Shoppers Beware: A Guide to Visual Merchandising at the Holidays
August 28, 2019
By Susan Daly, IDOC Consultant
I know, I know, too soon, right? But, it’s 60 degrees out today and just faintly drizzling, and Northeasterners get very excited about these things. The changing of the seasons is one of the reasons I live in Connecticut. It’s just beautiful here. Beauty is subjective of course. Last night I watched an episode of Grand Designs, a long-running UK series that follows self-builders on their path to creating their dream homes. This particular episode followed a family set on building entirely out of concrete. Now I am a modernist. I believe in black cladding contrasting against white render and exposed steel work. I love an open kitchen with dangling Edison bulbs dotted throughout. Give me a room that looks like someone just moved in and I’m happy. But, all concrete, interior and exterior walls looking exactly the same? Even for me, this was too much and left me wondering if the bank shouldn’t be checking their sanity instead of their credit.
Taste, so the saying goes, is subjective. But, quality, is not. Quality stands the test of time. Buckingham Palace may not be to my taste but there is no denying the skills of the bricklayers and the detailing of the woodwork. Eyewear is similar in that way. My frame may not be to someone’s taste but if it is meticulously crafted one is at least not put off by its presence. The same can be said of our optical interior design and, more specifically, holiday décor decisions.
My mentor once said something to me that I believe applies. She said, with the sweetest, most heartfelt look on her face, “Susan…dear, sweet, Susan… there is a time and a place for creativity. The time is anytime you like, and the place is anywhere but here.” She was referring of course to my over-the-top holiday display. I worked at the time for a still existing, but in the upstart stage, sunglass retailer and we didn’t have the department that told us how to decorate at the holidays yet. In fact, my little foray into interiors probably solidified the need for that resource. But I wasn’t going to let the holidays go by without letting it be known that we here at XYZ Sun Retail are on board!
There was glitter strewn on the floor. I had three huge Christmas trees, two in the front windows, and one near the register. The cash-wrap was laced in garland. The lights had snowflakes dangling so low some customers had to duck. The display cases had ribbons and bows placed ever so subtly between every single frame. But, the best part (my masterpiece) was the soundtrack. I was single-handedly keeping Mariah Carey’s career alive. It was all too much and when I stepped back and looked through fresh eyes, I could see it too.
Changing the look of the Optical with the seasons, even if the climate in your area remains essentially the same, is critical to driving sales. Customers’ wallets run on an easy to predict cycle of spend and save and change is the key to loosening the purse strings of even the stingiest clientele. We just have to be sure our seasonal displays elevate instead of overwhelm. But how?
Watching “old” episodes of Grand Designs I am horrified by what people considered cool and modern in the 90’s. I was alive in the 90’s and I didn’t think it was all that bad. But, 20 years on, it turns out, it was that bad. The first step to refreshing your interior is to see it through fresh eyes. Tap the advice of a friend whose home you admire. Where do you feel comfortable apart from your own house? If someone has managed to make you feel at home when you’re not in your home, they have some understanding of interiors. Once they’ve evaluated your space and given you some advice, work in the rule of threes. Not trees! Threes. Choose three elements in a single color to add to the space each season. In Spring bring in 1 green plant, 1 green piece of artwork, and maybe a strip of paint on a focal wall in the same shade.
And at the holidays, choose a non-denominational color from gold, silver, white, or green and add in three elements only. In this case, a pine is fine if it is left undecorated. Then, we add a green garland in a window and plainly wrapped green gift boxes on the cash-wrap. If gold is more your taste, ask the staff members to wear gold frames for the season, create a gold frame board just for fun featuring all of your gold eyewear, and ask your top frame vendor partners for any gold point of purchase advertising materials they may have, the definition of form and function.
As we head into the holiday season, remember to be playful but practical. Clutter and capture rate have an inverse relationship. Snowmen and pom-poms, and anything on display in or around your frames that is not for sale may make people happy, but it will not increase your sales.
Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT and studied branding abroad at the University of Westminster. Her most recent positions include Merchandise Manager for Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Northeast Regional Trainer for Solstice Sunglasses. Susan started her own business in 2009 and sold it in 2016 to return to Connecticut and begin working for IDOC, helping other small business owners find success on their own terms. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.