Dutch contemporary artist Levi van Veluw, the creator of inaugural window display art for Hermès’ at Nordiska Kompaniet, said, “the window becomes an experience.” We know this to be true!

Retail experts agree that visual merchandising is more than creating window displays to attract customers. The goal is to develop creative and bold designs to delight your customer’s imagination and curiosity with an aesthetic experience. 


So, how do retailers choose the right selection of material and tools for your store’s visual merchandising concepts? Firstly, you need to know exactly what will delight your customers using different materials and techniques. Enthral your customers by mixing and matching materials with other styles and knowing which material best suits your visual merchandising concepts.

Let’s look at the effects and examples of the various materials and art techniques as visual merchandising tips you can easily include in your retail displays. 

Metal in Retail Displays 

Metal is a highly preferred material that luxury brands love to adopt to create eye-catching window and product displays. 

Metal has a broad application of surface effects and metallic tones formed through various methods such as electroplating and coating that bring a wow factor to the visual display. Black and warm metallic finishes, like warm brass and matte black, convey perfectly an essence of luxury in window displays, capturing shoppers’ attention from the street. 

Depending on the theme and brand identity of the retail store, visual merchandisers may opt for an edgier look using aluminum, raw coat iron, bronze, and industrial steel to bring an “industrial” vibe to their merchandising concepts. 

We utilize many techniques and technologies to shape metals specifically to visualize a brand’s story. Techniques such as laser/waterjet cutting, CNC, sharp-edge bending, welding, engraving, powder coating, and brushing help produce delicate and bespoke props and retail display tools. Each technique compliments the merchandise displayed in the store windows adding focal points for window shoppers. 

The primary advantage of metal is durability, but there are many benefits to using metal in your visual merchandising concepts, such as: 

  • Excellent for outdoor displays as heat resistant and has a high melting point
  • Easily combined with other materials such as MDF, acyclic, and fabric 
  • Corrosion resistance 
  • Exceptional strength 
  • Reusability 

Metals’ advantages make it an excellent base material for props and display tools for luxury brands and merchandise. Here are examples of how other store designs have incorporated metals in their visual storytelling for merchandise: 

Example 1: Metal Shoe Stand 

Metal is an optimal material for luxury shoe displays to heighten a brand’s perceived value for store displays and window displays. The shoe stand in this example project is made of metal but handled with an antique bronze plating and brushing, creating a retro and bronze surface.  

Such metal material finishing elevates the contemporary sense of the luxury shoe and emphasizes the brand’s value. Upon request, we can craft a brush or mirror finish in chrome or gold colours. We can also apply other Pantone colours coating to surfaces based on the brand’s guidelines.  

Example 2: L-shape Display Unit 

Using only different coloured metal plating may not satisfy your entire visual story, but metal is an excellent material to mix with other materials. Sometimes, we combine several materials, including metal, to craft display tools. The L-shape display unit encapsulates how the combination of metal, acrylic, fabric, and LED panels can create a sophisticated design and in-store experience for cosmetic retail store customers.

The metal frame ensures the sturdiness of the display unit in the physical store for everyday use. As lighting is a vital visual cue in skincare and cosmetic retail spaces, this display unit features built-in illumination, which encourages shoppers to try the cosmetic and skincare products – underlying a purposeful use for the display and relevant products.

Example 3: Cosmetic Tester Unit Display 

It is essential in retail display design to consider the different geographical locations of your physical store as climate, temperatures, and weather change across the globe. 

Some materials may not suit particular locations and hinder the implementation of the campaign in global stores. For example, trays made of MDF are prone to bending due to temperature & humidity variations when shipping from one location to another. 

For example, in the project above, aluminum wrapping with high gloss paint paper encases the whole cosmetic display unit during mass production. The metal material ensured the retail displays arrive at the store in the best condition. Furthermore, since metal was resistant to cold and heat stress, the material enabled a smooth launch for the visual merchandising projects. 

Fabrics in Retail Store displays

We encourage visual merchandising designers to take advantage of fabric’s various characteristics to create unique looks for your visual merchandising stories. 

Fabric textures can influence the perception of colors, so creative visual merchandising concepts select and combine different fabrics with building a story for retailers. Inviting textural materials, including leather, paper, velvet, and microfiber, helps engage affluent shoppers and show the artisan value of the luxury brand. 

Fabric encourages customer experience through touch and feel. Research suggests that the top reason people decide physical retail over online or eCommerce stores is that retailers can be tactile with table displays. The key takeaway here: create presentations that enable tactile interaction with your products or display tables – don’t miss out on a chance for a customer to connect with your product and brand. The fabric is a visual and tactile delight for your customer. 

You can utilize different fabric styling techniques to convey other messages and ideas to your customers. Fabric design techniques include wrapping, embossing, debossing, and embroidering, incorporating raised and lowered images or patterns into your visual merchandising design. 

The dimensional elements of fabrics can add a distinct and stunning look to create a lasting first impression on retailers. In most cases, heat transfer and silkscreen print are adopted to print large or small patterns on the selected fabric to tie with the particular theme of the collection. 

So, there are many advantages to adding fabric to visual merchandising projects, such as: 

· Easy to obtain 

· Longevity 

· Welcoming and inviting mood 

· A sense of contrast 

· Easy to combine with other materials such as MDF, acyclic, and fabric 

The mood and style behind the visual story lie in craftsmanship, visual appeals, and relevance. Let’s look at the examples below to see how the fabric is adopted in luxury stores. 

Example 1: Watch Display 

Luxury watch stores are famous for their clean and uncluttered store design, and their watch and accessories displays typically come with sleek and modern designs. 

In this case, the base material of the watch displays is metal, but the display units are wrapped in microfiber. The color combination of beige and metallic tones brings masculinity to match the brand’s image. The window or table display showcases the product in a fluid and clean presentation. 

Example 2: Window Displays Props

In addition to applying themed patterns on luxury goods, luxury brands also infuse them into window concepts’ narratives. The Kaleidoscopic floral motifs used in the Christian Dior SS2019 window display built an association between the visual story and the collection. 

The image shows the successive floral pattern printed on the organza with metal frames supporting the layers and floral shapes. The material adoption is perfect to illustrate the kaleidoscope in contrasting colors in the window campaign. 

Example 3: Display Pillars 

Kate Spade’s signature Spade Flower Jacquard is a focal point for the display in the photo, and the brand introduced the fabric pattern to the window display campaign to illustrate the brand’s accompanying story. 

The brand’s collection launched one year ago in 2020, so the goal for this visual merchandising project was to establish a lasting impression in customer’s memories, choosing a debossing effect covering the PVC display pillars. The visual cues such as lighting, colour, and balance direct a customer’s attention to the specific products and display space. 

Plastics in Visual Merchandising 

The plastic and sustainability debate is relevant in visual merchandising, where some brands opt for more sustainable materials. However, plastics as a base material in visual merchandising projects remains a popular choice in physical retail store design. 

The versatile nature of plastics makes it easy to form props and to complete the full realization of your own store concepts at a low cost. Using recycled plastic or recyclable plastic is a great visual merchandising tip for brands and shops trying to reduce carbon footprints for more environmentally-friendly plastic options. 

Each plastic type has its own features and design ability, and constraints that designers need to keep in mind when creating their visual stories. The table below outlines the common plastic types and methods for visual merchandising concepts. 

Types of Plastics for Retail Stores 

Other plastics finishing techniques and technology consists of water transfer printing, digital cutting, and engraving, make the visual stories thrilling with the desirable results. 

Adopting plastics into your visual merchandising concept has various advantages: 

· Highly malleable 

· Do not rust 

· UV resistant 

· Lightweight 

· Versatile to fabricate 

· Less time development 

The cost and time efficiency of plastic designs make it extremely popular for luxury brands and their visual merchandising concept, from window displays to in-store displays. Let’s take a look at the examples below. 

Example 1: Merchandise Signage

Here, the luxury in-store signage uses metals and acrylic. The signage’s design and style align with the in-store product displays for consistency with the overall interior store design. The sleek appearance of acrylic helps to promote a sense of luxury in the store.

Example 2: Cosmetic Tester Bar 

As plastic is lightweight and versatile, it is prevalent in the cosmetic and skincare industry and retailers to create attractive product displays. The botanical illustrated promotional unit above is made from an acrylic and vinyl base, eliciting a positive emotional connection between product and customer. 

The design was also carefully chosen to encourage shoppers with accessibility that correlates to retail sales. Lastly, the illustrations and color showcase the story behind the skincare collection. 

Example 3: Cosmetic Tester Unit Display

With hundreds of products in-store, a display unit helped to define and decluttered the in-store retail space. The cosmetic tester unit brings a well-curated store experience for customers. Acrylic decorative display units with simple designs elevate the visibility and accessibility of products. 

Work with TDF 

Visual merchandising concepts aim to tell a story of your shop, brand, or product. Creating visual displays using storytelling often requires different material handling, technologies, and finishing to realize each element of your visual merchandising concepts into reality. 

Our professional TDF team collaborates and advises retailers, brands, and other clients and can help you choose the most suitable materials. We can develop and artfully construct your idea into an engaging visual merchandising display. 

Should you want to know what kind of materials we can handle, check out our website here and let us bring your visual merchandising concept to life.