Merchandising Tour: Display techniques from Winter Market to incorporate in your store

Visual display designers employ various techniques to ensure successful displays -- many of which were incorporated into exhibitor booths at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010. Sharon Leicham concludes our six-part series by highlighting display techniques found during the show's Merchandising Tours.

Visual display designers employ various techniques to ensure successful displays -- many of which were incorporated into exhibitor booths at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010. During the Merchandising Tours, I stopped at various booths with tour attendees to point out ideas they can use in their stores, as well as revisit techniques.

How merchandise is placed in displays plays a large role in how well it sells. The arrangement of the mannequins in ColumbiaSportswear’s booth illustrates three very important techniques: overlapping, depth and height variation. Products in displays should overlap one another to keep the eye moving from one item to another, allowing the viewer to see every piece. Start with one item and make it the focal point of the arrangement. In this display, it is the female mannequin in the front. It is the first place the eye lands on before continuing. Often, the focal point of a display is the item placed the highest, but there are exceptions to the rule. 

This display creates depth by placing the mannequins front to back instead of on a single plane. It makes the display much more interesting. And, with the mannequins placed at different heights, the eye moves through the display in a circular pattern.

GSI also varied the heights of its display products. Instead of setting everything at one level on the shelving, the company used acrylic risers to change up the heights of the displayed items. You’ll notice that some of the plates and pots are displayed on their sides to add height, while others are stacked. It’s a good example of “stack ‘em high and watch ‘em fly.”


Another display technique deals with balance, or simply the placement of merchandise in a unified manner. There are two elements to balance: symmetry and asymmetry. A symmetrical display like the one in the Thermos booth is achieved by placing identical items on either side of the center. An asymmetrical arrangement is one in which items are not identical -- and it usually makes for a more interesting arrangement. There are two schools of thought about these two display approaches, but most people prefer symmetrical balance.

For packaged products on a wall, display an example of the product adjacent to them. Granite Gear did a great job of displaying merchandised stuff bags above the packaged products hanging below. This arrangement makes product selection so much easier for the customer. And when you place informational signage next to the display, it becomes even more effective.


Hang multiples of a product in the same color on the wall vertically top to bottom as Thorlo did in its sock display. It keeps the product from looking messy and scattered. The large graphic above the sock display is powerful and attracts attention…and isn’t that what you are striving for?

Tired of trying to figure out how to display pants and shorts? Patagonia used a great and easy technique to show its jeans adjacent to folded and shelved stock. Hooks can be used to display shirts, as well. Get a few hooks and I’ll bet you discover more uses for them.

This concludes our Merchandising Tour article series from Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010, but we’ll have more ideas following the summer show. As you cruise the show floor this summer, keep an eye out for interesting techniques used by the exhibitors and ask permission to take pictures of ones you like. There’s a lot more to the trade show than meets the eye, so train yourself to pick out techniques and ideas you can use when back in your store.

--Sharon Leicham

Would you like to join Sharon Leicham, author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 for the third Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program, co-sponsored by Outdoor Retailer and SNEWS? Currently, we are planning one hour-long merchandising tour of select exhibitor booths and displays designed for retailers and one hour-long merchandising tour focused on the needs of exhibitors. Email to put your name on a contact list for more information and to ensure your name is on the registration list for the next Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour Program, Summer Market 2010 -- spaces are limited.



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