Charm your customers at Christmas with visual merchandising

The high streets are full of glitter and glitz. Christmas trees stand resplendent in shop windows, Santa Claus can be seen scaling various façades and the smell of mulled wine and gingerbread is in the air... The run-up to Christmas, a particularly busy period for brick-and-mortar retailers, is approaching fast and the year’s main occasion for in-store decoration must be planned early on. 

You have to stand out to be seen

To ensure your business is competitive, you need a well thought-out concept for your Christmas display. Interior designers should ideally set aside a few hours in advance to work on the theme with the shop owner and create a mood board. After all, brick-and-mortar retailers need coherent visual communication if they are to have any chance of standing out from the festive “potpourri” of their competitors. You have to make a positive impression so that passers-by notice what you are offering and don’t buy their Christmas presents online after the stores close.

A Christmas tree is only the beginning

To create a festive display that people will remember, you need more than just a Christmas tree or Santa Claus in your shop window. Customers can find these typical elements anywhere. An idea or motto that can take the form of a visual story is needed if you are to wow customers and motivate them to shop. “Christmas” is too general of a theme and is unlikely to be remembered as an image by passers-by, as there are no meaningful key elements. 

On the other hand, themes such as “the magic of stars”, “a castle Christmas” or “a forest Christmas” can be used to develop a really individual visual story that can be presented throughout the store, from the display windows and entrance area to the point of sale (POS). 

Attract attention through abundance

If the star is the key visual at the heart of your store design, “the magic of stars” is a fitting theme. The effect of a sea of Christmas stars should be conveyed in the display windows, at the presentation points in the shop (one or two tables, depending on the size of the store) and, ideally, around the entrance door as well. Special attention must be paid to the entrance area, where, in addition to the display windows, the theme can be communicated outwards as an eye-catching feature. Depending on the architecture, the stars might be hung on the canopy above the entrance door, attached to wooden sticks in flower pots on both sides of the door or combined in an arch to accentuate the entrance. By making the entrance door part of the Christmas theme, customers can not only walk past the display, but also “step into the design”, as if through a portal. They become part of the visual story, which increases the emotional effect. 

When retailers opt for a single symbol such as a star, it is then all about excess when it comes to the design. A few stars dotted around are not going to particularly wow the customers. If the stars used are not simply decorative objects but also products sold in the shop, then the additional revenue generated will spare the advertising budget. 

Classic or cheerfully colourful?

The “magic of stars” theme appeals to different target groups, depending on the colours chosen. Gold and silver stars lend a classic and elegant touch. A cheerful and colourful colour palette is likely to mostly attract a young, trendy and unconventional target group. Wooden stars in red and green will appeal to Christmas traditionalists. The choice of colour is crucial to the overall effect. Too much colour looks confusing and overwhelms customers. To avoid this, you should always define the colour palette for your decorations in addition to the theme. 

If you decide to go with gold and silver, the tables at the POS should offer products in complementary colours from different product groups. Cardboard boxes, gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, blankbooks and pens in gold and silver can be supplemented with products with star motifs, such as cups, napkins or tealight holders. Stars hanging over the tables are a must for a “magic of stars” theme. 

Different theme – same principle

When designers create a “forest Christmas” for a Christmas in-store display, they focus on the nature trend, pine trunks and moss. Materials such as wood, leather and metal go well with this design idea. Retailers should select products in brown, green and matt gold tones. Gift bags and wrapping paper rolls reminiscent of brown wrapping paper and products with forest animals as a motif can be used to encourage customers to buy. 

Enchanting light

There is one Christmas decoration you really can’t do without: fairy lights! Again, “more is more” when it comes to these. Go for lots of small lights rather than a few large ones, as small bulbs that glitter and sparkle create a much prettier and more intense effect. Light is irresistible, especially in the last two months of the year, when it starts getting dark in the afternoon already. It arouses curiosity and conveys an inviting, homely feel. Now that we have access to LED lighting (make sure to choose a warm light colour), it is worth leaving your lights to sparkle and glitter 24 hours a day. After all, even when it’s bright, the lights still add to the festive atmosphere and night owls on their way home long after you’ve closed your doors for the day are still happy to experience a little Christmas magic. 

Christmas is the peak sales season! 

Good planning and a detailed implementation that leaves nothing to chance will guarantee good sales. A Christmas display should never be a half-hearted affair, but should instead convey a pleasure in decorating and attention to detail. 
With an authentic, individual and creative Christmas display, a specialist store can charm its customers and signal to passers-by: “You’ve come to the right place to find all of your gifts, even for the really tricky people – right here in our store!”.

About the author

Sabine Gauditz is an expert in visual marketing in the retail sector. Since 1986, she has been designing and arranging sales-promoting product presentations for various industries and redesigning the ambience of retail spaces. Together with Hans Schmidt, she founded the visual marketing consultancy, Arte Perfectum, in 2002. Since then, she has been holding seminars and workshops and offering in-house consultancy services.

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