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Trade Shows & Events

Merchandising Tour: Tips you can use to create display themes with found materials

Dumpster diving is just one way to discover sometimes fabulous display materials for your next creative merchandising effort. Read tips and suggestions that will help you discover your next perfect merchandising theme as well as ways to work with small and difficult spaces that can challenge even the best merchandiser.

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What does the term “added value” mean to you? Add-on sales? Better customer service? Increased margins? For those in visual merchandising, it means the sell-through that is achieved through the art of display. Well-conceived product presentations sell merchandise. It’s a fact. And one of the best places to get visual merchandising ideas is at trade shows.

This year’s Outdoor Retailer Summer Market featured a series of visual merchandising tours of exhibitor booths, sponsored by Outdoor Retailer, pointing out the product displays that could easily be translated in the retail store. In the next few months, we’ll discuss the best ideas found during the tours, why they captured our attention, and how to adapt them to the retail environment. The ideas apply to a broad range of products, companies, brands and segments, too.

There’s also something in this for you, our readers. We want to know how you applied tips and suggestions from our Merchandising Tour article series in your own store. Send SNEWS® your images and a paragraph or two explaining what you did, and you’ll be entered in a contest to win free lodging at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010.

Horny Toad never disappoints. Its clever use of “found” display materials is a study in what can be discovered by dumpster diving, going to yard sales and cruising Craigslist. The Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Horny Toad booth featured a theme of backyards and barbecues utilizing props like old yard tools, ancient coolers and wheelbarrows filled with watermelons. Sectioned yard hoses became carpeting in one window display and cardboard tubes left over from the show carpet supported colorful photo banners.

The company has always found ways to use interesting fixtures in its unusual exhibit space. The booth wraps around a strategic corner so placement is great (location, location, location), but usable space is a challenge and one the company adapted to happily many shows ago. It would be a challenge for a professional exhibit company to plan the presentation, but not a challenge for Horny Toad which decided to play up the “funky” space with original and, yes, sometimes funky display props to showcase its highly successful clothing line. In subsequent shows, the company has obtained additional booth space and now has a showroom across the aisle. That new space has an old shack façade fronted by window displays.

Many retailers are faced with interior spaces that are difficult to merchandise. The Horny Toad exhibit is a lesson on how to make the most of small and difficult spaces. It does this by drawing attention to the product displays on the walls, however small or limited, by using interesting props, found fixtures and signage adjacent and in front of the walls.

A Horny Toad spokesperson told us a theme is decided on before each show and then the hunt for props and fixtures begins. It is not unusual for company staff members to call one another when a perfect object is found on the side of the road or in a dumpster. The word goes out and the object is picked up. Some of the items include old ladders, doors, wheelbarrows, the aforementioned hoses, chests, chairs, yard tools and barbeques.

One thing Horny Toad is always aware of is the fact that there is a fine line between having too much of a good thing. If your store is interested in using “found” items, focus first on those objects that will give you display platforms like old tables, chairs and chests (you can always use the top for display and stacking, and pull out drawers to hold packaged items like underwear, stuff bags and socks). Use old doors as backdrops for window displays by hanging them from the display window ceiling or making free-standing screens out of two or three doors hinged together.

To make your hunt for objects more successful, decide on a theme — think seasons, for example. In the summer, Horny Toad’s backyards and barbeques theme is a natural because it fits the season. A farmer’s market display utilizing fresh fruits and veggies would add color and would coordinate with the products on display. Stuff a daypack with what you find at the farmer’s market and accompany it with a sign that says, “Buy Local.” In the fall, back-to-school is always easy to work with by including old desks, books, blackboards and lunch pails. In the winter, outdoor sports lend themselves to all sorts of cool objects, such as old sleds, skis, poles, ski gates, race bibs, ice skates, etc. And, in the spring, it’s all about flowers, watering cans and old bed frames made into “flower beds” by filling the bedsprings with flowers and footwear and accessories or whatever items you choose to display.

Keep an eye out for those discarded or used objects that will enhance product presentations. You’ll find them anywhere and everywhere as Horny Toad so ably illustrates at each Outdoor Retailer show. It makes us wonder what the company will come up with next.

Join Sharon Leicham, author of “Merchandising Your Way to Success” and merchandising editor for SNEWS®, during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2010 for the second Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tour program. These hour-long merchandising tours of select exhibitor booths and displays give retailers an unprecedented opportunity to tap into Leicham’s 40 years of experience in merchandising with manufacturers such as Specialized Bicycle Components and Sierra Designs. Email to put your name on a contact list for more information and priority scheduling for the Outdoor Retailer Merchandising Tours, Winter Market 2010 — spaces are limited.