For this post I invited my wife, Trixy Eichler, to share her design experience with us. She has been in charge of merchandising for various large and small retail stores, including Williams Sonoma, Display and Costume, Storables, and lately at Einmaleins. She has the eye and experience. Currently, she keeps a design blog at Trixwithay.com.
What’s your overall approach and philosophy when decorating retail stores?
TE: Every store has a look and feel that goes beyond the logo and branding. Especially in a retail store your windows and the displays that tell your story and sell your products.
Merchandising your product creatively is part of your marketing strategy. Choosing creative display elements and window decoration gives you a great way to separate your business from the competition down the street. And it doesn’t have to break the bank.
When considering decorating your store, don’t limit yourself by the product in your store. Take inspiration from your surroundings, your community, what might be going on in the world. This will show your customers you’re active, aware, and participate in daily life. You are not just a sales outlet. You give people something to relate to and you’re engaging your customers.
Okay, let’s start with the windows and work ourselves from the outside in.
TE: Of course, when it comes to presenting your products it all starts with your shop windows. Each store layout and windows are different, but some basic rules can be applied to most circumstances.
Let’s take a look at Anthropologie for example: They put a lot of effort in making their windows creative and tell the outside world what the store feel like. Product is secondary in the windows. Communicating atmosphere and creating a personality is the main focus.
Be aware that product can fade their colors if the sun hits the windows. And remember that the product in your window are part of the inventory. So make sure this is accounted for.
It can be worth investing in some nicer decor pieces for your windows that you can bring back every year and use over again.
What about the displays?
TE: Seasonal displays are important. People shop the so-called “Hallmark holidays”, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend alot of money on props. Take the ‘dreaded’ Valentines Day for example. Even if you’re not a gift shop, you can easily find red, pink purple colored products in the store and put them together on a display. That alone will bring attention to it during the right season.
Always try to make your displays shoppable. Customers need to feel comfortable taking a product off the display for purchase.
Feature product by repeating it in your displays, but just make sure it doesn’t have the ‘Costco-look’.
What were some of the things you did at einmaleins?
TE: We had big wrap-around windows. It was impossible to change things out as often as we would’ve liked. So we worked on big elaborate seasonal displays. For example for one summer I cut wax paper discs in bright colors, and created stripes of rainbow colors. This take time, and you gotta plan ahead. But it’s worth it and the discs were reused in a different style for different occasions.
One year we hung big branches, with leaves cut out of newspaper. We had a special wiring in the window frame that allowed us to hang various items without always needing to drill new holes.
Another big focus each year was finding Holiday decoration that we could use throughout Winter. We didn’t want to have to change over displays during the busy season between Christmas and News Years. So instead of focusing on Santas we used stars and snowflakes that still worked well in January.
Where do you find inspiration for your decoration?
TE: I like going back to childhood and think of some of the projects we did as children. I make them bigger and more sophisticated. But often I am able to use the same simple materials and techniques, often with stunning results.
Who could help out if you feel like you’re the uncreative type?
TE: Ask your staff to help you, but be sure to set standards for how much time can be spent on decorating and resetting displays. Or a family-member might find an outlet by taking on the creative lead in your store.
Finally, what are some ideas for sourcing products?
TE: Display props: the Dollar store can have great finds for baskets, inexpensive props, and seasonal items. Craft stores will offer fabrics, paper, and other supplies. Second hand stores can also be helpful for finding funky add-ons for seasonal displays.
Thanks for your time.
TE: You’re welcome and thanks for having me.