The magic of Christmas

The Display Centre’s Ali Newton reveals how to create the ultimate store layout this Christmas

Visual merchandising is often referred to as the silent person in retail. It is the subliminal factor inside any shop that helps increase retail sales and store traffic. It can be particularly important in a boutique, as there is often less merchandising space on offer than the average store. In a boutique, refreshing the layout regularly encourages customers to browse for longer. Moreover, by combining exceptional window displays with a strong floor plan, you really can encourage increased purchases – and there’s no better time of year for this than at Christmas.


Exceptional window displays

It’s vital that boutique owners think of their window displays as their brand promise. If your boutique is situated among other retailers, you have a shorter time-frame to grab the attention of passers by. In the space of even five seconds, this is your chance to engage with potential customers and excite them. It’s one of the best marketing tools available to a boutique owner; it isn’t going anywhere and the only expenditure is set-up time or the occasional display prop.

It’s not just the clothes you sell either: it’s your whole ethos. What is the lifestyle that your customers want to buy into? Is that lifestyle coming across in your window display?

A real winner with boutiques is to make sure that your window platforms consist of props that create visually exciting displays. Many independents opt for a theme each festive season that isn’t necessarily related to Christmas – from Art Deco to a masquerade ball. These should be enhanced by Articulated Mannequins wearing your store’s key pieces, which can later be moved inside to be used as in-store displays, making them a great investment for all-year-round merchandising. Adding to that, many of the props you use can be priced up and sold to customers once they have served their window display purposes.

Another popular trick that is used by other retailers is the three-layer rule. This is when three layers of depth are created within a display. The first layer is often window vinyl graphics, while the second layer is the main event — for example, your well-dressed articulated mannequins. The third layer is an enticing background, even if this ends up being a view of your shop as opposed to a fixed background. Whatever you do, be sure to remember that a key focal point, optical balance and strong groupings are important.


Proxemics simply means how far away a stimulus is from a customer. Proxemics can be used to alter customer attention; for example, when a person’s attention is directed upwards, their focus expands in order to take in as much information as possible. When their attention is directed downwards, their attention becomes very focused on a few specific things.

This is part of a survival instinct that helps us to avoid trip hazards and holes.

These natural instincts can be harnessed to draw attention towards particular items in your boutique. It’s not just limited to your in-store displays either; you can experiment with this in your window displays, too.

This is a great tactic to use at Christmas time. Try using props at different levels throughout the store and displaying merchandise in higher places. The overall effect should encourage customers to view more of the store than they would have done previously, gaining their attention and keeping them in the shop for as long as possible. This will sell more product at any time of the year.

Ali Newton is marketing executive for the The Display Centre, where the team of creative experts provide shop fittings and display equipment, including bespoke items. Newton combines her fine art and fashion qualifications with her market research experience and psychology degree to help retailers drive their sales