In retail, display is critical. Follow these insights from The Retail Doctor for merchandising magic.

By Bob Phibbs

This year, vow to make your displays really work their magic on your customers. Bob Phibbs, The Retail Doctor, offers these 10 insights to terrific displays.

1. Change your displays monthly. Holidays and seasons only last so long, and promotional goods have a short shelf life. Display new arrivals first. If you ordered merchandise meant to go together, keep it together. You don’t want its first appearance to be diluted. Later, the few items that may be left can be grouped with new arrivals to give them a new look. If you ordered red Valentine’s candles from one vendor, mugs from another, and teas from another, wait for them all to arrive. Don’t put the candles out first as a sole item and lose the potential add-on-sale.

2. Display wants. Don’t choose to display prominently products the customer already needs; those are what they are coming in your store for. Instead, remember a customer responds to things they want. So don’t display the cheap hand mixer when the fancy KitchenAid is what every Emeril wannabe desires. Just because they need a mixer, doesn’t mean they won’t treat themselves to the expensive model if it is displayed well.

3. Look for one thing that makes a group. All of one product works well in a grocery store, but it is little more than warehousing the items in a retail store. Display by product use—all items related to brewing and drinking tea, for example. Or display by color—the strongest color combinations to attract attention in retail are red, white and black. Try related or contrasting colors. Our eyes quickly get the point and move on, so never make a monochromatic display.

4. Start closest to the door. Start with the display area closest to the front door and put your newest and most expensive items in the spotlight. Be sure to have several levels of height and enough products so that the customer can pick up and touch without having to totally dismantle your display.

5. Place a pig in the window.
Find a totally unrelated item, and put it in your display. It serves as a prop, its only purpose to grab your customer’s attention. Add a stuffed toy pig to complete your KitchenAid display. It is not necessary to add a prop to every display, but the idea should always be there. You want customers to stop and wonder, “Why is that there?” They are intrigued and come in to learn more.

6. Remember, it’s showtime. Light your display like it’s important. Adjust overheard lighting. If you have a particularly dark display with no way to highlight it from above, consider moving it to an existing light source or light it from below with small spot lights. Remember, light makes the merchandise pop.

7. Put words to it. Add a few well-placed, well-worded signs. Make sure they are short and easy to read. If your customers are mostly seniors, make it easy on them by using larger fonts. Handwritten signs with markers are okay for a kid’s lemonade stand, but anywhere else they tend to look amateurish. Don’t ever put up a sign that says DO NOT TOUCH. You might as well put up a sign that says DO NOT BUY. Displays are supposed to get messed up.

8. Rotate them. Move existing displays around in the store when new merchandise comes in. Since the fairly new products will still be selling, switch your displays two weeks after their arrival. Move one display from the front to the middle of the store and the other from the middle to the back.

9. Track it. Monitor your computer printouts and inventory levels weekly. If something really takes off, be prepared to reorder immediately. If you have sold through your inventory and you have no back stock, change the display to something you have plenty of. If something doesn’t sell, try moving the same display to another location before giving up on it.

10. Tag it. Make sure all of your stock is priced. No one wants to have to ask how much something is.

These are by no means all the ways to make your displays your silent salesperson, but they form a foundation that any retailer or small business can use to bump sales.

Bob Phibbs is a retail consultant in Coxsackie, New York. He is the author of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business (Wiley & Sons). For more information or to subscribe to e-mail updates from Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor blog, visit