Merchandising Know-How: Visual merchandising trends

A trend is defined as "the popular taste at a given time." It may not be readily apparent, but there are definite trends in the visual merchandising field. A closer look reveals innovations in color, graphics, lighting and technology all designed to enhance store environments.

A trend is defined as "the popular taste at a given time." It may not be readily apparent, but there are definite trends in the visual merchandising field. A closer look reveals innovations in color, graphics, lighting and technology all designed to enhance store environments.


Take a look at what other retailers are doing outside the industry. You'll see colors are getting brighter. Whether used to support the store brand, create excitement or simply to differentiate, color is making a comeback in stores and store fixtures. Bright colors energize stores and attract customer attention.

Flexible and cost-effective interior graphics

Build merchandising themes and create personalities by using lifestyle graphics. New sign and graphics technology allows retailers to quickly and inexpensively create images and change signage to meet seasonal or promotional needs. Check out the local Kinko's or print shop to find out what graphics they can produce. Think large.


The biggest trend in retail lighting is the increased use of energy-efficient compact fluorescent lighting.

Retail stores are also adjusting light levels and becoming brighter as a result of the aging baby boomer generation's changing eyesight. A positive result of brighter light is its ability to bring more attention to displays and products. But with brighter light levels, comes the necessity to create some softer, darker areas (usually aisles) that create visual relief.

Watch for LED lighting to become the long life, low maintenance and energy efficient light source of the future. LEDs provide the colored lighting effects seen in stores like Nordstrom, Virgin Record stores and other high-end, trendy retail outlets. Colored lighting has been shown to increase foot traffic and quality of time spent in the store.

Interactive technology

In today's technology-driven world, consumers want to know as much as possible about products before they buy. With touch-screen technology, shoppers can learn about equipment or find information about outdoor activities through digital in-store media like touch-screen kiosks and video monitors.

Ralph Lauren uses touch-screen display windows in two of its stores to inform potential customers about products inside. This technology has not trickled down to an affordable level presently, but is a trend to watch.

Take time to visit different types of stores with an eye for display ideas. See how each is utilizing color. Pay attention to what's going on in your community and use events to stimulate ideas. Find ways to become more sustainable. Think "less is more" to keep things simple. And, raise your awareness of the advances in technology.

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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