Go Big By Debbie Eisele

Oversized props and non-traditional colors create holiday magic

As seen in Holiday Shop 2022.

Merchandising is a key component in generating sales — especially during the holiday shopping season! I had the opportunity to ask Michelle Sherrier from MC Design Collaboration some questions to see what retailers can do to maximize the success of holiday displays and her insight is as wonderful as the holiday season itself!

If you could define three impactful display props to highlight holiday items, what would they be?

Michelle Sherrier: Three impactful displays that are always on my wish list (space and budget permitting) are:

A MANTLE. Big or small, decked out with garland, this easy and impactful display instantly makes the space feel like the holidays. The best part. It doesn’t have to be expensive. You can actually make one relatively inexpensively. Place actual fire wood in the opening for a more authentic look and you are set for the holidays.

SOMETHING VINTAGE. Old sleds, sleighs and skis that tell a story of a winter break or snow days. Vintage ornament boxes that you can show new ornaments in, old Go Big Christmas cards as frame fillers give that holiday look to your everyday frames.

LIT GARLAND AND TREES. While it may seem obvious, these simple and effective items can literally change your store into a wonderland. Garland adds light and texture to the top of any bookshelf, fixture or mirror. Framing your window or doorways with it creates major focal points. Used as either a “fixture” to show ornaments that are for sale or just shown alone with lights, garland is a MUST for me.

Trees are the magical ingredient to a holiday set up. When paired with the perfect concept, it’s pure magic! For the store Rock Paradise, I didn’t feel like a traditional tree was appropriate, so we found a driftwood Christmas tree. At 6 feet tall, the tree showed off the geode ornaments perfectly and felt more authentic to who they are as retailers. I prefer trees that are pre-lit and have a more natural look to them. The better the quality, the longer they are going to last.

Why is an oversized prop important and what are some examples of big scale pieces that can work for every season?

MS: Oversized décor — I am all about it! It adds height, whimsy and has a huge impact on the space and customer experience. While the oversized décor is an investment, I find that if it is a piece that can be reinvented season after season, the investment is worth it. I will use the ferris wheel from 180 degrees as an example. Standing at about 5 1/2 feet tall, this is the epitome of oversized décor! We have filled it with roses and placed a champagne sign on it for a French bath line display. We have filled it with lit greens, rose gold picks and gold dipped hydrangeas for an over the top holiday window. It has had red, white and blue bunting draped around it for the Fourth of July. Each season it gets a facelift and every season it brings joy to the customers to see how it’s been transformed. Holiday décor doesn’t have to be Santas and snowmen.

How do you treat color when designing a holiday specific display?

MS: I find that when you work with a specific color palette or concept that it keeps things more cohesive. I usually start at the show level deciding what direction we are going in for our home concepts and tie it in. When I was tasked with creating Bristol Farms holiday décor, I used the theory “the food is the star.” The décor, when done at this level, is all about creating a customer experience and not taking away from creating the perfect holiday meal. The final product was a lit garland with gingerbread men and wooden spoons tied together with a wide wired red ribbon. Subtle and effective with just a single color story.

What merchandising strategies can help increase revenue during any holiday season?

MS: The last 2 years of holiday setups have been an interesting experiment. Last year, so much of what we ordered did not come in due to supply chain issues, holiday concepts that we had planned around were suddenly out the window.

What it did do was force us to look at our everyday merchandise and make it feel like the holidays. Wide red ribbon around the cover of books, attaching last year’s ornaments with holiday ribbon to boxed candles, holiday ribbon and a sprig of faux green around a jelly cat dog or cat created a holiday feeling.

We did things like decorate an entire tree with Muse bath bombs, bright scrubbies and back scrubbers as well as an entire tree filled with Snoozies slippers. What this did was eye opening…the sell through of actual holiday merchandise was incredible, but the sell through of everyday product was 3x over the non- COVID years. We had very little to put on sale and once the holidays were over, we just took the holiday touches off the product and merchandised it right back into our everyday inventory.

What merchandising techniques work best for the holidays?

MS: I am all about cross merchandising. While the departmental merchandising style works, I find it less interesting. Cross merchandising creates a lifestyle feel as well as add on sales. Candles with candle holders or matches, holiday dish towels, Christmas cookie cutters and cookie mixes etc. The customer leaves with multiple items rather than that one “departmental item.” I am all about creating a customer experience that invites curiosity and creates an opportunity for larger sales.

Can you talk about some of your favorite non-traditional holiday displays, and why they are so effective?

MS: Hands down my favorite non-traditional holiday displays are Glitterville. Turquoise; (Glitterville’s) holiday décor is anything but traditional. With unicorns, pink cows, flamingos and baking bears, this line feels vintage yet fresh and whimsical! I think that traditional red, white and green are beautiful but I think that bright, whimsical and fun are what we need right now.

Debbie Eisele

Debbie Eisele is the former managing editor for Gift Shop Plus, Stationery Trends and a variety of special issue publications, including: The Guide, Holiday Shop, Celebrations & Occasions and Waterfront Living.

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