Visual Merchandising: Retail Strategies to Drive Sales

There are two main things you can do to boost sales which are free or nearly free. One is great customer service, and the other is through the greatest silent salesmen of all - visual merchandising. For instance, moving a product from the bottom shelf to the eye-level shelf has proven to increases sales by as much as 87%.

As an ex-centre manager (and I am sure some readers will back me up) I have consistently seen newly-refurbished stores increases YoY sales by 24% (the lowest I have seen in my years) and more - usually more. No price changes, no change to the merchandise (range & selection) but just the way the store is configured and the merchandise presented. It is truly a powerful tool, and what I see in the market place is that most chains seem to get the importance and execute reasonably well, but the same can NOT be said of the independents. (I always say to those clients that the chains got be chains because they understood the importance of visual merchandising.)

Like retail in general, VM is 50% science and 50% art. But no matter how creative or 'good' a display looks, that is not really relevant. There is one objective and one objective only with VM - and that is to generate more sales. It is NEVER about looking pretty.

However, the secondary objectives of display must also be considered, for this is how you achieve the primary objective (more sales.) It may seem a bit ‘theoretical’ at first, but look carefully and you will see it is a really good 6-point checklist to evaluate your own displays.

The secondary objectives are the following 6 A's - not in any particular order:

A display that discourages the customer from shopping from it has very little value.  Obstacles must be cleared and the products must be reachable. Accessibility also refers to physical impairments your customers may suffer from (mobility, eyesight etc.)


Displays must grab and hold the customer's attention long enough for him/her to make a decision about the product. (Attention is preceded by awareness.)


Having a plan and a purpose for which merchandise should go together, goes a long way towards increasing sales. This is a key tactic in cross-selling. (Remember up-selling is banned, but cross-selling, if done right, is a powerful way of adding value.)


This aspect concerns itself with the physical dimensions of the customer's body.  Whether it is child or adult, male or female plays a role when attempting to determine eye-level.  Similarly it would be hard to buy (and lift) a 5kg bag of sugar from the top shelf.

Arrangement refers to things being put in order.  This aspect emphasizes that there is a certain element of logic in any display.  Products are normally sized from small to large, and tops/shirts are always hung above the trousers. (Typical creative strategies used are ‘rhythm and repetition and colour-clocking.)

Whereas anthropometrics concerns itself with the demands/constraints of the customer's body, but of possibly greater importance is the need to accommodate the customer's psychological and lifestyle needs.  (Does it meet the functional and emotional needs of the customer?)

If the above is a checklist to apply to your displays, then what follows is the practical ‘how to’ tips.

I am going to run a series of posts on visual merchandising - 12 in all - on this blog – 2 per week for the next 6 weeks.

This post is the first one (an introduction.) They will be short posts (5-10 bullet points) because it will just be tips, tricks and techniques. Not everything will apply to every business, but if this is your cup of tea, why you don't you subscribe (RSS or email - all very safe buttomns to the right) OR (members-only) will be able to download all 130-odd tips in a short PDF at once the series is complete.

The next 11 posts will cover the following areas:

  1. Principles of Merchandising

  2. The Front End-(The landing strip)

  3. The Centre Store

  4. Walls and Perimeters

  5. Interior Signs- Rules

  6. Colour- Rules

  7. Safe Display is a good display

  8. Maintained displays are good displays

  9. A range of merchandising strategies

  10. Lighting

  11. Some general tips and summary observations

 There will be other posts too, so if you are more interested in the other topics we cover (e-commerce, marketing, strategy etc.) then just be patient - ignore these and some other good stuff will flow soon enough :-)