The Five Basics of Visual Merchandising

The Five Basics of Visual Merchandising

by Barbara L. Wright, CID

œIn-store visual presentation has always been the primary stimulus accounting for the major share of retail purchases.
Joseph Weishar, The Aesthetics of Merchandise Presentation

The art of displaying merchandise to enhance its sales appeal is called "visual merchandising." Every optical dispensary benefits from good visual merchandising.

The easiest way to have exciting displays that really help to sell frames is to hire a professional visual merchandiser to come in and change your window and showcase displays once every month or two. For a fee, they will bring their own props, and sometimes create special ones just for you. Practices which depend on window displays to bring in new patients cannot afford to have anything but the best visual merchandiser they can find. A great window display can be a real traffic-stopper and create sales for you that you would have missed without it.

However, not every practice can afford the luxury of professional help in this area. You may be lucky enough to have someone on your staff with an artistic bent who has a natural knack for putting together displays. Even if you don't, that doesn't mean you can't have good-looking displays. If you follow these five basic principles of visual merchandising, you or a staff member can put together effective optical displays whether you have innate talent or not.

1 Less Is More
Keep your displays simple. Keep them uncluttered. Leave some space around them. The most common mistake is trying to show too much at the same time. Props should be simple in shape, preferably something that provides a large mass of color or texture, such as blocks, covered boxes or risers. Stay away from things with busy details, such as printed scarves.

2 The Pyramid Principle
If you place one frame at the top of the display and let all the other elements "step down" from that point, you'll have a very effective design. It's that top focal point that attracts attention and makes the display interesting to look at. This principle always works ”you really can't construct a bad pyramid display.

3 Odd Rather Than Even
An odd number of elements is always more attractive to the eye than an even number.  That's because an asymmetrical arrangement is slightly off balance and keeps the eye moving around to look at each frame. That provides a built-in visual dynamic. On the other hand, a symmetrical, perfectly balanced arrangement stops the eye in its tracks. That's dull.

4 Repetition
Using identical elements and repeating them over and over again creates a very powerful display. This simple idea can have a lot of punch.  For example, line up a series of frames that are all the same style, but different colors.  It really doesn't matter how you support them. Just make sure they're all positioned in exactly the same way or the display will lose impact. There's an additional benefit to this type of display: It reinforces the idea that you have a wide selection of frames.

5 Texture
Consider carefully the background material for your display. Texture can complement or contrast with the frames placed on it or around it.  For example, never put metal frames on a mirror or other glossy surface. The frames simply get lost in all those reflections. Metal frames need a rich surface like velvet or suede to bring out their jewelry-like quality. However, frames made with special materials such as leather can be emphasized effectively by using a prop made of similar materials. Leather gloves or a leather briefcase can complement a pair of leather-accented frames.

"Good visual merchandising is a mix of art, inspiration and science. While great visual can sell lousy product, poor visuals can do nothing for great merchandise."
Paco Underhill, Why We Buy

Get comfortable with having some empty space in your high fashion displays. Expensive frames must never be crowded together because it reduces their value. They need space around them so they can be seen as something special. Your lowest priced frames should be crowded together so patients will perceive them as lower priced.

Keep your use of props and brand display items like logo plaques and show cards to a minimum. Optical industry trade journals and trade shows are an excellent place to find both display ideas and resources for props and display accessories.

Above all, use the K.I.S.S. theory of display: Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!

Barbara L. Wright, CID is an award-winning certified interior designer who has designed more than 600 eye care practices. She is the author of Optometric Office Design Process & Pitfalls and president of Barbara Wright Design, specializing in optical office design since 1984. Get free Optical Design Secrets video clips from Barbara at

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