Terms for Visual Merchandising

Visual merchandising displays products so that they sell themselves.
Visual merchandising displays products so that they sell themselves. (Image: Ryan McVay/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Visual merchandising is a retail approach that leans on a store's environment and its goods to make sales. Retailers follow this strategy by displaying products in creative ways to capture the attention of consumers. Display designers use lighting, color schemes and floor plans to encourage shoppers to wind through aisles and scan the range of a store’s inventory. Visual merchandising is a cost-effective marketing technique that reduces the need for employees and allows products to sell themselves.

Window displays

Window displays attempt to draw customers into a store by showcasing the type of merchandise available through interesting and compelling designs. Merchandisers incorporate themes, props or colors targeting the demographics of the store’s customer base. For example, window displays can communicate a store’s image as a hip company that sells the latest must-have jeans or an elegant home-furnishing retailer that stocks high-end decorative items. Successful window displays are clean, well-lit and change frequently. They also should work with a safe, well-lit and welcoming entrance.

"Silent" Selling

Visual merchandising "silently" sells goods by leaning on a store’s design instead of a sales team. A store's aisles and traffic flow are set up to encourage shoppers to walk through the entire building. Designers use lighting and color schemes to define different product sections, evoke positive feelings and draw shoppers to all corners of the store. Merchandise should be displayed in a logical, progressive order to encourage consumers to buy more. For example, socks often are placed next to shoes, or buttons are placed adjacent to needles and thread.


Retailers use different fixtures, shelves, bins and display cases to highlight and promote goods. End-caps, or the displays placed at the ends of aisles, usually have the most exposure to customers and can be used to introduce new products, seasonal items or goods on sale. Wall displays with shelves, racks or peg fixtures are designed so that high-demand items are placed at eye level. Popular items can be displayed high on walls so that they can be seen from any location in the store. Retailers also use strategically placed bins or baskets to display small, affordable items that might take advantage of a customer’s impulse to buy.

Visual Communications

Visual merchandising also relies on signs that communicate ideas and specific sales information to customers. Exterior store signs should tell customers what types of merchandise are available inside and help bring customers through the door. Display signs should provide information about a product’s price, performance and brand logos to help generate sales. Signs also offer an opportunity to creatively use graphics, photos and other visual elements to underscore a retailer’s values and the benefits of its products.

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