GTN goes window shopping to bring you best way to make visual merchandising work for your business


Humans have been trading since the dawn of civilisation. Merchants of yore would arrange their goods in a way that would attract customers – the ripest and most fragrant fruits on top, the biggest catch of the day up front or the largest jewel hanging in most prominent view.

A few thousand years of practice and we are now turning the art of selling into a science. When the 19th century dry-goods establishment Marshall Field & Co. shifted their business from wholesale to retail the visual display of goods became necessary to to attract retail customers from the streets.

The shopfront was no longer simply a window or storage space, they become important venues to attractively display a stores merchandise. Over time this moved inside, becoming part of the shops overall design incorporating advertising, displays and sales floor design.

Its now estimated that over 60 per cent of retail purchases are unplanned, impulse purchases but binge buying behaviour is amplified, or even created, by very smart merchandising tactics. big retail chains have millions to spend on arranging the flow and product presentation in their stores to gain every last penny of sales from each customer visit.

You can use these tactics to grow sales in your own store. People-watching can give you a great idea of how successful your shops layout is. In particular the ‘just looking’ crowd tend to give a strong indication of what catches the eye and shows you what products they might be missing.

Often a smart way to draw peoples attention to certain areas is to put an incentive nearby. In the same way that most supermarkets have their bakery near the front of the shop to draw people in, try putting already items with sex-appeal near what you would like to promote. For example, a vertical glass case with unusual antique firearms can encourage people to stop and put them in a purchasing frame of mind.

Creating an appetite before a potential customer has entered the shop is a huge advantage for sales. as with Marshall Fields & Co. almost 200 years ago, eye-catching window displays work. Unusually most humans develop a pathological lying addiction when they enter a shop, and will most likely decline your offer of assistance. The condition is especially prevalent to us Brits, so give prospective clients the opportunity to see some of your more interesting products at their leisure and without the pressure of a sales associate approaching them. Counter-intuitively this can encourage them to ask more questions once they get inside.

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to include guns in your window display. The chances are that most passers-by will know roughly what you offer so clothes, targets, or other accessories can tell an interesting story of their own and raise their profile. Even better, group products that work in certain scenarios. By encouraging buyers to evaluate the display it can open up more purchase options and acts as a good conversation starter.

Once again referring back to a tried and trusted supermarket tactic, is product placement. not the kind where an a-lister celebrity mugs to the camera as he drinks a Dr. Pepper, but the physical placement of products. Staple products, such as bread and milk, are always strategically placed at the back of the store forcing you to walk past aisles of tempting produce.

While there are less ‘staple’ purchases in the gun trade, a similar strategy can be employed if you make sure that your highest volume products are furthest from the front door. A clever floor layout can introduce customers to all manner of products between the ammo aisles and the tills.

This does not necessarily mean that these spaces have to be jam-packed with products. Another quirk of human nature is our curiousity – fill the more unusual gaps and spaces in your shop with larger or less expensive items and people will have the tendency to explore.

Additionally props are a great tool to help people see what you have to offer. For example, old wooden surplus ammo crates can double up as shelves and give off a subliminal message – ‘these products are selling fast’. Make irregular piles of crates and display products at different heights and depths to creatively get away from shelves with endless rows of items. This helps to give the eye a break and creates space to highlight the specific products.

Try and tie your props into a scenario you are trying to create but don’t be afraid to move things around. You are not tied to a display for life! Regularly re- arranging stock is almost essential to ‘re-highlight’ forgotten products. Once again our curious nature draws us to things such commotion, so create a fresh look during store hours and you could expect a spike in visitors coming to investigate.

Our natural sense of organisation will encourage you place all the guns together, have an ammo aisle and clothing in another. Naturally this helps customers find what they are looking for, but keep displays varied. For example, keep some of your recommended cartridges near racks of shotguns. complimentary items in strategic locations are another way to spark customer-staff conversations.

Finally remember that shopping can be a chore. A Microsoft study found that the human attention span is a worryingly low eight seconds. trying to create an interest in ‘non-essentials’ is tough but is made even harder when the customer is met with long aisles of repetitive products. Ammo aisles are the worst culprit so try and break up the monotony with related products such as targets to prevent customers getting lost in a tunnel of small, similarly-sized and coloured boxes.

Supermarkets tactically stock the popular big- name brands at eye-level. Higher shelves are for higher margin products and bulk-price and lower-margin items go nearer to the floor, below the sight line. Remember: eye-level is buy-level. Leading retailers have been honing this science for decades but learning from their bountiful experience is simple. Pop along to a store and see how they do it.


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