Oct 13, 2006

Shop Talk Volume 5 - Designing your displays...

Welcome to another posting of my series of "business of boutiques." This posting is for those of you who own a boutique, want to own one, or are in the dream stage of owning one. In previous postings, I covered the importance of location, your company name, the atmosphere of your boutique, and the passion it takes to be in this business.

There is nothing I enjoy more than to walk into someone's beloved boutique and just be "wowed" by the creativity of the owner's displays! Don't you just love it when you enter a store that makes you stop in your tracks and you think to yourself, "I don't know where to start...there is so much to take in!!" I LOVE finding uncommon ways to display common products.

First, the practical side of things: when designing your display keep in mind a few practical hints that will save you and your customers headaches:

Keep the aisle wide enough for two people to pass each other

Keep extra merchandise available for purchase so the customer doesn't feel like she is going to "mess up the display" by removing part of it

Make sure all pricing is visible without needing to move or rearrange the products to find the price. That will discourage buyers from buying

Make sure your display is safe - no teetering objects, breakables away from edges of tables or high enough away from curious little hands, and tall objects secured so when bumped, they won't topple.

Now for the creative side of displays:

Always display in bulk or mass - never "sprinkle" your objects around the store. For instance, I have a wonderful fine wire plant stand near my counter that houses all of my bun candles in a mass pile. I would never take these candles and put some here and then add some there, and also near the door. It loses impact. A big glass urn filled with antique keys will intrique a customer much more than a single key hanging off a knob of a dresser - who hasn't seen that done a million times before? Or big blocks of French soaps piled in antique tin milk pails all lined up on a drugstore counter case makes a statement - a few soaps in a dish or a few in a basket does not.

Don't be too frugal with "display only" items. I do spend some money on items that are for my display only. Piles of old, stained books, broken lamp frames, lots of skrim or materials, moss, hops, pine cones, rocks...you name it. And just when I am sure that no one in their right mind would ever want that broken off arm of an antique doll that I stuck in between the pillow case diplay, I will get a call from my employee telling me a customer wants to know how much is that broken arm? I even had a customer who wanted to buy a waded up piece of paper that I balled into the size of a softball, wrapped some old string around it and stuck it somewhere in the store! Really!

Also, stack things! Put that wonderful little chair on TOP of the table - not next to it. Then pile old books on the chair or hang a wonderful linen table cloth from the back of it. Put smaller tables on top of larger ones. I even put iron beds on top of a large bin I have in the center of my store and filled it with dried roses.

Think in themes - not just seasons. I always have a theme in my store, which is not really apparent to most people, but it helps me when I am designing. This last spring I photo copied beautiful butterflies, dragon flies, and catapillars by the 100's and cut them out one by one. Yes, a little nutty, but I got to finally sit and watch some great movies while I cut them all out. Then I hung them everywhere in the store. They were pinned to cheese cloth, taped all over my huge chandeliers, stuck in frames, under glass jars...I mean everywhere! People loved them and thought it was my "spring" look. Actually, it was a very personal thing for me.

As most of you know, I am newly divorced, and after 22 years of married life coming to end, I felt "dead" inside for a time after it all happened. About this time, a customer confided in me that she felt I was living the life she felt she could have, but never did. She felt it was too late for her. I told her that there are bascially two kinds of humans in the world. Some of us are content and comfortable in our "cocoon" and never venture out and that is okay. And there are those of us that, after some growth, we find our "cocoon" too tight and it doesn't fit as well so we begin to struggle and break out of it. And during this process, as we venture out, we become frightened and afraid of failure. We hang on to our branch, afraid to fly from it....but we now see so much that we never saw from inside our own little cocoon! But, with time, even the branch doesn't feel right and so we spread our wings and fly from it.

We may flounder a bit and not have a clear direction at first. But soon, we find ourselves flying and experiencing so many things that we never would have discovered if we never left our cocoon. That cocoon is called our comfort zone. And having my marriage end so abruptly, I was forced out of my cocoon and then I hung onto that branch for dear life. But last spring, I decided it was time for me to fly again. And so you see, all those butterflies in my store are "pretty and fun" for my customers, but for me, when I enter my store and see them, it is a private reminder of all the wonderful things I have yet to see but will. I am still floundering a bit, but that is okay too.

I didn't mean to go off on a tangent, but my point is this: when designing a display, think beyond what sells and how to sell it. Of course, that is important. But make it a personal reflection of YOU. And even if no one ever "gets it" it doesn't matter. It is something that came from you and you are sharing it with others.

One final note about creative displays: think of color, texture, and like items. Look at the photo above. That arrangement is on my dining room table. The colors are tone on tone. The textures are cloth, wood, china, and dried flowers. It is quirky with the tiny chairs which keep the formality of my 17th century Dutch bowl from being stuffy. It is a simple, simple display that I am looking at right now as I type this, and I enjoy looking at it. And my theory is...if I enjoy looking at it, then others will too. And to those who don't "get it" I say: you don't have to.

Enjoy your space, use it freely, and let it whisper, not scream, your vision. You whisper your vision and then let your customers scream in delight. Now that will put a smile on your face. I promise.

from my house to your house,



Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying your blog. I have been a boutique owner and designer/stylist for 12 years. Your advice to newcomers is honest and refreshing. Always nice for women to support other women wanting to get started. I'm sure many will appreciate you mentorship. PS. Your style is impeccable!

Anonymous said...

Oh How I wish we could see some photos of these dispay examples in your shop!!!

Anonymous said...

What an inspirational post! I'm going to put your creative ideas to use in my home! Yes, a glass urn full of old keys is magical...which one to choose...

Chuck Denton said...

I have a tough time with MYSELF when a customer brings up something that I've brought from home to decorate or accentuate a product, and wants to purchase THAT item, such as, I sell among lots of things, dog collars made of cotton. They are seasonal, and I have them on a rack. Next to the rack is a life-sized resin statue of a black Scottie. I can't tell you how many times I have to tell grown-ups that the dog is a prop, and his job is to sell collars. Only once did I get a response like: "I'll bet if I offered you the right amount you'd part with it." How rude!!! But I have the sorest tongue in town!!! What has been your experience? Similar?

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