Merchandising Tour: Making an entrance

Whether it’s the entrance of a trade show booth or a retail store, it sets the stage for what’s inside…and it better be good! If it falls flat, potential customers will make an about-face and explore no further. See how exhibitors at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 use the tricks of the trade to entice buyers in the third installment of our Merchandising Tour series.

Whether it’s the entrance of a trade show booth or a retail store, it sets the stage for what’s inside…and it better be good! If it falls flat, potential customers will make an about-face and explore no further into the space.

You’ve no doubt heard the basic assumptions about what a store entrance should include. Keep the first 6 to 10 feet of the space inside the entrance clear of merchandise to give customers a chance to pause and decompress. As they do so, they are scanning the store to see if something interests them. Sight lines to the rear and sides of the store need to be kept open to engage customers and encourage them to travel the length and breadth of the space. The goal is to get them in and mingling with the greatest amount of product.

There is what retail anthropologist Paco Underhill calls “the invariable right.” He finds that most people will move to the right upon entering a store. Of course, if the store configuration does not allow that movement, they will go to the center or the left. It doesn’t matter, as long as you position displays and merchandise in the valuable space beyond the initial decompression zone…and in the path of customer movement.

Take some time to watch customers entering your store and observe how they move through it. By studying their movements, it becomes more obvious where your most successful display spaces need to be located.

We can learn a great deal about customer patterns from booth configurations from companies like Life Is Good, Bamboo Bottle Co. and Aladdin, which exhibited at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010.

The Life Is Good booth was set up like a store with four walls, with an inviting entrance and good product positioning inside. The company’s stacking table fixture was located front and center inside the booth entrance. Fixture height was low enough that it did not block the merchandise on display behind it. In fact, from the front display moving back to the wall fixtures, items were arranged in a stair-step arrangement from low to high. Very effective.

Products were also arranged symmetrically on either side of the center wall display. While asymmetrical or uneven arrangements often prove more interesting, symmetrical arrangements tend to be more soothing.

Make sure the wall displays in the rear of the store are well lit, so they are noticeable from the entrance. They should be brighter than the area surrounding and in front of them. People are drawn to light, so focus higher levels of light on walls and freestanding fixtures, while reducing light levels on aisles and paths through the store. The back wall of the Bamboo Bottle Co. booth is a good illustration of a well-lit area.

The Aladdin booth space (part of the PMI Stanley booth) used a simple floor covering to draw the eye in from the entrance to the rear wall of the booth. The floor mat was made to look like a rough-hewn wood floor. The pattern was just enough to suggest a path from the aisle into the booth. Varying the materials used on a floor can direct traffic through a store from the front door to the back. Using floor mats or carpet or rubber tiles to create display spaces can define areas and attract attention. The best part is that they are temporary. Change them up, move them around and find where they work best.

Interesting floor mats and rubber tiles can easily be found online. Colorful solids and print carpet tiles can be ordered from companies like FLOR (

--Sharon Leicham

Would you like to join Sharon Leicham, author of "Merchandising Your Way to Success" and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 for the fourth 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, Winter Market 2011 -- spaces are limited.


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