Posts tagged visual merchandising
Get cracking for Christmas!
Image credit: Irene Van Der Poel 

Image credit: Irene Van Der Poel 

How early is too early to start discussing Christmas? As most store owners will have ordered in their Christmas stock at the height of summer, hopefully the end of September won’t seem too offensive. The spirit of local High Street shopping is community focussed and often something of an antidote to the giants of retail that start the silly season before the last fireworks of Bonfire Night have fizzled out. As a result it isn't uncommon for indies to shun introducing Christmas to stores until as ‘late’ as 1st December. 

Whenever you choose to succumb to Christmas, if you haven’t yet started planning your festive windows and in-store displays then now is absolutely the time. Here’s a few ideas to get you started. 

Stand out with unusual colour schemes

Red and green is THE traditional Christmas combo, but there are a many more that signify the season just as effectively. Layers of whites, with perhaps a hint of sparkle, is perhaps the second most common sort of snowy Christmas colour scheme. Gold or silver are obvious contenders too. Orange would be an unusual choice that could work well, being evocative of clove stuffed orange pomanders, or indeed the real thing. Navy blue and white is a smart combination that is reminiscent of a clear, wintery, starry night sky. Luxurious purple with gold is decadent, slightly frivolous and richly festive. For a contemporary and fun feel, try a variation on the traditional red and green theme by using hot pink and turquoise with white.


Less or More

Sometimes more is more, sometimes less is more, but half way in between will always look half-hearted. So whether you choose to go minimal with a graphic, simple design or maximal with a jam-packed window, make sure you really go for it to get the most impact from your visual statement.


Cheap and cheerful 

To keep on top of your VM budget, you could raid the loft for vintage decorations and toy collections, that might have been forgotten about, to make a unique and delightfully nostalgic display. Another advantage of reusing like this is avoiding buying new decorations, which are not always produced in the most long-lasting or environmentally friendly way.

If you already have a go-to stash of Christmas display goodies, you can certainly reuse them each year (or every other on rotation to avoid repetition) but by pairing with something different, borrowed or new you can make make fresh schemes each time.

images from Pinterest - click to view my VM inspiration boards

images from Pinterest - click to view my VM inspiration boards


Trash the tinsel

Even with the most careful handling, tinsel doesn't often last well for repeated use. Made from plastic nowadays, unless it can be reused multiple times it is an environmental no-no. Every bit as bad as that, it is also the laziest most obvious way to say Christmas in a store. But life is too short to go without a little sparkle altogether, so consider other ways to introduce shimmer and shine. Biodegradable glitter, confetti and sequins all now exist to make the world a better place. Shiny metal cookie cutters in star or tree shapes and so on are also brilliant, inexpensive and reusable.


Go Trad

Real life greenery is utterly charming, authentically traditional and can be used in endless ways to make a display. Fill a window with fronds, use branches to make a dress for a mannequin, suspend branches and dangle decorations or products from it, hang a selection of leaves with different coloured ribbons, the choice is yours. Biodegradable to boot, you won’t have a guilty conscience, and you’ll certainly turn heads. 


Shine a light: the impact of lighting on your store

Lighting is one of the most important elements of retail store design and can have a substantial impact on sales. You can create beautiful product displays, but if they aren’t lit properly, all that work goes to waste. Balancing the practicalities of displaying your merchandise with atmosphere and dramatic impact can be a challenge, so here are some of the basics of retail lighting design.



Lighting is likely to be one of your biggest investments in terms of store design. It’s estimated that 43% of your energy costs are likely to go on lighting, and that’s after your initial investment in any kind of lighting rig. But scrimp on this design element and you could be compromising sales if merchandise isn’t displayed to best advantage.


Ambient lighting

Choosing the level of ambient light – the general light in the store – is crucial. Compare a brightly lit a pound shop or branch of Primark to the warm, welcoming low light of a luxury boutique and it’s clear how different light levels send different brand messages. Brighter isn’t always better, and low light can indicate a premium brand, but it’s crucial to balance this with merchandise display. If you have low ambient light levels, how will you light displays to keep the focus on your product?


Task lighting

Task lighting highlights areas of the shop that perform functions – cash desks, changing rooms, help desks. It helps customers orientate themselves in store and lights the area so that particular task can be performed effectively.


Decorative lighting

Decorative lighting is additional lighting that creates a particular atmosphere in store. It might add to the ambient light, but its main function is visual impact.

Accent lighting

Accent lighting is used in conjunction with ambient lighting to highlight displays. The fittings required will depend on your merchandise. Mannequin displays will require a wider beam to highlight than a display of jewellery.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

In this Diesel store, low ambient light, accent lighting and decorative lighting are combined to create a treasure-trove feel to this display.

Using natural light

Retailers are increasingly incorporating natural light into their visual merchandising. Department stores like Macy’s that traditionally covered windows entirely with displays are opening them up again to bring in light from outside. Natural light makes shoppers feel good and displays merchandise colour accurately.

Consider how you moderate natural light to deal with very sunny or overcast days and how you’ll light the store at night. One option is to use a thin curtain material that lets through light but cuts out bright sunshine. You can also balance out natural light with lamps to even the overall effect and avoid silhouettes. Some lighting systems offer sensors that will adjust lamps as the light level outside changes.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.

Natural light is used to bring out the contrast of natural tones and bold colours in this display at the Revival store in Chattanooga, USA.


Lamps have individual colour tones that give different effects in an overall lighting scheme. The Colour Rating Index (CRI) of a lamp measures its ability to display colours accurately compared to natural light; the lower the rating, the more accurately colours are displayed. A low CRI would be appropriate to changing rooms where customers want to view a garment as it will appear outside the store.


Flexible Systems

Ideally, your lighting system should be flexible so that you can redirect lights depending on your displays. A track system with adjustable lamps allows you to combine flood fittings that give an ambient light to the whole store with spot fittings for highlighting particular areas.

Track systems are a substantial investment, but at the very least you should ensure you have the ability to highlight key displays and attractive merchandise separately from the ambient light.


Alternatives to Lighting

We’ve covered using windows for natural light, but you can also bounce around more light with mirrors and reflective surfaces. Your colour scheme will also have an impact on how your lighting design works.


This is a guest post courtesy of Modern Retail.





Image Credits:

“Fashion boutique decorative lighting”: Brobbel Interieur,

“Lighting installation at Diesel Denim Gallery, Tokyo”: Diesel,

“Petit Bateau store”: Zisla Tortello, 

“Revival, Chattanooga”: Revival,

“A Frame lighting rig”: Dezeen,






The importance of floor-plans for small shops


Visual Merchandising is not only about making everything pretty. It is also about the nuts and bolts of how a store functions and optimising that for the best possible customer experience. A fundamental part of the VM process is to create a good store layout. 

Using a combination of wall and freestanding display fixtures is ideal, but remember to check whether wheelchair users and customers with buggies can easily pass along aisles or around corners of fixtures. It will induce fury if they can’t! Space is at a premium, particularly for indie-shops, but failure to enable access for these customers can be damaging to business. Despite my best efforts to support my local high street, even I have on occasion given up when shopping with a buggy becomes too frustrating. An awkward layout is a surefire way to send customers straight to the supermarket or internet. As Mums are generally frequent, regular shoppers, they are among some of the biggest spenders, so make their shopping experience as easy as possible to encourage them to return again and again. Even when the layout is optimal, boxes of stock waiting to be displayed can cause a real problem, both in terms of physical space they occupy and also the visual mess. To make the process smoother and less disruptive to customers using the store, when you receive a big delivery consider bringing in an extra pair of hands for a half or full day, to get those boxes out of the way and out of sight as quickly as possible. Communicate with your neighbouring shops- perhaps there is a freelance that could be booked to help out for a few hours in each store on the same day, to keep it cost effective? 

Placement of the till or service desk is an interesting conundrum. All stores are different, and people traffic will flow in different ways according to every unique layout, so there is no one perfect place. But here are a few pointers….

Bear in mind that when positioned against the front window, although it might seem space saving, all those ugly tech cables, bags and any other under-counter clutter are on display - right in the main free advertising platform! If this is really the only position the service counter can be, think about how you might make a virtue of its awkward placement. Can the staff wear uniforms with eye-catching logos or messages on their backs? Would making a kind of theatre of the service suit the brand, by making the staff part of the show? Can the counter be made to look truly attractive, and perhaps part of the window display? Think outside the box.... Otherwise, try a different arrangement, and keep it for a good few weeks to evaluate how successful it is. Change is good! As long as customers are not inconvenienced by the store being in flux, changes will make it seem like something is happening, and create a buzz, a talking point... which is always the end goal. 

Before you start rearranging things, plan it out on paper. It doesn't have to be a brilliant drawing by any means, but if you want to be sure about fitting in everything with a different configuration, investing in a scale ruler and a set square won't cost much and is a very easy way to get an accurate picture.

What layout changes could you make to improve your store this week? Share your before and after snaps on twitter and tag @zoehewettdesign or @zoehewettinteriors on Instagram.

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