Is This the Perfect Formula for Visual Merchandising?

Rendering of Chipotle Digital Kitchen, Highland Falls, NY - Source: Chipotle Mexican Grill

Gifts & Decorative Accessories recently shared a visual merchandising webinar between the nonprofit group Heart on Main Street, which offers financial aid, mentorship, and education to retailers, and Suzanne Rafenstein and Lyn Falk from Retailworks Inc. The individuals gathered to “discuss visual merchandising techniques for independent retailers.”

During the webinar, the experts emphasized the importance of understanding consumer behavior and environmental psychology. This includes how individuals respond to factors such as music volume, ceiling height, and the strategic use of lighting to guide shoppers’ movement within a store. Furthermore, they explained how budget considerations are paramount when contemplating an investment to gauge if the resulting increase in sales can offset the renovation expenses.

Rafenstein discussed how the overall premise of creating displays revolves around the best practices of creating a story and guiding a customer’s purchase of multiple items. One of the most effective ways to promote this is by linking product categories, themes, and colors. When putting together a display, it’s important to carefully consider how the products will fit together. An empty display is obviously a mistake, but having an overcrowded display can be just as detrimental.

Product displays should also align with the overall image and identity of the retailer’s store. Each department should be clearly defined to create a cohesive and appealing shopping experience.

The design of aisles, in comparison, can vary depending on the store’s size and target market. Some stores benefit from meandering aisles, while others may use a racetrack layout. It’s also essential to consider the convenience of customers with strollers or bags. Retailers should periodically change their store layout to keep it fresh and exciting for customers. This practice can lead to increased exploration and sales.

To assess how well inventory is performing and whether specific sections are doing well, it’s important for retailers to complete regular sales analyses. Employees and customers who interact with the store regularly can provide valuable feedback on layout and product offerings and share suggestions for improvements.

For retailers looking to improve their visual merchandising tactics while cutting down on costs, Falk and Rafenstein recommended the following:

  1. Add an Accent Wall or Seasonal Display: Incorporating an accent wall in a store’s brand colors or setting up a display wall that can be changed seasonally can enhance the aesthetics of the store and keep it fresh and engaging for customers.
  2. Maintain Consistent Signage for Branding: Effective signage within the store, along with consistent branding for promotions, sales, and new products, helps customers recognize and understand the messages and offerings the retailer is conveying, leading to a more informed shopping experience.
  3. Ensure Optimal Lighting: Addressing lighting concerns is crucial, as many retailers (over 60%, according to Falk) lack adequate lighting. Proper lighting can significantly impact a store’s ambiance and customers’ overall shopping experience.

To conclude the webinar, Falk, Rafenstein, and Heart on Main Street’s executive director, Patrick Keiser, “discussed emerging merchandising and design trends.” Falk noted that “bringing nature indoors by incorporating plants into the store, artwork with nature, or even eco-friendly products, is an emerging trend.” Retailers can also capitalize on “telling a story about the building, the store, or the owner to engage and inform customers.” The last suggestion Rafenstein made was for retailers to have a “how-to or classes section of the store to educate your customers and get them to interact with the items they purchase.”