Merchandising Know-How: Avoiding Display Mistakes, Part II

Displays are the "windows" of a store. Each one is there to highlight merchandise and promote sell-though. Don't make the mistake of thinking of them as simply another task to get done. Put some thinking, planning and design into them and they will become a valuable business asset. And when creating your displays, remember AIDA -- attention, interest, desire and action.

Displays are the "windows" of a store. Each one is there to highlight merchandise and promote sell-though. Don't make the mistake of thinking of them as simply another task to get done. Put some thinking, planning and design into them and they will become a valuable business asset. And when creating your displays, remember AIDA -- attention, interest, desire and action.

There are lots of reasons individual displays don't work the way they are supposed to. In Part II of our series on avoiding display mistakes, I'll rundown more of the common boo-boos that happen and offer suggestions to rectify them.

Displays are placed too high or too low

Often times, displays are positioned too high or too low to be effective. Be aware of optimum display heights. On average, customers first notice products on display when they stand four feet away from them. It has been shown that the best viewing angle is 15 percent below the horizontal. Consequently, the best average eye height is 51 to 53 inches from the floor. Items placed in this zone are the most noticeable and sell the most merchandise.

Too many colors

When too many different colors are represented in one display, it becomes a hodgepodge of items each in conflict with the other. Displays that use too many colors or equal amounts of green, red, yellow, blue and neutrals look unorganized. They will turn off customers because of their lack of order or direction. When one dominant color with accents is used, order is regained.

A good rule of thumb to follow is not to use more than three coordinating color families in one display. Just for fun, create a display of products in just one color.

Display is not lighted

Bad lighting or, worse, no lighting will defeat the effectiveness of any display no matter how well designed. All displays should have lighting trained on them in the form of spots. And when a new display space is set up, lighting should follow it.

Experiment with up-lighting and colored lighting to spice up displays.

Wrong in-store locations

A display is not going to do its job if it's in the wrong place in the store. There are good display areas and not-so-good areas.

The best places for setting up displays are in your store windows, in the "push" area 10 feet inside the front entrance, adjacent to the cash/wrap, and in the middle and rear thirds of the store.

Displays become rest areas of sorts where, when customers reach them, they provide a respite, a place to stop -- and places where retailers can "call out" merchandise they want to emphasize.

Displays are not tuned to seasonal needs

Timing is everything, or so the expression goes. In displays, it's also true. Displays are most effective when they feature items that have immediate appeal. You want to be selling umbrellas when the rainy season approaches or gardening tools when planting season nears. Too often displays are created at the last minute without a plan.

You can avoid this by creating a display calendar by month that lists the theme of your displays, the objects you will put on display, where you place your displays and what props and materials you will need to create them. That way, you'll always be prepared.

No story or theme

Displays without themes are just a collection of items. Sure, you can put different products together, but, without a theme, they have no attraction.

Instead, create displays that tell a story, reflect an activity or suggest a lifestyle. Build displays around gardening, cooking, reading, sewing, scents or any of the other interesting product categories you carry. The strongest stories keep people in the store. Make displays interactive and entertaining, and you'll be creating positive feelings in your customers that will translate to store loyalty… and more sales.

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, 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

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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