Sunday, August 1, 2010

Market Week Part 5: Visual Merchandising

Rabbit and the duck 2 So... you’re a super motivated crafter and micro business owner, and you’re looking to really connect with your audience, broaden your exposure and gain more sales. Going to market sound attractive, but don’t know where to start? The CHA are here to help!

This week is ‘Market Week’ where we share the combined knowledge, experience and expertise of many people connect with the CHA; from members contributing their thoughts on the Discussion Thread, to sellers who are known for their outstanding visual merchandising and other friends of the CHA who have more than 2 cents worth to add.

Visual Merchandising

The thoughtful presentation of stock on your market stand, with consideration given to layout, colours, theme, lighting, product/business information and sensory stimulation, is fundamental to creating an attractive and engaging display - with the ultimate goal of making sales!

Your market stand and displays should represent the story of your business and your stock. That is, you need to give though to developing an overall image which is in line with the types of products you make and sell, your business identity and the principles which underpin your business ideas and ideals.

Consider what products you are selling and what message you aim to send. Then, it is important to think about who you target market is, and what they might find attractive.

  • How does your image relate to what the customer wants?
  • Is the customer looking just for value? Or is the customer more interested in style and quality?
  • What theme or styling will support your message?

This process should naturally lead you to a design and look which makes sense for your product.

Example You make children’s items from organic fabric using good environmental practices. It would be wise then to represent these ideals with a display which echoes these principles; such as using calico to cover your table, using recycled basket-ware to hold stock, wooden frames to display price information, and perhaps have some living plants on the table. All these visual cues contribute toward the message you want to send. (And don’t forget signage explaining your principals which support the environment!)

Your theme can change too for many reasons; for example with the change in seasons, with the introduction of a new range or with a change in direction for your business. So remain flexible and always be thinking about how your stand design is supporting your aims and business direction.

No matter what theme you choose though, there are some basic ideas that hold true for all stands:

Go neutral:
Especially if you can’t decide on a theme, then going neutral will always be a winner. The use of neutral colours on the table will allow the stock to standout and present a fresh and clean image which is always desirable. Having said that, you may wish to break with this rule if you have a strong theme idea which deviates from a natural style. If so, take care to remember that the table design should never be louder or stand out more than the stock itself.

Avoid clutter:
Don’t overwhelm your stand with so much stock that no one can actually see what you have! Seek to achieve a good balance of looking bountiful and offering the customer choice without it getting over crowded. You can always hold stock back and add it to the table as sales are made; you don’t have to put out everything at once.

Stock layout:
Put some real thought into the placement of your stock. Group like with like; perhaps you can place all the items for girls on one end, and all the items for boys on the other? Or if you have been wise to create matching items (such as a necklace with matching earrings and bracelet) place them together, to encourage people to buy the set and not just a single item.

If you can show your items in action, do it! You might acquire a mannequin, a hat block or other way of showing off your items in action. But importantly, avoid using ugly displays that don’t fit your style and look.

Give it height:
People are unlikely to see your stock if it is all lying down flat on your table. So get creative and always keep a look out for some unique ways to add height and dimension! Some ideas on how this can be achieved include:

  • Creating a step effect with different height boxes, and then covering the boxes with the same fabric as the table covering. You can do this for the whole length of your table, or just in sections.
  • Using small 2 and 3 tier book shelves (in white) often found at discount stores; placed on the table or on the ground next to it.
  • Using old packing crates and other recycled wooden boxes.
  • Stack matching basket-ware upon each other, with the mouth of the basket facing forwards (just make sure it is stable)
  • Hanging items from your marquee (you can string up a line of twine and hang items using wooden pegs).

Set dressing:
To avoid spending large amounts when you are first getting started, start by looking around your house to see what you already have which is in line with your image. For example, if you want to do a tea party theme for your range of cupcakes, then you are likely to already have tea cups, saucers, cake plates and stands and other relevant equipment already in your kitchen (as long as it suits the colour and styling of your look).

Then, you can find items to ‘set dress’ your table in the most unlikely of places; op-shops, florist suppliers, discount stores like The Reject Shop as well as retailers such as Target, Kmart and Big W.

Aim to remain consistence in the look and style of your set dressing items. If you are using bowls to hold different hair clips, use lots of the same bowls; if you are using lots of coat hangers, make sure they are all in good condition, and the same size and design.

And while you are out and about, visit some of your favourite stores and have a look at their shop displays. Retail stores have professional Visual Merchandisers who have studied the field working on their displays! What do you like about their displays? What ideas can you borrow for your own table?

Finishing touches:
Lighting can be very effective in spotlighting key products, pricing sheets or other things that you want to draw attention to. Power is sometimes available at indoor events for an additional fee. If it is available at your market, think about how adding lamps or spotlights could enhance your stand and attract people walking by.

Fresh flowers or plants add a beautiful, fresh and natural element to your table; their use and style will depend very much on your overall theme and message.

Music can attract people to your stand before they even see you! If you know your target market and understand what music they like, then you can peak their interest as they are approaching your stand. How many times have you lingered in a department store just a little longer to hear the end of a favourite song? But as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you gain permission from your event organiser to have music at your stand, and always make sure the music is appropriate and unobtrusive.

Food offers a different element again, which can attract people of all ages. Again, as mentioned in our last blog post, make sure you are following any applicable food handling regulations for your council and rules set by the market organisers, and be considerate of ingredients that people may be allergic to.

Personal presentation is the all important final piece to this puzzle.  Your personal look should also compliment the look of the business, and great hygiene and personal presentation is a must.

Final Tips:

  • Practice your stand set up at home before going to market. You can ask friends, family and neighbours for their feedback.
  • Always iron your table clothes and other fabrics and pack them carefully to avoid creasing.
  • On the big day, make sure you take photos of your stand for review and to remember your layout.
  • Be sure to keep your ears peeled for comments made by people passing by; and watch what they pick up and what they don’t react to.
  • Professional packaging and signage really add a great finishing touch.
  • Remember to add a mirror to your table if people will want to see how items will look on them.

Thanks to some of our wonderful CHA members for sharing their photos on the CHA Flickr Photo Pool.  Here is just a selection of some great examples which show some of the ideas shared today!

PArt 5 Collage














You can see more photos from our Flickr Group HERE!

Cheers, Chicken

Next post: Market Checklist

Was this article useful? Have more to add? Please leave a comment.... we really want to hear from you! Yes you!


  1. Thanks for the post - this is definitely something I need help with!

  2. Great ideas, thanks!

  3. Excellent Article!!!
    As an experienced Market Trader, it's good to see that more of us are willing to offer advice on how we get our stalls looking so good!


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