The Magic Formula for Visual Merchandising

One of the real challenges of Visual Merchandising in Brick-and-Mortar Retail is the subjective nature of it. As you implement your creativity and build displays, co-workers can weigh in, “I love it.” “I hate it.” “Let’s change this or add that.” Eventually, this can devolve into an argument over color, accessories, or story. 


What matters is this: Does it work? As in, are customers shopping and buying from the display? Effective visual merchandising requires a little math. Here’s where to start. Determine your store’s Dollars Per Square Foot performance. It’s as simple as dividing your annual revenue dollars by your store’s square footage. If your 2500-square-foot store location generates $2 million a year, you divide 2,000,000 by 2500. Your dollars per square foot is $800.


This is now a baseline you can use to compare the relative performance of any fixture, furniture, or wall space in your store. Your goal is to achieve (or exceed) that $800 sq ft performance in every corner of your store. Evaluate the performance of that cool new display you have on a table at the front of your store. Check the total sales from all of the products displayed there for the week. Multiply $800 times the square footage represented there, and evaluate your sales against that standard. If your table is 10 square feet, you’ll need $8000 in sales to justify its performance. 


While the $800/ft is an annualized number this does give you a reasonable expectation of your space performance. 


If you’re underperforming, look at a few things:


  • Is it the right product? Do you have enough sizes represented? 
  • Is the presentation appealing? Are customers drawn to the fixture?
  • Are you maximizing the location of the fixture on your sales floor? Are you attracting enough traffic to the area?
  • How’s the lighting? Are you featuring the area?
  • Is signage needed to improve performance?


Ultimately, visual merchandising adds an elegant, attractive component to your products. Some call it “romancing” the product. Because of this, you want creativity, some risk-taking, and the element of surprise. Just be sure to add an element of objectivity to ensure you make decisions that result in improved sales. That’s the ultimate measure of success!


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