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How 3 Lines Can Turn You Into a Merchandising Pro

Anyone can create great window displays.

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At left, a basic pyramid of dog food bags. Note the additional bags serving as risers. At right, black and white is always impactful and says “fashion.” A scratching post makes a great framework for displaying product.

This story was originally published in the January 2018 edition of PETS+.

IT DOESN’T TAKE a professional visual person to do great window and in-store displays. The reality is, anyone can do it. Visual people all follow the same guidelines, which is how they’re able to do great displays in very little time. You can make professional level displays yourself, if you just learn some of the basic rules.

With the exception of apparel, all merchandise visual is based on the “pyramid concept.” Pyramids are used in windows, on tables and valances.

Arrange three pieces of product in a tiered configuration, with each item at a different level. This is your pyramid; a tall central element with a two of three shorter items around it. The buildup has height and brings the display closer to eye level. This is just the start, as you’ll add additional items later to fill out the display. But it’s always the pyramid configuration you’re going for.

A display needs to read from a distance. Itsy-bitsy items create clutter, and aren’t visually compelling. They can be used however, if they are used in quantity — multiples create a larger visual presence. You can also use risers to increase the height of a product. Simple risers are available from retail supply companies. You can also use common items to serve the same purpose. Crates and baskets are good choices, as are wrapped boxes. But keep it simple. You want the risers to be neutral, and not fighting for attention themselves.

Add two or three items to the original three. These will fill out the display. The fewer items you have, the more impactful the message will be. The key here is focus: Don’t add anything that isn’t right on message.

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It’s OK to leave empty space on a display table or in a window. Empty space is not wasted space; it’s a frame for your display. It also makes the product and store look organized and clean.

Always keep in mind that a display needs to tell a story. The idea or concept is what makes impact. Cleverly combining various items also promotes add-on purchases.

Here are some concepts for displays:

Valentine’s Day. This can be set up right after the new year. Although it seems early, Valentine’s is really about love, and not a specific day. Suspend cut-out hearts above your display. But you want to keep it simple and use three to five hearts maximum.

Think Pink. Pull together pink items from different departments; collars, beds, and apparel. Use watering cans as props. Make this your spring statement.

Senior Pets. Combine products for older animals like special foods, supplements and comfy beds. Perhaps a bed full of supplements!

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“Cats and fish” or “dogs and cats.” Pick up some plush animals from the local toy store to clearly define the characters involved. What about a plush cat looking into an aquarium?

Winter. A great way to sell coats and sweaters is to combine them with artificial snow, and maybe a little prop pine tree.

An impactful display is as much about marketing as merchandising. It’s about lifestyle, and a place to make product shine, whether it’s seasonal items, or new arrivals. And it’s a dramatic way to communicate with your customers. Make each visit to your store fresh and exciting.

Tom Crossman has designed entertainment centers and retail stores for FAO Schwarz, Dollywood and Toys ‘R’ Us. He was a featured speaker at Global Pet Expo in 2018. His work can be seen at tomcrossman.com, and he can be reached at tom@tomcrossman.com.

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