Merchandising minds: Outdoor Research Jenn Dumas' top 5 tips

Merchandising Editor Robin Enright finds the top tips from successful merchandisers and retail environments that can help increase sales.

Visual merchandisers each have their own personal toolbox to draw upon, whether they are designing for a retail environment or a trade show booth. Sure, there are commonly accepted best practices or directives from the powers that be, but once the priorities are set, there is a measure of instinct and ideally, play, that comes to life in hands-on merchandising.

Beginning this month, SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright sets out to find and profile merchandisers or retail environments that are either perched on the seat of excellence or have one element so dialed that to not share with our readers would be a missed educational opportunity.

This month, she meets with Jenn Dumas, Visual Merchandiser for Outdoor Research, a brand that regularly places in our Outdoor Retailer Best of Booth display awards, to get her top five merchandising tips:

1. Pay Attention. Dumas watches visitors and does her best to pay attention to how they interact with the environment, what they notice and perhaps most importantly, who they are. “If you know the answers to those questions, you can make the environment more shoppable for that customer,” she said.


2. Product does not sell itself. A frequent claim by outdoor brands will be that ‘our product sells itself,’ which makes any merchandiser, and should make any retailer, cringe. Even if the product is spectacular, brands and retailers are missing an enormous opportunity. “The consumer desires engagement and our job is to create an emotional experience,” Dumas said. In addition, props are an enormous asset when working to inspire and can help a customer better understand the potential experience of a product through visual merchandising in a way that just hanging it on a peg does not.

3. Props are necessary and do not have to be costly. Dumas believes that props are a huge factor in creating that emotional experience and giving voice to product attributes. It doesn’t have to break the bank, she said, adding, “restriction and constraint can fuel creativity.” She recommends using what you can find locally both in nature and at thrift stores. Another often overlooked opportunity is partnering with other outdoor brands to complete the experience story you are trying to tell. If you need skis and don’t make them, maybe another brand would be happy for the exposure of their product and vice versa.

4. Movement. A big challenge for many retailers is keeping things fresh both for repeat shoppers and to attract the attention of new customers. Dumas believes that just rearranging a central table or spicing up the elements in a window, especially if the changes are unexpected and creative, will be more likely to catch the eye of visitors. While she wishes she had time to make changes more frequently, she stresses that merchandisers should do the best they can and remember that everything does not have to be perfect to be effective.


5. Keep it clean. Sure, keeping things clean is obvious, but unfortunately the obvious isn’t always attended too. Dumas commented that she’s been in dressing rooms where dust bunnies proliferate and in stores with trash on the floor or base of a fixture. When cleanliness is ignored, customers might subconsciously decide that if the retailer or brand doesn’t care about that detail, they might not really care about their product all that much either. Outdoor Research takes this so seriously that they assign someone to tidy up their trade show booth every 20-30 minutes.

Thanks, Jenn for sharing a bit of your merchandising toolbox! We’d love to know what you think. Are you a visual merchandiser or retailer that has something to share? Have you visited a retailer with incredible merchandising? Let us know. Maybe we’ll even make you famous next.

SNEWS Merchandising Editor Robin Enright
is the founder of Merchandising Matters,
which provides merchandising support to brands, retailers and their agencies.

Reach her via email at

with questions, ideas and suggestions.