Article | Category: Retail

Dressing Up Your Retail Space: Smart Visual Merchandising Ideas

By Dorota Wysocka

Pulse | September 2015 | Retail and Sales 


Visual merchandising is the deliberate design, layout and presentation of a retail space, as well as the products and services sold in that pace. Many of us (spa owners and managers) may be intimidated or question the need to invest effort in this area. We may say: “it’s too complicated,” “I’m not creative,” or “it probably won’t make any difference anyway.” The basics of visual merchandising are simple common sense and can be learned by anyone.

Visual merchandising is what tempts the bored customer, waiting for an appointment, to browse the products on display in your reception area. It is what entices passers-by to enter your store. Attracting customer interest and converting that interest to purchasing activity will result in the sound of ringing cash registers and, ultimately, profits.

At its highest level, visual merchandising appeals to the senses in order to elicit an emotional response ideally followed by a purchase decision. Sight, sound, touch, smell and even taste can be influenced through the use of lighting, display techniques, ambience choices (music and scent), and even the provision of refreshing beverages at the reception area.


Spa Retail Space Layout

Your spa retail space should be well-lit and easy to navigate. Make deliberate choices regarding your layout so that it fits with the available space and desired customer behavior. Use a sketch of your floor plan to explore and “feel” options prior to setting up. Draw your ideal display cabinets and mannequins, then “walk” your fingers through the floor plan—sometimes just by tracing along the sketch of the plan, you will be able to visualize opportunities for improvement. Once you have set up the actual layout, practice the walk-through yourself to confirm that goods are visible, displays are uncluttered and attractive, and that the flow itself is easy to navigate.

Layout options include:

  • The racetrack or loop layout leads customers along a designated path, so they walk past all the available products on display. Depending on how much available space you have, feature areas can include display stands, mannequins or freestanding fixtures. This floor plan must flow well, with clearly spaced displays, so the customer can enjoy the shopping experience. This layout option works well for more spacious spa retail areas, where a broad range of products are displayed.
  • The freeform or boutique layout encourages customers to browse freely, wandering in any direction to look at display stands or freestanding fixtures. This layout option works well for both larger and smaller retail areas as long as sufficient room is provided for customers to avoid bumping into displays.
  • The grid layout is often seen in supermarkets and convenience stores. Customers walk up and down aisles selecting items. End caps, the displays at the end of each aisle, give prominent space to promotional items to entice customers into an impulse purchase. This layout option is generally not preferable for spas or other retailers of luxury items.


General Display Techniques and Product Positioning

After welcoming customers into your space with your enticing window display, you may want to use strategic display techniques and product positioning to direct their attention:

When displaying products, decide between showcasing and mass merchandising. Showcasing involves displaying a few samples on the shelves with the remaining stock stored out of sight. This method is convenient when you have minimal space to work with. Mass merchandising involves placing larger amounts of inventory on display, but if not carefully managed, this can result in a “cluttered” feel. Spa customers do not expect a supermarket experience; if you display a minimum of six of each available product, this should be enough. You may also wish to display fewer of your more expensive items—this can create an illusion of scarcity while also reducing inventory-holding costs.

Improve visibility of featured products. Give prominence to your newest products and keep your high-margin products at eye level in well-lit positions. By rearranging your displays regularly, you can also work out which products are most consistently popular, even if they are not in a prominent position. You may be able to increase the popularity of an overlooked product simply by highlighting it in the display for one week at a time.

Display related products in a logical progression and group complementary products together. This will encourage customers to buy “sets” of products. For example, display skin cleansers, toners and moisturizers together.

Leverage the “rule of three” when displaying products to create visual movement. The human eye seeks symmetry and balance, so it will keep moving until it finally rests upon a symmetrical object or display. When a central item is slightly higher than two other objects, the eye will focus on the highest point and then work downwards. If you place one jar of moisturizer on top of two other jars of moisturizer, making a pyramid, this display will be more pleasing to the eye than three jars of moisturizer in a row or stacked directly on top of each other.

Clearly display prices. If using price stickers, choose a consistent and convenient position for the price sticker.  Generally, the best position is at the base or the back of the product. Be careful not to obscure the ingredients’ information.

Dust is the bane of beautiful merchandising—combatting it should be a priority. The most exotic skin-care products, well-lit and displayed become devalued in your customer’s eye by a thin layering of dust. Your staff should clean regularly and you may wish to consider using glass cabinets to protect your products.


Reception and Retail Areas

With limited space available for uses other than customer relaxation and treatments, many spas have adjoining or combined reception and retail areas, giving customers waiting for treatment the opportunity to browse:

  • Consider whether a centrally placed “island display” and/or well-lit wall displays are appropriate for the layout of your facility.
  • Consider limited seating in the retail area so that customers are more inclined to browse.
  • Ensure that décor and ambience match your spa “theme.” If you are promoting peace and tranquility, you may wish to consider a décor of soft blues and greens, with gentle background music and a light but pleasant scent. If you are promoting organic natural skin treatments, you may wish to consider furniture and fittings made of eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo.


Window Displays

Research has shown that you have three to seven seconds to make an impression on potential customers as they walk past your window display:

  • Choose a theme, displaying your best-selling products in the appropriate context. This will help to grab your customer’s attention and the context will help trigger his or her purchasing decision. For example, you could work with the theme of summer time, and create a visual “beach” display that includes towels, flip-flops, sunscreen, hats, after-sun products and tote bags.
  • Change your displays regularly to attract regular traffic back into the store, and also to take advantage of seasonal themes, such as the holidays.


Merchandising Treatment-Related Products

From facial cleansers to exfoliating creams for the body, treatment-related products are an extension of the spa experience. Visual merchandising ideas for treatment-related products include:

  • Group similar products together. You may choose to group products by brand, by treatment type (products for skin care vs. nail products) and/or by intended customer (male vs. female).
  • Use color blocking in your display setup or arrange products according to color. Position products with complementary colors together for a strong visual effect, or create a harmonious display by lining colors up according to their place in the color wheel. The blocks of color will make your display more appealing to your customers’ eye.
  • Display shelf talkers. These printed cards describe the features and benefits of the products on display. They help to differentiate items that are in crowded product categories, providing a visual cue that attracts customers who will then read the additional information about a specific product.
  • Display and clearly label product testers. Testers allow customers to experiment with different brands, textures, smells and shades of cosmetics. Be vigilant—testers should look fresh, testing areas should be kept clean and containers shouldn’t have any spillage.
  • Arrange product dispenser pumps so that they turn in one direction. This also creates visual consistency that is pleasing to your customers’ eye.