Back to Basics: Display Principles

This spring Horny Toad challenged its retail accounts to an artistic and creative display contest, and 24 stores stepped up and utilized display spaces of all sizes to show Horny Toad product. The first-place winner was Trailblazer in New Haven, Conn. Runner-ups included Doug's Sports in Hood River, Ore.; Champlain Surplus in Champlain, Ill.; and Ski Rack in Burlington, Vt.
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This spring Horny Toad challenged its retail accounts to an artistic and creative display contest, and 24 stores stepped up and utilized display spaces of all sizes to show Horny Toad product. The first-place winner was Trailblazer in New Haven, Conn. Runner-ups included Doug's Sports in Hood River, Ore.; Champlain Surplus in Champlain, Ill.; and Ski Rack in Burlington, Vt.

Trailblazer's winning design was a window display artfully composed and got me thinking. It's high time we revisited the basic tenets of creating effective displays -- and they may inspire other stores to design their own "winning" displays.

Balance

Balance, in display terms, is the placement of merchandise in a unified manner. Start with a balance point -- an imaginary vertical line bisecting the display space that should correspond to the viewer's natural line of sight. Draw an imaginary horizontal line through this point. You've now created a grid that will help you balance products to the right and left of the area, as well as perpendicular.

There are two kinds of balance -- symmetrical or formal and asymmetrical or informal. Symmetry is achieved by placing products of equal "weight" (size, bulk) on either side of the display space center. It could be two tents, atwo mannequins or two sleeping bags. Symmetrical displays are simple to construct and can be very effective.

In asymmetrical displays, "weighty" objects are placed on one side of the center of the display and lead the viewer to less weighty items on the other. Asymmetrical balance is usually more interesting than formal balance.

Dominance

In every display, there must be one dominant element. It should be one object that by its nature (i.e., color, size or position in the display) attracts the eye and attracts the viewer.

The dominant object should be the merchandise. Don't let props or background detailing become more important than the product being displayed. In a one-item display, the single unit should dominate. The rest of the composition should exist only to make the one item seem more special.

Rhythm

A good display should have rhythm -- movement from element to element, back to front and side-to-side. The rhythm should lead the viewer's eye from the dominant object to the secondary objects. Flow can be achieved by overlapping objects in your display to keep the eye moving. The eye will follow a circular route if the objects are arranged that way. It will also follow a triangular trail from base to apex in displays.

Depth

Creating depth in displays adds interest. Instead of putting all objects on the same horizontal plane, place display elements at different distances front to back from the viewer.

Height

One of the most common mistakes made in creating displays is the lack of height. Resist the urge to place everything at the same level on the display platform, table or floor. Vary the height of the individual objects and make sure the dominant items are within the impact zone -- from 3.5 feet to 6.5 feet from the floor.

Sharon Leicham is the creator of The MerchandisingHUB, the author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and "How to Sell to Women" and is a regular columnist for SNEWS® writing on merchandising and marketing topics. You can access all of her columns by going to www.snewsnet.com/merchandising, where you will find tons of information targeted at the needs of the independent specialty retailer. You can email us with questions and comments at merchandising@snewsnet.com.

For more retail training support and know-how, be sure to check out the SNEWS® Business 101 tools and stories, including our 10-part Retail Merchandising Training series produced by SNEWS®, including a useful online calculator for performing the most common retail merchandising calculations -- free to All Access Subscribers.

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