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Display Fundamentals

Posted by on in Visual Merchandising
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See the quality and utility
See the price

The customer must be able to do all of the above in the shortest possible time

In the light of the broad layout principles discussed above, it is now possible to focus on where best to place the merchandise and how best to display it. The following notes provide a summary of the principles and key issues that need to be considered.

Merchandising Methods
There are a number of methods by which merchandise can be displayed. These are:




Additional and related lines


Advertised lines

Product character

Promotional lines


Slow sellers

Age group

Impulse lines

Combination of several

Seasonal lines

Sell-up lines

Remember: A basic philosophy of merchandising is to expose the customer to the best merchandise first. However, other considerations, such as the return on an item and its volume selling appeal may mean that we do not wish to push the top price line. Consider the; “good, better, best” display philosophy. It would not be wise to lead in with top priced goods in a low socio-economic area.

By Product

This involves grouping merchandise by product regardless of brand; for example, all hand tools together, and within hand tools all chisels together; within homewares all saucepans together and within electrical all steam irons together, all toasters likewise...

By Brand

This involves grouping all items, colours, sizes of each brand together as separate blocks or fixtures. For example, in power tools all Black and Decker together, all Makita together, all Bosch likewise and this may be for the complete power tool range or some categories or lines only. Electric drills, grinders and circular saws are grouped by brand, other products are grouped by some other criteria.

The key issue in deciding whether to group product by brand is whether the brand is the first consideration or whether it is another consideration. For example; with yoghurt is it low-fat or flavour that is the consideration and is it the size of the motor in the case of electrical drills? In other words is the customer seeking the Brand because of brand awareness and preference or is that only perhaps the second or third consideration?

By Colour

This involves grouping all merchandise by colour; for example, vertical colour blocking of merchandise on shelves or grouping produce by colour of vegetables. Great selling opportunity when selling contemporary or fashion merchandise. When “it’s hot,….. it’s hot, and when it’s not,’s not”

By Size

This involves grouping all merchandise according to size (which may be irrespective of brand or quality); for example, displaying footwear all by shoe size only. What fantastic customer service to personalise the stock for each customer size.

By Quality and/or Price

This arranges merchandise in a logical progression of quality and price (assuming they go hand in hand), for example, horizontally left to right, normally starting with the dearest (as this is the logical way we read a fixture), or with the best quality item at eye/shoulder level ( eye level is…… buy level ) and the cheapest line above eye level or much lower. Or very different items may be grouped together, say in a dump bin, to clear at one particular price point.

By Product Characteristics

This is based on placing products together according to their distinctive features. For example, displaying together all power drills with electrical leads and all cordless drills together or leather jackets in contrast with denim or other fabrics.

By Lifestyles

This involves identifying merchandise appropriate to particular lifestyles or tastes and presenting that merchandise together. For example, furniture is often classified as contemporary, traditional or casual.

By Age Groups
Here, merchandise is grouped together according to age; for example, children's toys or clothing by age group. Great opportunities exist here to related departments adjacent to maximise sales (e.g. toys, sporting, kid’s books, etc).

By a Combination of Several Element
Space, stock quantity, and range may require two or more of these methods to be combined. For example, a display of paint could be arranged vertically by size of can, by type (indoor/outdoor use), semi-gloss, gloss, and flat; by brand; by colour, and by price.

Which one is the prime consideration and therefore the way in which the paint is presented will depend largely on the customers brand awareness, income group, end use of the product, and response to promotional activities - to name a few. Price may well be synonymous with size, end use and brand.

Another example to consider is hair care. Would you expect to find products grouped together by brand (Palmolive, Pantene, etc) or would it be more convenient for you to find them grouped by hair type? That is to find the products for dry, normal and oily hair to be displayed together, grouped with shampoo and conditioner adjacent to each other.

If one of the principles of display is making it easy, the answer is obvious. Most people like to find personalised displays showing them all the products that will suit their specific requirements.

A major retailer raised its lingerie department to high gondolas with the size range of bras going from smallest to largest, top to bottom. After much consternation and complaints from customers they realised that they had got it wrong.

The customer who wore the small bras could not reach up to the top of the rack to the smaller sizes. Conversely, the larger ladies could not access the large size bras from the bottom of the rack unless they got down on their hands and knees to reach the merchandise.

The answer was quite obvious. The stock needed to be presented in the opposite order. Once the larger sizes were positioned at the top, with the smaller sizes at the bottom, more customers could access their size with ease.

Remember: The choice of merchandise presentation method must be based primarily on the way the customer chooses the merchandise.


Shopping should be a pleasure for everyone involved - customers, staff and business owners - never a chore.  I spend my time working with retail business owners - helping them love their businesses back to life!  This blog is my thoughts, ideas, tips and  musings on what I find...