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Merchandising Tour: Summer Market proves ‘ideas are everywhere’

Kicking off the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 merchandising tour article series are 11 display ideas that can go from the trade show floor to your retail sales floor.

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I’ve always encouraged retailers to look beyond their stores to find display ideas. They are everywhere — in movies, on TV, in magazines, malls, online and at trade shows. I was delighted to see so many exhibitors using clever and unique ways to display their products at Outdoor retailer Summer Market 2010. While not all ideas can be replicated in a retail store, some can be easily adapted with a little creativity and moxie.

Let’s take a tour of some of the display ideas found at the show. Remember, they are simple ideas. How they will work in your store is up to you, but I think you’ll find inspiration…and I wouldn’t be surprised if you come up with something even better.


This was one of my favorite spaces in the show. It was small, well-lit and restful with its palette of pastel colors on the wall that matched and enhanced Aladdin’s water bottle offering, which targets women more than its more masculine sister brand Stanley. The focal point of the booth was the back wall where chairs were hung in a random order. I’ve seen this idea used before in specialty shops and like the way the chairs provide display space in a unique way. I can see some hung on the wall behind the cash/wrap, in a footwear department, or to display accessories. Find old chairs, paint them (or not) and use them as shelves.

Columbia Sportswear

I call this idea the Columbia bug wall. The display featured the company’s Insect Blocker clothing displayed on three mannequins that stood in front of a wall covered with bugs (fake, of course). As one approached the wall, a soundtrack of buzzing insects could be heard. I loved this display and know it would be easy to adapt in a retail store. All you need is the product — that’s important — and a backdrop of some sort. It could be a piece of foam-core board, sized 8 feet by 4 feet, which you temporarily attach to a section of slatwall. No need for mannequins. You can pin the insect-repellent garments to the board and glue plastic bugs around them. Create a heading and write it directly on the panel. Presto! — you’ve got a bug wall just like Columbia!


There were two interesting display ideas in the Ojai booth. First, I noticed box heads on the mannequin torsos. The simple boxes were painted and decorated to resemble heads and placed on the mannequins at the booth entrances. They were fanciful and fun. Anything that captures attention at a busy trade show is sure to do the same in a shop…and humor is always appreciated. Second, above the heads and suspended from what looked to be the ribs of an outdoor umbrella were half torsos dressed in tops from the company’s spring ’11 collection. In a store, the space above 8 feet can be utilized for display. You’ve seen tents hung from the ceiling, so why not do the same with clothing?

My Alibi

If you carry women’s bike shorts, you’ve no doubt had a tough time dealing with them. The chamois makes hanging bike shorts difficult because they don’t hang straight. Exhibitor My Alibi cleverly hung a size run of pink shorts on shirt hangers instead of pant hangers, giving them a rakish and appealing look. All bottoms don’t have to hang on pant hangers. I love seeing jeans hanging on hooks from their belt loops. Find different ways to hang products and always group them by color.


I liked the way Brunton displayed its products on slabs cut from birch trees. Because its products tend to be small, the log cuts gave them a substantial backdrop and made them stand out. The different size cuts also made the displays more interesting. This idea would be great for displaying small objects in a glass case.


One of the most unique displays I saw at the show was in the Timbuk2 booth. Two airport luggage carts from the Salt Lake City airport were loaded with the company’s travel suitcases and packs. I thought it was pretty original and out-of-the-box thinking to nab carts from the airport to use in a display. If you are selling travel cases, why not carry out a travel theme with symbols of travel that we’re all familiar with? By the way, the carts weren’t stolen. The airport was happy to lend the carts for a large security deposit! If you have an airport in your city, look into borrowing a couple to use in the windows or in the travel department.


Teva did some interesting displays around water and water shoes in its booth. The first I noticed was a giant ice sculpture at the booth entrance in which several styles of shoes were frozen. Then, around the corner, I spotted a couple of fish tanks with shoes either submerged or sitting on glass columns above the water. Borrow a fish tank, get some column-shaped glass vases of equal height and use them to support glass shelves to display the shoes. Fill the tank to the shoe level with water. Or…fill the tank, weight the shoes and float them in the water. Either way, you’ve created great displays.

Crazy Creek

It is difficult to display camp chairs, so Crazy Creek came up with a good idea that got the chairs off the ground and at eye level. The chairs were hung with industrial-size “S” hooks and twine from a log sawhorse. The chairs opened up because they were hanging, so it was easy to see their features and colors. A smaller version would work in a retail store or front display window. Simple, but effective.


The display at the entrance of the Overland booth was simple but made one feel warm and cozy. The stacked wood crates supported large fresh flower arrangements and a display of products. This idea could easily be replicated in a store because of its simplicity. It’s easy to construct, easy to change and doesn’t take up a lot of space. The shine and texture of corrugated metal walls in the interior of the booth played off the packs, purses and bags hanging on them, and made the colors pop. The booth was a color delight for the eyes.

Kigo cubes and Terra Plana shoe wall

Looking for a way to rev up your shoe wall? Consider using shelving units placed side by side like Terra Plana used in its booth or stacking cubes like Kigo. Both booths made the shoes on display look desirable. Terra Plana lighted each shelf with small down lights to make the shoes really pop. To adapt these ideas, hang chipboard boxes to slatwall and place small battery-powered lights in each. Or invest in shelving units, paint them and replicate the Terra Plana look.


A stack of cubes would make a nice entrance to the footwear department or could form an interesting place to merchandise footwear accessories. Place them along the bottom of a shoe wall in varying heights. Paint the cubes’ back walls bright colors, as Kigo did, and overlay brand logos.

I’m hoping you can use some of the ideas from the trade show and that you will continue to search out good displays wherever you go. In the next Merchandising Tour article, I’ll discuss examples of booth features that can enhance the retail store environment. I can’t wait to show you what I found.

–Sharon Leicham

Would you like to join Sharon Leicham, author of “Merchandising Your Way to Success” and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2011 for the fourth Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program, co-sponsored by Outdoor Retailer and SNEWS? Currently, we are planning one hour-long merchandising tour of select exhibitor booths and displays designed for retailers and one hour-long merchandising tour focused on the needs of exhibitors. Email to put your name on a contact list for more information and to ensure your name is on the registration list for the next Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour Program, Winter Market 2011 — spaces are limited.