:39 AM
Visual merchandising 101

The hectic pace of change and adaptation over the past year has left little time for proactive planning, as maintaining your grip on your business has understandably been the primary focus. There is now a positive ray of light ahead of us in terms of the vaccine, and a glimmer of hope about a more predictable trading period, so let’s capitalise on the 2021 positivity and get ahead on our merchandising plans for the year.

Having a plan for anything means you are more likely to complete it, and merchandising is no different. Plotting out a calendar of the months ahead and the kind of displays you want to create will take a bit of time, but once you have got it, then it is easier to put into action, and to sustain for the long term.

To start with, aim for two main points of display focus per month:
• Something seasonal – There are masses of events throughout the year that you can feature – all the main calendar ones, such as Valentine’s, Easter, and Christmas of course, but think food and you’ll soon have other ideas… Veganuary, Burns Night, Pancake Day, and Wimbledon (hopefully!), to name but a few.
• New product feature launch – one for each area of your store per month max. Obviously you can have more new products on offer, but don’t overdo the variety of displays or you will confuse your customer instead of grabbing their interest.

Once you have this structure plotted out for the year and your confidence about the look of your store grows, you can then afford to look for topical subjects to add on. Perhaps there is a theme to conversations amongst customers on your social media, or something headlining in the press that you can pull upon and, in doing so, demonstrate just how up-to-the-minute your store is.

Keeping up the momentum

Involve the team in idea-generation for your merchandising plan. Get everyone together and explain your aims; pinpoint the hotspot display areas you are focussing on around your space; sketch out the bones of the calendar you have in mind; and then build up details at least quarterly with everyone’s input.

If you have a few people who are obviously fired up by the project, then divide the responsibility between them, engaging their competitive spirit. You will find the displays get more creative and effective if you are able to monitor the sales results for each of them, so devising a way of assessing this will really help to turbo-charge your merchandising effort.

Draw up an action plan and preparation timetable for each display, so that those involved understand their role, and keep this on show back of house so that it stays at the forefront of everyone’s minds and keeps you on track

Common display errors to avoid

A cluttered appearance

Today it is more important than ever to ensure sufficient circulation space for your staff and customers, so make sure your displays are easily seen but not crowding out your space and detracting from your retailing counters. Pick a colour scheme for your display and stick to it. Ideally, use this colour scheme to inform how all the displays look that month, as this will give your space a more cohesive and spacious look, especially useful if your store is small.

Easily ignored

Poor lighting or lack of height for any display means wasted effort as it will be simply overlooked. Use whatever natural or artificial lighting you have to highlight your efforts, installing temporary battery-operated lights, if needed. For instance, strings of fairy lights make excellent attention grabbers at any time of the year. Use crates and boxes of product to give height to the centre and rear of your display and help ‘lift it up’ in front of your customers.

Poor signage

Any display that does not include information about where the product can be found, how much it is, and what it goes well with will fail to generate sales. Use written messages to highlight key provenance details and pricing, and then illustrate the fact that the chutney goes well with cheese, for example, by positioning the display near the cheese counter, with a couple of jars alongside samples. Remember that any signage you put with your display should be totally ‘on brand’ for your business. Consistency is important and helps to instil customer familiarity and confidence. Both of which encourage loyalty and spending.

5 ways to create successful displays

• Have a plan and stick to it.
• Use colour wisely – less is more.
• Use hotspots sites for your displays.
• Add interest with context, texture and height.
• Include headline information – price, place, provenance.