Merchandising Know-How: Color in Display

When creating a new display, you need to pay attention to the balance of products in the display, the dominance of certain elements and the rhythm or flow of the product positioning. In addition, it's necessary to formulate a color plan.

When creating a new display, you need to pay attention to the balance of products in the display, the dominance of certain elements and the rhythm or flow of the product positioning. In addition, it's necessary to formulate a color plan.

The surest way to develop a color plan is to base it on the merchandise you'll be using. Evaluate the items and determine a dominant color. Repeat that color sufficiently (80 percent) in the display to create a dominant effect and repeat accent colors (20 percent) to enhance and develop the color scheme.

If all of the accent or dominant colors end up on the display's left, a lopsided look will result. If all the accent and dominant colors appear on the bottom of the display, a layered look will result. So, all colors should be arranged evenly throughout the display.

Color can establish a look and a mood. Green creates a strong, cool mood, providing the sensation of a lush forest. Romance is associated with red, pink, rose and violet. Sophistication is associated with blue; informality with aqua.

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.

Begin creating a display by developing a dominant color. Add accent colors to add character. It is sometimes difficult to identify the dominant color. Don't confuse the dominant color with the most conspicuous color. Always look for the color that contributes the largest percentage of mass.

Accent colors are usually those found on small items and consequently do not dominate a display. But they are important display enhancements and should make up from 10 percent to 15 percent of the composition. Repeat them evenly throughout the display. Their purpose is to embellish the dominant colors and to remain secondary.

The ability to match items with different textures and designs is easy if they are the same color. An assortment of T-shirts, sandals, scarves, hats and packs will look matched if they are from the same color family. Props can be matched to merchandise to create interesting monochromatic displays. Change the color value of the props to add excitement and variation.

Customers have favorite color families and are often reluctant to change their ideas about color. They are attracted to items first by color, so it's no surprise that using color in displays correctly is a powerful sales tool. This short color primer should help when you plan your next displays.

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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