A view of the industry through the
eyes of independent and chain retailers.
Visual Merchandising, Pt. II
Add new life to your displays
by knowing how people browse and shop.
by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (June 3, 2013)
(Note: If you missed Pt. I, click on
Visual Merchandising Pt. I in the right-hand column.)
There are two ways to merchandise product
placed on shelves – horizontally and vertically. A vertical
presentation is almost always your best bet. For the sake of
demonstration, let's say that you have a 2 1/2-foot section of
gondola with four shelves, and you have four different products to
display in this space. If you choose a horizontal presentation,
placing just one product per shelf, then you severely limit the
amount of items a customer is likely to see as she scans a shelf. If
she only glances at the second shelf, she will only see that
Any time you display product vertically, you
expose the customer to a greater variety of the assortment at any
eye level. And since we are naturally inclined to read from left to
right, Vertical Merchandising encourages purchases because customers
will see your entire selection of merchandise wherever they look.
Ribboning & Blocking
A word about color: Shoppers are attracted by
color, so it’s always a good idea to display product by color – make
an impact! When you merchandise colors vertically, customers will be
exposed to your full color assortment. Visualize shelves of candles
or a display of photo albums presented face out. Vertical use of
color is called Color Ribboning, and it's always a better choice
over Color Blocking, the horizontal use of color.
Small, Left; Large, Right
Stores that sell similar items in various sizes
obviously profit from selling the largest size because it's likely
to be the higher priced item. When displaying similar items in
various sizes, always place the small size of the product on the
left, and the larger size on the right. This trick works because
most customers are right handed, and will unconsciously reach for
the item closest to their right hands, rather than reaching across
their bodies or shopping carts. This trick can be used in many areas
of your store.
Every section of every fixture has what's
called a "Hot Spot Cross" – the part of the fixture that sells the
best. This is a good thing, because customers have a tendency to
stop at the center of the category, and the Hot Spot silently points
out important merchandise.
To locate the Hot Spot in any fixture, simply
draw an imaginary cross through the center of a fixture.
Incidentally, fixtures such as gondolas with many sections will have
a Hot Spot in each one of the sections.
Remember this: "Hot Spot and one to the right."
Since most customers will reach for product with their right hand,
the position just to the right of the center of the cross is an
equally hot display area. Use this space to display new items, and
to energize product that isn’t selling as well as it should be.
Is the shelving on all of your gondolas set at
the same height? If so, then you are likely putting customers to
sleep. Vary the shelf heights on longer gondola runs to highlight
product and get the customer's attention. In addition to exposing
customers to more of your product assortment, a variety of heights
will help you better manage your display space.
The Visual Curve
Visual Curve Merchandising involves the use of
slanted shelves to increase the customer's strike zone -- the amount
of product the customer sees in just one glance.
Look at the different areas of your store. Do
you have interesting product lying flat on straight shelves? That's
too bad, because most customers will miss it as they peruse the
Call your favorite fixture company and invest
in inexpensive plastic "fencing" that will hold the product in place
and allow you to slant your shelves. You will be amazed at the
difference it will make in presentation and in sales.
Cross-merchandising is a much underutilized
technique that mixes different product categories together:
customers see and buy more because they can easily visualize how the
items will work together.
During retail consultations, we like to walk
the aisles and point out missed opportunities to cross-merchandise.
Drug stores are our particular favorite because they miss them all
the time. If you had a cold, and came in for cough syrup, might you
also need disposable spoons, Kleenex, or juice? And when you're
feeling lousy, you don't want to have to walk the whole store to
find what you need.
Walk your own aisles and look for opportunities
to cross-merchandise. You'll sell more, and time-starved customers
won't have to make annoying trips back to the store for items they
need but forgot to buy.
Make It Happen
There are so many ways to improve your store
through Visual Merchandising. The problem is that we all tend to get
what we call Retailer Tunnel Vision. We get so involved in the
day-to-day business of running the store that we tend to miss the
things customers see every day.
Before you begin your next in-store change –
whether a complex retrofit or the smallest counter set – take the
blinders off and look at your store through your customers' eyes.
During regular business hours, dress as
customers dress. If it's cold outside, put on a heavy winter coat.
Leave the store and drive around the block.
1. How does your store look from the parking
2. What happens in your first 10 seconds inside
the front door?
3. Once inside, mimic a typical customer: if
they shop with kids, push a stroller through the store; try to
navigate the aisles while sitting in a wheelchair; reach for product
on high shelves; stand in the checkout line and buy something.
In other words, shop your store in the same way
customers shop your store. We guarantee you will become frustrated
in some areas and you will find many areas that can be improved.
Your Visual Merchandising can't be left to just
any sales associate; you have to know what you're doing to do it
well. It's your job to make sure that the people you trust to set
your displays know what they're doing. That will involve trial and
error, training, and follow-up.
One more thing! If you want to make changes in
your store but aren't sure what to do first, email us at
send photos of your Visual Merchandising challenges, and we'll email
back ideas to help get you started.
We know that once you put on a Visual
Merchandising hat, you'll never take it off!
Note: Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are
professional speakers, retail strategists, authors and consultants
whose client list reads like a “Who’s Who” in business. Companies
internationally depend upon them for timely advice on consumers and
the changing retail market place.
KIZER & BENDER recently made Meetings &
Conventions Magazine's list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote
Speakers; they’ve also been named “Two of Retailing’s Most
Influential People.” And with good reason: Rich and Georganne are
experts on generational diversity, consumer trends, marketing and
promotion, and everything retail. They are widely referred to as
consumer anthropologists because they stalk and study that most
elusive of mammals: today’s consumer.
KIZER & BENDER are well known for their unique
and intensive consumer research. Any speaker can talk about
customers, but Georganne and Rich actually become them. In addition
to yearly focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and intensive on-site
studies, their research includes posing as every kind of customer
you can imagine. And maybe even a few that you can’t! The results of
their research is literally straight from the customers’ mouth:
solid ground level intelligence you can use to better serve your own
KIZER & BENDER’s observations are widely
featured in the medias, including the ABC News special report "How
Stores Hook You. Their books, Jingle Bells, Christmas Sells!
and Champagne Strategies on a Beer Budget!, have helped
thousands improve their bottom line, and their bylined column,
Georganne & Rich on the Road, was twice honored with The
American Society of Business Publications Editors Award of
Rich and Georganne will be conducting seminars
at CHA's Create & Connect Summer Conference & Trade Show in Las
Vegas in July. For info, visit