It’s one of the hallmarks of the holiday season: window shopping in New York City.

Each year, thousands descend upon Midtown Manhattan to admire the holiday window displays at Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and dozens of other department stores. But oftentimes, these stores aren’t featuring a product. Rather, they’re telling the story of the Christmas season, in a visually arresting way.

Such is the power of visual merchandising, which entails developing three-dimensional displays and signage as a way to maximize sales. Especially during the holiday season, when shoppers are looking to purchase gifts for friends and family, effective visual merchandising can boost sales and profit margins.

Whether shoppers realize it or not, the visual merchandising of stores affects how and what consumers purchase. End-aisle displays “increase sales by 30 percent even if you don’t change a product’s price,” according to Brian Wansink, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, because items are more visible than if they were placed somewhere within an aisle.

Wansink also noted that when complementary items are paired together, such as a piece of clothing and an accessory, they are more likely to sell together, improving sales overall and reducing the burden on the consumer to find the items separately.

Holiday Sales Growing

While the American economy shrunk and sales decreased due to the Great Recession of several years ago, sales in recent years have grown steadily.

According to Deloitte, retail holiday sales should grow more than 4 percent this year compared to 2016 to a total of around $1.05 trillion. In addition, the accounting firm is forecasting an 18-21 percent jump in e-commerce sales — to $111-$114 billion — between November 2017 and January 2018.

“The projected uptick in holiday sales ties to four primary factors affecting consumer spending, starting with anticipated strong personal income growth,” said Daniel Bachman, Deloitte’s senior U.S. economist. “Last year, disposable personal income grew 2 percent over the year to the holiday period, and we may see that rise to a range of 3.8 to 4.2 percent this season. Consumer confidence remains elevated, the labor market is strong and the personal savings rate should remain stable at its current low level.”

So, just how can merchants utilize visual merchandising to take advantage of the holiday sales boost? Here are some ideas.


6 Holiday Merchandising Tips

Entice Customers

Have you ever walked by a store and noticed a new outfit in the window that sparked your interest in purchasing it or something similar? Effective visual advertising inside a store and in view of potential customers outside a store can captivate and engage the audience, making shoppers more likely to purchase products from that store.

An engaging display in a store window or by the front door can increase foot traffic, generating more customers and increasing sales. Tell a story with visual merchandising, know what customers want, and market that to them.

Carry Out the Theme Storewide

Incorporate your visual merchandising theme throughout the store. For the holiday season, a store advertising winter clothing and household items — such as candle warmers, tree and house lights, and ornaments — should maintain that winter theme throughout the store as a way to keep shoppers engaged and feeling good throughout the buying process, which can be stressful.

For example, if large decorative snowflakes and fake snow are used throughout the external-viewing displays, make sure they’re featured inside the store as well, to maintain that emotional connection with your customers.

Make Displays Interactive

It is important to engage customers’ senses. Let them touch the displays. Be sure the displays pop with brightness, colors and scents. Add music or sound to them as another way to draw in customers.

Deloitte’s 2016 holiday survey pointed out that “the ability to see and touch products is the top motivator for visiting a brick-and-mortar store instead of shopping online.” Engaging and interactive displays are an incentive for retailers to bring potential customers into their stores and keep them from browsing the same products on the internet.

Feature Products With In-Store Signage

Use the changing seasons to your advantage.

Switch up your featured products season by season and pair them with discounts and promotions to entice potential customers to enter the store. It’s also important to consider the location of signs within the store — such as in easy-to-see areas at the end of the aisles, for example — and to make sure clear messaging is communicated to your customers.

Group Your Gifts

Once the holiday shopping season gets underway, this is one of the best ways to boost sales.

Many items in the store could be paired together for customers, saving them time spent looking for items or even thinking about what would go well with a particular product. For example, place coloring books by sets of pencils or crayons, so customers might purchase both at the same time.

It’s also important to use visual cues as part of your holiday merchandising in order to point customers toward grouped items. Stores can use arrows pointing at a product or bright lights that attract attention to the items that a store wants to promote to consumers.

Keep It Simple

While visual merchandising is important to driving more foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores, it’s  also important not to overwhelm customers with messaging.

All signage and displays should be clean and to the point, sending a concise message to potential customers about the store’s products. Over-the-top decorations and overwhelming lights and colors could keep potential customers away, as could multiple brand promotions.

It’s better to focus on one message and product type before customers enter the store. Once inside, they can explore all the products you have to offer.

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