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Merchandising 101

What is merchandising?

Retail merchandising has a wide range of terms that fall under the one umbrella. This can be as huge as your floor display plan or as small as our colour theory. This term can also been thought of as an experience or set of experiences. Merchandising is incredibly important in every retail shop; you probably do a few of these merchandising strategies without realising. At GIE we are here to help with your merchandising strategy. Coming from a background where visual merchandising was the main part of our job we are excited to share our tips and tricks.

Retail Merchandising Tips

Brand & Target Customer

Since this is a wide concept it can be hard to know where to begin. Our starting tip would be with YOUR brand and what you are trying to get across to the customer. Are you a traditional furniture brand or are you more glamourous? Is your brand fun or serious? Answering brand related questions like these will help you with your branding throughout your store.

Your branding almost always overlaps with your target customer. Your ideal buyer should always be at the centre of your branding and merchandising decisions. Put yourself in their shoes, what do you want to see? How do you want to see it? And what do you expect when you walk into a store?

Floor Plan Tips Some of you might think that having a floor plan is a waste of time and have the mind set of “get everything out onto the floor” no matter how it looks. However, having a floor plan not only maximizes your space without overcrowding but also provides your target customers with an easy path to follow.

My tip for you would be to start at the front and work backwards. You want to avoid cluttering for the first 5-15 feet of your store’s entrance, depending on store size. This area has its own technical term, The Decompression Zone; this plays to the shopper’s psychology. You want to create a shop that respects the customers space, doing this will help but them into buying mode.

Complementary Products

This is the part most people do without realising. For example most people would place a bed, locker and matching blanket box together because it makes sense right? You aren’t going to put a sofa next to your bed because you want to sell a room package. My advice would be stick to a theme and be consistent. You can always evolve over time but remember your brand identity.

Logical Groupings

Like I mentioned above, you want to place things in logical room settings. For example, having all your bedroom ranges together and all your living room together, never mixing these two together. Be creative with your groupings as long as it make sense to you and especially your customer.

Some Other Tips

· Make sure your shop is well lit and clean at all times

· Take advantage of impulse buying especially around the till area

· Don’t allow your checkout line get in the way of people moving around your store.

Visual Merchandising

While retail merchandising covers an area of topics likes layout and different tactics to drive sales, visual merchandising on the other hand focuses solely on how products are displayed and presented. This is an opportunity to get creative. If this is scary for you don’t worry, we’ve a lot of helpful tips to get you started.

Engaged all the sense

As strange as this may sound, it works. Have you ever walked into a shop and straightaway the music puts you into good spirits or relaxes you? There is a reason for that. Have you ever walked into a shop and it smells great? There is also a reason for that. Massive brands like Abercombie & Fitch and Hollister use these tactics and you should too. Smell helps stimulate memory and can help remind customers of events or in your case products.

Product Placements

As shoppers energies fluctuate throughout the day, you want to lift their mood or catch them in a good one. Take advantage of this by placing your newest, best sellers, or trendiest items near the front. Put your sale or clearance stock towards the back of the store, this not only helps pull people down your shop floor but can also convince your bargain hunter to purchase a full price item.

Rotation is Key

Typically you should rotate your displays and floors every few weeks to ensure that you are regularly freshening up your floor. Keep in mind different themes, especially seasonal and holiday themes. Make sure you keep track of what works where and keep that in mind when you come to reorganizing. As fresh products come in and new best sellers emerge you will want your display to reflect all of these. Try keeping a display rotation plan to help keep things fresh.

Want VS need

Most of us shoppers know what we want, but do we really need it? As retailers you need to call to those wants and take the opportunity to upsell. Keep this in mind when merchandising; push your more expensive items by pairing them with items of a cheaper value.

Tell a story

While telling a story is simple when you are writing and talking, trying to get it across in your shop can be rather difficult. Best way to do this is to reflect on day-to-day life and create something visual around this. IKEA are the best for this, and I would suggest everyone to pull inspiration from their designs. As you walk through their showrooms you are met with various sample bedrooms, living-rooms and nooks that show you the buyer how your home could look. This is great tactic used by great merchandisers; this is getting people to think about how their life would look if they had these products.


While people often feel the need to overdo merchandising at times, try to have some restraint. Keep things streamlined and focus on highlighting key products. Using IKEA as an example if they want to sell a living room experience they will display a sofa, a table and a lamp. Even though everyone has a TV they will leave this out on purpose to make you focus on the products more. Another tip is to use your rule of 3rds, this is used within many creative platforms and especially within interior design as things placed in odd numbers are more appealing to the human eye.

Colour Theory

This is something that is often overlooked but is very important, you really want to think about the colours you have featured on display and how they make you feel. You can be surprised how colour works on the human brain. Colours that do not work together can either be chaotic or boring, we are looking for colours that compliment and work in harmony together. Download yourself a colour wheel to help. Pick your main colour and work of that, colours either side or directly across work best. This adds a sense of togetherness to your merchandising.

Insta Worthy

Instagram is the main social media platform these days. Whether you are promoting your store on Instagram or your customer is taking those all-important insta worthy photographs this is a massive driving point for visual merchandising. As WGSN visual merchandising editor Claire Dickinson reported “ Instagram is the ultimate tool for brands, retailers and even new start-up store to get their brand message further, wider and more global, making their store a must-visit destination,”

Encourage shoppers and your customers to post on Instagram to help promote your displays.

At GIE we want to help your store as much as possible and these are our go to guide lines when it comes to merchandising. Keep watch on our social media for more tips on how to style our products.

View more of our tips on our specialised merchandising tab

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- Mark Hampton

- Interior Designer

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