Marketing & Promotions

Create a Retail Display That Sells in 5 Easy Steps

Anyone can display products in a straight line, but by taking the time to create an engaging display, you will attract customers, entice them to try new products, and ultimately see an increase in sales.

Visual merchandising — It’s a term most retailers are familiar with, yet many fear it’s an expensive, time-consuming, and difficult task. It doesn’t have to be! If you can count to five, you can create a memorable and interactive retail display.

Merchandise can be grouped around a single theme, like scarves.
<p>Merchandise can be grouped around a single theme, like scarves.</p>

These five steps work successfully whether you’re revamping your sales areas, creating a feature display, or working with window displays. You don’t have to be an artist or spend a lot of money to showcase your products. Research has long shown that the more time shoppers spend interacting with products, the more likely they are to buy.

1. Define Your Purpose
Picking a single theme or purpose for your display will help the customer immediately understand the key point of the display. We want to direct their attention quickly to the display and draw them in. Selecting a theme will also make it easier for you to select the products you want to showcase. Don’t mix your display messages — this will confuse the customer. Having a single strong purpose for the display will help you to evaluate later just how successful the display was.

Below are some themes that can work effectively for the nail industry.Below are some themes that can work effectively for the nail industry.
• Top-selling products — showcase your top 10 items
• New product lines
• Color trends — like nudes or metallics
• Seasonal nail themes — for example, “Perfect Pedicures for Summer” or “Mistle-toes for the Holidays”
• Products that have a similar purpose, such as soaks, scrubs, or tools

2. Use Color to Create Emotions
The colors you pick for the display can influence whether the customer makes a purchase. Colors can actually create specific emotions for the buyer. If you pick colors that support your theme, you will be able to connect to the customer more quickly. What emotion would you like to create? Is the display calm and soothing or designed to be exciting? We associate blues and greens with water and grass, which have a calming impact. Browns and oranges are warm and inviting. Bright primary colors — red, blue, and yellow — create excitement and energy.

Colors should be used to highlight the collection of retail products rather than overpowering them.
<p>Colors should be used to highlight the collection of retail products rather than overpowering them.</p>

For a display of pedicure products for summer, for example, you could use color in different ways. If you wanted to create a calming beach or lake feeling, you could use blue for the water, beige for sand, and cream for sea shells. If you wanted to go with bold colors like those seen in bright summer clothing, you might use orange, red, blue, and other intense colors.

Monochromatic color themes also work well. You can tie this to seasonal colors, holiday themes, or the key color in a product line. Selecting a single color allows you to mix and match products across purposes or manufacturers.

You can tell your color story with products, product packaging, props, or backdrops to create the emotion that fits with your theme.

Props can help set the mood and give life to a display.
<p>Props can help set the mood and give life to a display.</p>

3. Create a Collection of Products to Match the Purpose
Now that you have your theme or purpose clearly identified, begin to assemble a group of products to match the theme. A time-tested tip is to create a display that is 80% products and 20% props. Props are the accessories that give energy to a retail display and help support the theme. Effective props can be sourced from your own home, resale shops, home accessory stores, or, if you are creative, you can make your own. For example, if you want to create a display highlighting pedicure products for summer, you could add a beach hat, sandals, sunglasses, or even a beach ball to add more visual interest to the display.

Follow the “rule of three.” Three of each product is better than overwhelming the customer with too much product. Remember that our eyes and brains like odd numbers of items and symmetry.

Kate Newport, the spa concierge at SLOCO Massage & Wellness Spa in San Luis Obispo, Calif., built this “self-care tree.”
<p>Kate Newport, the spa concierge at SLOCO Massage &amp; Wellness Spa in San Luis Obispo, Calif., built this “self-care tree.”</p>

4. Create a Focal Point
A focal point is the first thing that the customer will see in the display. It might be the most colorful item, the largest product, or even a prop. Having a clear focal point will encourage the customer to stop, look, and interact with your display.

Another way to create a strong focal point is to plan out a shape or design with the arrangement of the retail products. An easy way to create focus is to lay out the products in a triangle or pyramid. Place larger sizes and more products on lower shelves and as you move to the top of the display, place fewer products on each shelf. Think of a ladder. In fact if you have the available space, you can use a small ladder as a display fixture to create additional interest and focus.

The shape of the display will naturally draw the customer’s eyes upward. There is an old saying that “eye level is buy level” in retail displays.

W Nail Bar, Columbus, Ohio
<p>W Nail Bar, Columbus, Ohio</p>

5. Communicate
Signage in your retail area can be directional, informational, or promotional. The retail display you have created is designed to tell a story. To give that story added impact you can add targeted signage. Use shelf-talkers to inform and promote the products. 

Targeted signage — whether text, photos, or both — can add impact to your display.
<p>Targeted signage — whether text, photos, or both — can add impact to your display.</p>

This can be a printed message that describes the use of the products, information on ingredients, or can simply restate the theme of the display. You may use pictures, printed messages, or a combination of both. Manufacturers often provide print materials or display pieces that you can use in your display. You can create your own shelf-talkers by using small picture frames and inserting the description or pictures you want to use for your message.

Evaluate Your Success
There are several ways to evaluate the success of your display. First and foremost is the amount of sales that the display generated. Other factors that signal success are the amount of time customers spent looking at or interacting with the display, the number of samples taken, and even the amount of comments or questions asked as a result of the display.

Creating retail displays can be both fun and profitable. Like many other skills, the more you practice these tips the better you will become.

Best Practices

Once you have created a great retail display, follow there best practices to make the most of your efforts.

1. Keep it clean. Dust will make the best display feel old and fail to draw the eye. If you have testers in the display, they should be cleaned daily and any spillage removed. All testers should be clearly labeled.

2. Keep it fresh. Retail displays should be moved or updated monthly. If the same display is in the same location for too long, customers will stop noticing it.

3. Be sure that all the products in the display are clearly priced. Be careful not to cover up product ingredients with the price tag.

4. Keep it updated. If customers have purchased products from the display shelves, replace them immediately.

5. Use your display to create fresh content on all social media platforms. Visual content drives social media likes, shares, and comments.

Patti Biro is the founder and principal of Patti Biro and Associates (, a consulting firm specializing in brand enrichment through creative special events, retail sales, and education in the beauty, spa, and wellness industry.



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