HomeNEWSTop tips for retail displays from Furore’s Nicolle Aston

Top tips for retail displays from Furore’s Nicolle Aston

Visual merchandiser Nicolle Aston was the keynote speaker on Monday at the Spring Gift Fair in Auckland. She exhorted Kiwi retailers to tap into their creativity and create displays that inject drama, theatre and a pinch of magic into their stores. Here are her top 17 tips.


  1. Street appeal is important for both houses and retail stores. Create street appeal with strong lighting; simplicity; displays which are proportional to the distance from which the majority of customers view them; use of colour; symmetry and balance.
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  3. Hold the customer’s interest. “You have a couple of seconds to prove that you have something worthwhile on offer,” Aston says. She suggests placing a special offer or a ‘shopper stopper’ item which shakes, shimmers or moves in the window or prominent place in store.
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  5. Use punctuation marks or ‘hotspots’ to break up displays. Aston says retailers should space the most prominent items through the store in a way which pulls the customer’s eye through the general displays. “When everything is screaming for the customer’s attention, the scream becomes a dull roar.”
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  7. Face your audience. Decide where the majority of people are approaching your display from, and then turn it to face them. Make sure the angles on the products are uniform.
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  9. Use the ‘cone of vision’. Shoppers are most likely to see products when they are sitting within a cone-shaped field of vision which starts at just above the eyebrow and ends beneath the knee. Height varies, adds Aston, but this broad area is your most reliable selling zone.
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  11. Arranging items in a pyramid or triangle shape and layering the items forwards will maximise the impact of your displays. A ‘waterfall’ or S shape also works well. Aston says customers can sometimes be reluctant to interfere with elaborate displays by taking an item, so she recommends retailers place a simple stack of items nearby: “Admire me here, buy me here.”
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  13. Repetition is an attention-grabber. Repeating products works well when the pyramid shape is inappropriate. Volume of stock gives customers confidence in the product and stimulates buying behaviour, says Aston.
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  15. Communicate with the customer so that they understand the purpose of displays. If it’s ‘Buy one, get one free,’ does the customer know this? Make sure appropriate signage is ready before the display goes in.
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  17. Group with colour. “The collective use of colour will always draw the eye,” Aston says. Limit colours to one or two, single out the most prominent one and place emphasis on it.
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  19. Group like with like. Aston says grouping associated items together is persuasive and will boost sales, particularly with women: “It’s the handbag and the shoes.”
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  21. Vertical displays encourage customers to look outside their cone of vision. This strategy will only work when you have good volume of stock, Aston says, but it will successfully alter customer behaviour.
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  23. Add embellishment with props. “Props bring a bit of retail magic back into retail – a bit of theatre, a bit of entertainment,” Aston says. She warns that the product must be the focal point.
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  25. Demonstrate the product. “Get the product out of the packaging and into the customer’s hands as quick as you can.”
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  27. Let there be light. Aston says store lighting must be on, not to “Arctic” and shining on the product. She recommends retailers check that their lighting in the window is clean and working correctly before investing in windowdressing.
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  29. Identify everything. Put a price on every product, Aston says, as customers need that information to make purchasing decisions and become “really annoyed” without it.
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  31. Make sure hanging posters, signage and all other display elements are professional. Consider setting rules or getting a template for your signage, and discourage artistic interpretations.
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  33. Limit counter displays. Aston says it’s tempting to load up the counter with impulse purchases, but the customer needs space to make their purchases.

Aston recommended Zen Genius’ visual merchandising channel on YouTube for retail inspiration.

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