Retailers have been using visual merchandising and props to draw in customers for as long as shops have been open. Of course, things have moved on a little from the early days of simple displays, with retailers now having a whole arsenal of tools at their disposal to not only bring in more consumers, but also improve their overall experience.

However, when it comes to actually using these tools, this is often easier said than done. Of course, anyone can dress and display mannequins around the store or put together window displays; the real questions is how can you use the latest materials to stand out from the competition?

Retail Focus speaks with several specialist companies in this area about some of the latest trends they have noted in reference to visual merchandising, as well as their new solutions designed to help retailers win new business and keep hold of valuable customers.


Keep consumers engaged 

Up first is Propability, which, as its name may suggest, specialises in the supply of props and similar solutions to the market. Tyrone Cano, head honcho at Propability, said to put it simply, visual merchandising is very important, almost essential, for retailers.

“With online shopping increasing every year the high street needs to entice shoppers and offer immersive experiences to make the trip worthwhile for consumers,” Cano said. “The in-store retail experience differs hugely from shopping online and retailers should take advantage of the fact that an in-store experience can stimulate other senses other than just sight. 

“This can be achieved by using clever propping, photo opportunities, lighting, projection, animatronics and even scent machines. Consider investing in fast changing, fresh experiential instore experiences on an ongoing basis to keep consumers engaged. 

“Instagramable moments are key as it’s a way of making other consumers aware of what is going on at your store and attracting other shoppers.”

Looking at current activity in the market, Cano said certain trends are standing out for the team at Propability. Primarily, this is that more stores are investing in props and displays in order to create moments that can be shared on social media. 

Cano said that this is like a free marketing tool, with Selfridges in particular doing this very well. Selfridges often changes its window displays to fit in with changing trends and seasons, with this having an impact on footfall into the store, which in turn can translate into higher sales. Another clever example from Selfridges comes in the form of a UFO, with the prop doubling up as a catalogue distribution station where shoppers could pick up a printed catalogue on ‘Unidentified Fashion Objects’.

Another client that comes to mind for Cano is Hamleys, the world-famous toy store that often excels with visual merchandising and props. Some of the examples Cano highlights centre on the festive season, with examples including Santa’s Grotto, an accompanying ‘Elf Room’ and exterior seasonal displays at the front of the store.

“We are primarily a manufacturer of bespoke props, displays and immersive in-store and window experiences and environments, so most of what we do is new,” Cano said. “We are now able to offer a design and visualisation service too and we are looking to expand this area of our business. The edge for us is that we manufacture everything in house which helps whilst designing things especially when having budgets in mind.”

Exciting and enticing

Someone who shares the opinion that visual merchandising should be seen as key for the retailer is Fiona Cameron, director for DZD. Established in 1989, DZD specialises in bespoke retail displays and visual merchandising, working with a wide range of customers – including leading retail brands, hospitality chains, and national film and television corporations – on all manner of eye-catching projects.

Speaking about the subject, Cameron said that from both her own standpoint and that of DZD, visual merchandising is now more important than ever before. Cameron said the onus is very much on retailers to make their sales space as appealing as it can possibly be, with visual merchandising, as well as the use of props and attractive displays, helping them to achieve just this.

“Displays need to be exciting and enticing and also able to justify a consumer’s journey to a shop,” Cameron said. “My advice for retailers wanting to succeed with these projects is to choose and stick to a theme. Spend the money on something with impact in limited areas rather than trying to decorate the whole retail space.”

On the back of this, those retailers looking to appeal even more to shoppers should consider wider trends not only in the retail market but further afield. One area that has stood out, and continues to be a core focus point, is sustainability; failure to address this, Cameron says, could result in retailers losing out on customers and business.

“Customers’ purchasing decisions are increasingly being driven by eco-conscious choices, so it’s never been more important to show these values in our displays,” Cameron explained. “It is all about sustainability, sustainability, sustainability.”

As to how DZD can support retailers here, Cameron said the company has a whole host of products and solutions on offer. One such offering very much related to sustainability comes in the form of its FSC-certified cardboard trees.

“They have impact because of their size and simplicity, but they fold away flat, making them perfect for properties with limited storage,” Cameron said. “They are also incredibly easy to put up in literally a couple of minutes which in turns means they ideal for the busy visual merchandiser.”

This month, the industry will also be treated to the 2024 VM & Display Show, which, taking place at the Business Design Centre in London from 16-17 April, will offer an insight into some of the latest advancements in this sector, as well as the opportunity to speak with a wide range of experts about improving your approach to visual merchandising.

Visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about DZD’s cardboard trees and the many other solutions available from the company. This year, the company will adopt a Christmas theme on its stand, with the booth set to feature core traditional Christmas items blended with an eclectic selection of its year-round decorations and props. Or ‘Jungle all the way’, as Cameron puts it.

Given from what has been discussed here, visual merchandising is not just simply a tool for retailers to use to secure more business and customers; it should be seen as an essential part of their ongoing strategy to ensure they continue to bring a steady flow of consumers to their stores. 

For more insight into this area and to learn about the many options available when it comes to visual merchandising, props and displays, visit this year’s VM & Display Show – and pop by the Retail Focus stand to say hello to the team!