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12 creative retail display ideas to try in your store

September 20, 2023 | Published by Faire

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post.script., a gift shop in San Francisco

Product merchandising—the practice of strategically displaying and promoting merchandise in a store—can play a significant role in the success of a retail business. A compelling product display can help attract your store’s ideal customer, inspire repeat business, increase transaction values, and encourage social sharing.

Though hybrid shopping experiences continue to grow in popularity, consumers are still interested and eager to shop in person at brick-and-mortar stores. In fact, according to a study from Raydiant, consumers cite enjoying the experience and wanting to interact with products before buying as their most common reasons for doing so. This means that creating a unique shopping experience for customers is as important as ever.

To help you master product merchandising for your store, we’ve put together 12 tips to set up retail store displays that will keep customers coming back.

1. Tell your story with window displays and focal points

Product display in windows at Foamy Wader
Shoppable storefront by Foamy Wader on Whidbey Island, Washington

Your window display is a customer’s first impression of your shop and your brand. Window displays should attract attention, speak to a specific lifestyle, be consistent with your brand’s messaging and color palette, and invite people to come inside to learn more. You can also use your window displays to advertise sales, specials, seasonal products, or new merchandise. You can even use window displays to sell directly to shoppers passing by after-hours through the use of QR codes.

Once inside your store, your display should guide customers toward focal points where your most popular and profitable products are found. Think about traffic flow, how many focal points you want, and whether there’s enough space for customers to gather at each point.

2. Play around with colors

Bright colors at Jenny Lemons in San Francisco

The right color palette can make all the difference in a product display. Try to limit your color palette to one main color and two or three accents to avoid a busy or overwhelming space, and remember to be consistent with your color scheme across all channels to build brand awareness.

Gather inspiration by looking at the packaging of your products to see if you can identify common color themes across products. For example, if you notice a lot of pastels, neon shades, or black-and-white packaging, you might choose two or three complementary shades that pull it all together. A neutral or white background can also have a calming effect and let the products speak for themselves. 

For more inspiration, consider that certain colors can have specific associations—for example, green is often associated with nature, while blue may be associated with peace or reliability. You can use these associations as jumping-off points for determining the overall colors used in your product display.

3. Consider bundling your products

product display at Spur Line Co
Home items displayed together at Spur Line Supply Co.

Bundling similar or complementary products together in one product display helps your customers visualize how products might be used and can increase order values by enticing shoppers to purchase something extra. It’s also an effective way to reposition surplus inventory.

You can group items based on color, room, theme, and more. For example, try displaying accessories of similar colors together, bundling back-to-school items, or displaying kitchen goods like mugs and teapots beside each other as in the above photo from Spur Line Supply Co. 

When putting together your display, try to avoid placing too many similar products together. For example, dozens of candles displayed side by side can create an overwhelming number of options that might prevent your customer from buying any of them. Instead, try creating a display of one candle, one accessory like earrings or sunglasses, and one home decor item.

4. Immerse customers through touch and smell

A candle and scent display at Apt F. in Austin, Texas

Draw on your customers’ senses by putting together displays that encourage them to engage with products by smelling, touching, or picking them up. If you sell scented candles or incense, consider lighting one as part of the display. If you have products that come in boxes, unbox a sample and put it out so customers can hold it in their hands.

5. Educate customers through signage

Display sign with details about the maker
Image courtesy of P.F. Candle

Emphasize the unique nature of your merchandise by placing small signs with displays that educate customers about the product. For example, place small signs or plaques next to handmade items to tell the story of the maker and where the product comes from. You can also use signage to go into more detail about a product’s benefits or distinctive qualities. Customers want to know that their money is going toward supporting their personal values, and using signage to offer more information about your products can help them feel confident about their purchasing decisions.

6. Experiment with lighting (but make sure everything is well-lit)

A product display with decorative lights
Decorative lights at Picnic SF

Ambient lighting, accent lighting, decorative lighting, and task lighting all affect the quality of a product display. Your main light fixtures create ambient lighting and should be bright enough that everyone can see the merchandise without creating an unpleasant or glaring environment. Your focal points and window displays should also include accent lighting to draw customers’ eyes to key products and signage, and from there you can consider decorative lighting to add another pop of color. Task lighting is also essential for areas such as fitting rooms or cash registers where people need to see what they’re doing.

7. Keep things fresh and seasonal  

Customers are more likely to return frequently if they know they’ll see something new on each visit. Keep a calendar of events, holidays, new inventory dates, and seasonal changes that might influence your in-store merchandising and have some decor items and supplies on hand so you’re prepared. Seasonal plants can also make displays more attractive and create a pleasant shopping experience in the right retail environment. You can also refresh your product displays when you have new products to get your customers excited about what’s in store.

8. Get craft with your shelving

Items hanging from a wall ladder at Spur Line Supply Co.

When it comes to creating a unique display, you don’t have to rely just on traditional shelving. Instead, try new and creative ways to build your display. Try hanging products like tea towels or greeting cards on a clothesline, using benches or wooden crates as shelves, or installing floating shelves throughout your store. Display smaller items in trays or baskets, and use a decorative wall ladder to drape clothing, towels, bandanas, and more. For inspiration, browse Pinterest boards of retail displays and trade show booths, and follow some of your favorite stores on Instagram to see how they display their products. 

9. Make it personal

Independent shops are often a labor of love, so show off your passion for your products with Staff Picks. Store employees can write short notes about their favorite items and you can place them around the store or even dedicate a whole section to their picks. A genuine endorsement of a product from a real person can make a shopper feel more connected to an item and more inclined to buy. Independent retailers usually attract customers who want to support small businesses, so emphasizing the people behind a purchase is a great way to help them feel like their money is well spent. 

10. Think local 

When you plan your store’s product displays, leverage your location. Bring in some local flavor with regional products or items specific to your store’s neighborhood. Is your store close to a park? Arrange a table full of picnic blankets and baskets. Consider what your shoppers are likely to do before or after stopping into your store and anticipate what they might need. 

11. Spotlight your bestsellers 

For most retailers, the bulk of their sales comes from a few consistently best-selling items. If you know your customers buy a lot of mixing bowls, be sure to make the cooking display front and center in your store. You can even call out that certain items are a customer favorite. Consider shoppers’ eyelines and paths through the shop and prioritize displays that highlight your star products. 

12. Remember that less is usually more

An overcrowded store can be an uninviting store. Consumers tend to associate open spaces in retail environments with higher value, so avoid overstuffing your shelves and racks. Instead try to make the most of your space, prioritize cleaning and organizing, and ensure that customers of varying heights can see all the merchandise. Tidying up and decluttering will always make your retail environment more pleasant for everyone. 

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