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Display Challenge, Part One

Debi Ward Kennedy

It is always educational to see how artists express their ideas. Give several stylists a selection of merchandise, and ask them to create a display with it. The results will have the commonality of the items, but the creative expression used to present the products will vary widely. And thank goodness it does! How boring would shopping be if every store presented merchandise in the same way?! It's up to us as retailers to find inspiring ways to share products and ideas with our customers. Even if that product appears in another store, we can make it our own by the way we show it off.

To illustrate how the same products can take on varied personalities in the hands of talented designers, Country Business chose three stylists to participate in a Display Challenge: Paige King from Hodgepodge in Clarksville, Tennessee; Teri Martin from Precious Memories - Our Designer in San Bruno, California; and Nancy Borsodi, on-staff stylist for Country Business.

Each stylist received identical products from five advertisers: Victorian Heart textiles, Great Finds florals and baskets, Demdaco tabletop items, Colonial Tin mason jars and Goose Creek candles. Stylists were to use all of the merchandise supplied, and they could not add product from other vendors. They were free to use any props or fixtures to enhance the display; however, the focus was to remain on the merchandise.

Paige King

The resulting designs showed excellent examples of display success, and showcased ways you can use products and props in your store displays.

Garden Party Delight
Created by Paige King, Hodgepodge
Photography by Darrell Lovitt

Paige shares, "I always tell my customers, 'If you leave with nothing else from Hodgepodge, I hope you leave with some ideas to use in your own home.' To that end, I try to display our inventory in unexpected ways—not just the way it comes out of the box." Working with Patti, her sales associate and display merchandiser, Paige found inspiration in the bee-themed ceramic ware. From there, the theme of a Garden Party evolved. Their creative presentation is excellent in scale, use of space, and theme development that ties all of the products together.

Don't you love the effect of the berry vines turned into a canopy?! This is a great way to extend the line of the display vertically and draw the eye to it from across the shop. Just as Paige says, presenting decorating inspiration to your customers is always a good move-remember, you aren't just selling products, you are providing ideas, too!

The faux food products, brought in as props to set off the dinnerware, really extend the party theme and are a perfect touch of whimsy. Terra-cotta pots used as risers are appropriate, as they help to develop the garden look. The atmosphere created here draws the viewer into the story, making them want to re-create the scene for themselves. Lifestyle displays are the theater of retail, and just a little imagination goes a long way to inspire your customer to buy.

The brown table fits into the look, but those black chairs are heavy and distract the eye; white or plain wood chairs would offer more of a garden look. You could also hang some of the linen table runners over the chair backs and seats to coordinate the look and offer an added-value use for the products. The rug should be centered beneath the table to provide visual balance to the canopy overhead.

If this was your store, you could also easily add an open wire or metal étagère - to stay with the garden theme - at one side of this vignette to provide lots of shelf space to stock the products in volume. You can certainly see how this type of display would easily fit into any garden store, antique shop or gift shop with a shabby, cottage or country theme. Just use the basic principles Paige has demonstrated and your own style of product and props.

Coming soon to a future Advisor - Parts 2 & 3 of Display Challenge. How did Teri Martin from Precious Memories - Our Designer and Nancy Borsodi, on-staff stylist for Country Business, approach their displays? Stay tuned!

This article is reprinted with permission from Country Business magazine. ©2009. Country Business is a trade publication for independent retailers of gifts and home accents. For more information, visit www.country-business.com.

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