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Merchandising Tour: Footwear displays that creatively demonstrate function

Looking to move beyond a bland slatwall for your footwear displays? Here are some ideas SNEWS picked up at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market that take in mind the function of the shoe for effective merchandising.

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Footwear display has the potential to be exciting, invite exploration and tell us a story about it’s end use whenever possible, but all too often what the consumer is treated to is a slatwall, with endless style upon style, in a department fronted with the occasional table display. Sigh.

What if you decided to turn your footwall merchandising model upside down and inside out? It’s likely you’d stylishly stand out like these trendsetting exhibitors did at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market:


Taos Footwear

If your footwear bears a brand name that is also a well-known location in New Mexico, why not place your styles on fixtures that resonate with that place? The colors, lit shelves and simple design of these custom built cabinets sets the mood of the merchandise even before potential customers begin to explore. And if you still aren’t convinced these beautiful fixtures make a difference in generating customer interest, I invite you to close your eyes and picture the same footwear profiled on slatwall. Yup, I knew you’d agree.

Dr. Scholl’s Shoes

The booth staff of Dr. Scholl’s shoes knows full well the opportunities fantastic merchandising can bring after experiencing more than 100 unscheduled visits at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market. The company’s visual merchandising, which featured their playful Jamie shoe walking up an outside wall, was designed to engage customers as was the nostalgic and retro display at the front of the booth consisting of a bicycle, flowers and an old time cooler in addition to one pair of shoes. The merchandising message had me longing to get on my cruiser and head to the five and dime, or out to play.


Sure, Columbia has signage (clever signage too), but what positively pushes merchandising story boundaries here is their use of props – shoes on top of scales demonstrating lightness and a water faucet that flows over their water shoes leaves little doubt as to the attributes of this product. Combine that with colorful footwear and it’s almost impossible not to stop and check out this merchandise.


Nevados demonstrated another clever example of selling us on the waterproof attributes of its boots, but what caught our eye was the lush greenery surrounding the old time mobile home. The stage was set for a hike, and weather be damned. Hiking boots and water shoes are made for the outdoors, so why not bring in at least one or two elements of dirt, stone, and greenery?


Curved, backlit walls and descending shelves provide the subtle suggestion that these shoes sure can climb. The natural elements used in booth construction provide an outdoor feel, and invite us to reach out and touch the product.


Our eye was caught by this intriguing and curious display of a high-heeled shoe on a bike pedal, and we just had to stop to find out what the story was with this style. Now we can’t wait for this shoe, perfect for the cycling commuter, to be available. If you have a product that is innovative or out of the ordinary, demonstrate it’s extraordinariness in your merchandising message, and start the conversation.

Like these visual examples demonstrate, footwear display and organization creativity has countless possibilities. Consider the function of your shoe and create a scenario in which that function is silently communicated to your consumers. Create excitement, and help your customers differentiate among categories.

Whatever you do, try to think outside of the slatwall box.

Robin Enright is the founder of Merchandising Matters, an agency providing visual merchandising support to brands and retailers and is the merchandising editor for SNEWS. Email Robin at with questions, ideas and suggestions.