How to Merchandise Your Store for the Holidays

merchandise your store

The holiday shopping season officially kicks off this weekend, and small retailers nationwide are getting ready. When you’re a brick-and-mortar shop, one key to success is making your store visually appealing so it stands out from the others nearby.

There’s still time to make some last-minute merchandising changes that will attract passersby.

Merchandise Your Store for the Holidays

From the Outside In

Give your store an objective once-over from outside the entrance. If it’s got an outside entrance on the street or in a parking lot, is the entrance clean and free of trash? Is the sidewalk swept? Does it catch your eye from the street or parking lot?

If your store is inside a mall, how close do customers have to be before they notice your storefront? How does it compare to next-door stores? Does it stand out or blend in?

If your signage isn’t doing all it should be, now’s the time to place some banners, window posters or easel displays that will really make your store entrance “pop.”

Window Treatments

Your window displays need to catch customers’ eyes. I grew up near New York City, where window dressing is an art. Think of a theme that’s appropriate for your brand, your customers and your location. That could mean channeling the magic of the Manhattan Macy’s winter wonderland if your brand is more traditional or child-focused.

If you’re in a Southern California beach city, you could create a “surfing Santa” theme. Or if you target Millennials, your windows could offer a snarky, humorous take on the holidays.

The goal is to create something that stops customers in their tracks. Of course, you also want to make sales, so try incorporating hard-to-find, must-have or bestselling product into your displays.

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Once inside your store, customers should feel the same vibe they got from the window display, whether that’s a carefully curated, museum-like display of a few key pieces or a cornucopia of plenty with products overflowing from every shelf and table. Even if you go the latter route, make sure your displays are merchandised to guide busy customers to smart choices.

For example, group complementary products together so customers can grab and go. You might even consider displaying pretty baskets, bags or boxes nearby so customers can “build their own” gift baskets. Use signage to spell it out—don’t make rushed holiday shoppers think too hard.

Shelf labels or display signs that say things like “Great Gifts for Mom” or “For the Guy Who Has Everything” will help guide customers where they need to go.

Sensory Overload

Your store should be a feast for the eyes, but don’t forget about the other senses. If appropriate to your brand, pleasant holiday scents can put customers in a festive mood and keep them in the store longer. (Just make sure it’s not overwhelming.) Background music, whether slow, seasonal, fast or energetic (think Abercrombie stores) can lure customers in and encourage them to shop.

Holiday shopping can be a marathon activity, so make space for a few cushy chairs where shoppers’ tired companions can rest their legs. Finally, consider a small refreshment area with hot tea, cider or lemon water and cookies or other treats to re-energize your guests. (If spillage or staining is a concern, stay away from the ooey-gooey items and stick to less risky treats like candy canes or gingerbread cookies.)

And Don’t Forget. . .

Impulse buys next to your point-of-sale area are a great way to monetize this space. People who are shopping for gifts are usually in a generous mood and may be more willing than usual to make small, last-minute purchases.

Stock this area with eye-catching, low-cost items that make good stocking stuffers or gag gifts, as well as practical extras that everyone needs such as gift tags, cards or pretty ribbons.

Take a cue from Sephora stores, which excel at monetizing this space. The lines at Sephora stores can get long, but customers are usually so engrossed in the dozens of $20-and-under cosmetic treats displayed in the checkout area they don’t mind waiting.

Christmas Window Display Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

3 Reactions
  1. The holidays is the perfect season to make the most money. But almost every business knows this. If you are not careful, you will not be able to showcase your business. You should be ready to showcase your goods the holiday way lest you want to be trumped by the competition.

  2. I guess storefront decor amongst some businesses can sometimes be the equivalent of what some homes and their neighbours do with their Xmas lights; the most creative gets the most attention.

    You’re right, regardless of how good a store looks on the outside, the inside has to be just as pleasant, and that for me includes customer service.

  3. I have had many occasions where sensory overload set in and I was on my way out the door when a sales associate stopped me and offered help. There are still some good ones out there who are trying to do a good job and make the customers welcome.