Merchandise Displays 477
Photo by: Pavel Losevsky

Merchandise displays are special presentations of a store's products or services to the buying public. The nature of these displays may range somewhat from industry to industry, but all merchandise displays are predicated on basic principles designed to increase product purchases. Indeed, merchandise displays are an integral element of the overall merchandising concept, which seeks to promote product sales by coordinating marketing, advertising, and sales strategies.

Many business consultants believe that small business owners are among the leaders in innovative merchandise display strategies. W. Rae Cowan noted in Chain Store Age Executive, for example, that "in many instances, smaller specialty chains are leading the way in store ambience supporting their overall marketing strategy in a broad range of categories from fashion through hardware and housewares and building supplies areas. By their very nature, specialty stores depend on their fixturing to generate a differentiation or niche in the marketplace. And being physically smaller in some cases allows for faster response to market trends and conditions…. Successful retailers today are using their fixturing to productively dispense their merchandise and communicate an appropriate environment on the retail floor."

Merchandise displays generally take one of several basic forms:

Storefront window displays and "found space" displays are particularly popular tools for publicizing and selling sale items.


Trudy Ralston and Eric Foster, authors of How to Display It: A Practical Guide to Professional Merchandise Display, cited several key components of successful merchandise display that are particularly relevant for small business owners. First, displays should be economical, utilizing only space, materials, and products that are already available. Second, displays should be versatile, able to "fit almost anywhere, exhibit almost any merchandise, and convey almost any message. Finally, displays have to be effective. The ideal display, said Ralston and Foster, "is readily visible to any passer-by and [should be arranged so that] there is no time or space lag between when a potential buyer sees the design and when he or she can react to it. [The ideal display] also shows the customer what the product actually looks like, not some flat and intangible picture of it. Few other forms of promotion can give such a vivid presentation of both the merchandise and character of a store."

The effectiveness of these cornerstones of merchandising display strategy can be increased by remembering several other tips as well, including the following:

All of these considerations need to be weighed when putting together a merchandise display. But ultimately, the final barometer of a display's worthiness is its ability to sell products. As Martin Pegler bluntly stated, "The test of a good display today is: Does it sell? "


Areni, Charles S., et al. "Point-of-Purchase Displays, Product Organization, and Brand Purchase Likelihoods." Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science. Fall 1999.

Cowan, W. Rae. "Store Fixturing and Display—Retailer's Strategic Tool for Product Positioning and Productivity in the '90s." Chain Store Age Executive. December 1993.

Fox, Bruce. "Brand Erosion Potential." Chain Store Age Executive. February 1994.

Pegler, Martin M. Visual Merchandising and Display. Fairchild Publications, 1983.

Ralston, Trudy, and Eric Foster. How to Display It: A Practical Guide to Professional Merchandise Display. Art Direction Book Co., 1985.

Ray, Susan. "Merchandising Concepts are Solid as Rock." Amusement Business. September 27, 1993.

Reese, Shelly. "Congestion, Distractions Weaken Sales Value of Endcap Displays." Stores. February 1997.

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