Visual Merchandising Tips for Small & Medium Retailers

Now that retail is opening again it is important for retailers to focus on maximising customer footfall to increase sales. Whether your business is large or small there are proven visual merchandising techniques that you can use to get your customers to stop, look and enter your store. Visual merchandising doesn’t need to cost the earth if you have creatives on your team who are willing to think outside the box to create eye-catching displays that generate interest and desire to purchase from your store.  Our retail training is very popular with small & medium retail outlets and in the charity sector.  The following are a range of tips that we believe will help you to reconnect with customers and rebuild your brand image through effective visual merchandising.

Choose a Theme

There are known elements of retail displays that trigger excitement and customers’ desire to purchase.  Adopting themes that signify your product or brand displays can further improve customer interest. A theme is all about creating a back-end story that connects the product to the customer. The use of themes allows retailers to reinvent themselves by creating visual displays that will wow the customer and instil a lasting image in the minds of passers-by and potential new customers.  Seasonal themes like Valentines, Easter and Christmas quickly come to mind.  Other approaches to themed displays can include linking with or promoting community events, charity events, National/International celebrations e.g International Women’s Day, Pride or National wellbeing days. The list is endless and only needs your time and imagination to bring it to life.

Draw People in

One of the most essential features of sales is that your customers are drawn right through your retail space.  Placement of stock is therefore vitally important to driving sales.  Consider the types of displays (or items) that you have on display at the back of your store.  Sale items are a good example; which one of us doesn’t love a bargain? Other than sale items the back of your shop should be merchandised with as much care and attention as the front of your shop.

Change your Displays Regularly

It is important that your customers are treated to visual merchandising that is fresh and relevant and consistent with your store’s branding.  In today’s social media world consumers have become used to constant change and your retail displays are no different.  Customers will become easily bored with a display that is left unchanged for too long.  I recommend changing your displays at least every fortnight and if you can’t change an entire display consider changing elements of the display e.g change an outfit if you own a clothing store.

Create a Decompression Zone

Too much visual merchandising can have a negative impact on your customers’ engagement.  When a customer enters your store, it is important to give them space to take in their surroundings and decide where they will go and what they would like to look at.  Two pieces of advice here (1) Don’t block the entrance or an aisle with unnecessary visual merchandising; this will act as a turn-off and the customer may turn and leave or they may keep going deciding that the store is too cluttered or too busy for their personal taste.  (2) Don’t bombard the customer with salesy greetings in this zone e.g. spraying perfume samples and engaging in a sales dialogue.  The customer wants to enter your store, decompress and then they will get down to the business of shopping and ultimately buying.

Eye level is buy level

This is a mantra that we teach in our retail classes – place your best stock at eye level so that the customer doesn’t need to work to find what they are looking for (or miss something entirely). Stock that is displayed too high or too low is less likely to sell than stock that is displayed at eye level.  This rule is particularly important for in-store merchandisers.

And finally…

Harness Social Media to Amplify Your Brand

Now that you have created some amazing visual displays both internally and in your store window why not take it one step further and share updates on your social media channels?  This takes your visual merchandising to the next level allowing a wider customer base to appreciate your efforts. Customers have long since tired of boring stock imagery, today’s customers want candid videos and imagery with real people and situations.  The more you can put yourself and your store ‘out there’ in the social space the better chance you have of keeping your current customers (they will follow your channel) and gaining new ones. It also means that the effort that you put into visual merchandising will give you a greater return on your investment.

Some Recommended Reading

There are some excellent publications out there that could help to inspire you to change your approach to visual merchandising. One of my favourite people in the space is Paco Underhill a highly respected retail anthropologist.  His first book ‘Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping’ is an Internationally recognised bestseller that has been published in twenty-seven languages. Underhill is passionate about the habits of consumers and consumer behaviour based on his extensive research which he chronicled through videotaped field observations.  His work focuses on the many facets of consumer behaviour and customer interaction with all aspects of retail from store layout, staff, communications, customer service, marketing and much more. In his books and public speaking events, he outlines a range of strategies that retailers need to employ to put their customers in a ‘buying frame of mind’. Visual merchandising is only one of these strategies but it’s an important one!

Customer Testimonials

“Very enjoyable course learned a lot that will be used outside of this course. I found the trainer very helpful, kind and took the time with us when we had questions. All in all, I am very happy with what I’ve learned in this course” (SVP 2019)

“I felt the course content worked really well, I found out loads about retail display so that I can use what I have learned to benefit me in the future” (NCBI 2019)

“I can’t wait to try out my new skills on our Valentines window, it will be epic”(SVP 2019)

Check out our Retail Display QQI course here: Need more inspiration? Give us a call 051 385720 or email us at

Janet Tumulty 18.02.22