Let’s Get Visual
By Jamie Birdwell-Branson
Now that spring holidays are behind you, you finally have a moment to breathe (in between all the weddings you’re booked for, of course). Why not use this “down time” to strategize your visual merchandising for the rest of the year? With so much pressure to make a compelling Instagram or Facebook post, we often forget about one of our most important marketing assets: our front window displays.
Here are some tips for creating a picture perfect window display to get some good foot traffic in for the rest of the year.
Plan it OutCitation
Artists routinely get inspired by everyday things to create something extraordinary. When you’re looking for inspiration for a creative window display, look to films, television shows, magazine spreads—and yes, social media.
Instagram is one of the best platforms to look for window ideas because you can search by hashtags, thus categorizing pictures by subject. Look up these hashtags to get a better vision of what trends and aesthetics other shops are going for:
Additionally, following visual merchandising Instagram accounts like @vimermvm, @trendsonyourhands, @retaildetails will give you a creative spark to help you start planning for your next display.
Another great way to get ideas for visual merchandising is to get up and out of your house. Make it a point to get out to the nearest downtown area or mall. Take a stroll to see what pops out at you in the store windows. You could also try walking through a city park or take a hike to soak in some nature, which we all know can get the artistic juices flowing.
Find Your MuseCitation
Now that you’re creatively inspired, it’s time to start planning. Though there’s no need to get every detail written down (you might want to be a little more spontaneous than that when you’re putting things together), it’s good to have specific themes in mind.
Do you want to do a colourful “Dia de Los Muertos” theme during October or do you want something more ghoulish for your front window?
For the winter holidays, would you like to do everything in white for a Winter Wonderland theme, or are you envisioning a vintage, techni-colour Christmas? Start thinking ahead about what kind of aesthetic you want to present when people pass by your shop.
When you have things tentatively planned, you can go ahead and purchase that prop or piece of furniture you see when you’re casually shopping around town. As you plan your themes, get your employees involved.
Hold a staff meeting to brainstorm ideas. You never know if they’ll think of something you never would have on your own. After you get some loosely laid out ideas, start sketching or writing things down in a notebook so you don’t forget them.
Get Good PropsCitation
Though some shops may get props and displays from their distributors, many of us have to start completely from scratch. So where are the best places to find props? The answer is really just about anywhere.
Check out local consignment shops, flea markets, estate sales, and even garage sales. Another great place to find interesting and unique items for props would be at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore where you can find gently used household items and building supplies.
If you’re looking for something really specific, try shopping online at sites like Etsy, eBay, Goodwill, or Everything But The House, which is an online estate sale with thousands of items you can bid on.
You never really know when or where you’ll be when you find something that inspires you for your store. Make some space in your house or in your store so you have dedicated storage for all the treasures that you find.
Grab Creative HelpCitation
Taking on an entire display by yourself can be quite demanding, both physically and creatively, especially when you have several weddings to tackle and the occasional memorial service that pops up.
You may have a couple of staff members you could use, but, of course, you have to assure you have adequate coverage for phone orders and walk-in customers.
Before you resort to creating the entire display on your own, consider alternative ways you can find help.
If you live in an area with a university or a community college, reach out to the art department to see if any art or design students would be able to assist in return for internship credit.
Even if internship credit isn’t available, many of the students would be willing to do it for the experience or a reference. Likewise, you could also reach out to any aspiring visual merchandisers in the area who would like to get pictures of their work for their portfolio.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get CreativeCitation
Part of the fun of visual merchandising is to create something that’s unexpected. Though you can expect to see more whites, reds, and golds during the winter season and bright, playful designs with flamingos and beach balls in the summer, the most interesting displays are ones that capture your imagination.
For example, use a natural element like flowers or greenery, but display them in a way that’s more intriguing than simply placing them in a pot or vase (like displaying them upside down).
Instead of flooding your window with as many products as you can, you could take a more minimalistic approach, or try a monochromatic display using the most brilliant white or the punchiest pink that you have. The more creative your display, the more likely someone may snap a picture and put it on Instagram or come inside and purchase some flowers from you.
Finally, when thinking about your window displays, you should try to create a scene. There’s a reason why millions flood to Manhattan during the Christmas season and go window shopping. They want to feel like they’re transported to a magical world while when they’re browsing.
Whether you’re in a big city or small town, you can provide that wonder. Make it easy for customers to envision your product in their homes with their families during the holidays, or even just on a regular day.
Jamie Birdwell-Branson is a freelancer based in Santa Barbara, California. She enjoys antiquing, biking, and binge watching HGTV.