Mud Pie showroom display

Fall 2020
More in Store By Chad Gieseke

A look at how retailers can help make customers feel comfortable returning to brick-and-mortar stores
A look at how retailers can help make customers feel comfortable returning to brick-and-mortar stores

Many of your customers have countless questions about safety and their interactions with the world around them. What is a risk, what is safe, what can I do to get back to normal while still being smart about my choices? The answers to those questions will be different for each person. Expectations for the in-person retail environment swing wide out there.

Mud Pie showroom display
All photos courtesy of Mud Pie


There is no single answer to what is the best course of action. Just as your stores are a unique and special part of the business culture in your towns and cities, your responses and actions as a retailer will be a unique representation of the customers you serve.

Here are some thoughts and ideas to make shopping more comfortable as your customers return to in-store shopping.


Open or Closed?

That is the question so many customers are asking as they consider a trip out to the stores. Make it obvious that you are open and ready for business. Splash a bit of energy on the exterior of your store. It’s time to up the ante! Bring in vivid flowers at your door. Update your window displays with a fresh and vibrant story. Introduce an eye catching new welcome that says “we are open and can’t wait for you to see all of our new products.”

Massed out displays, or lean and clean? For so many years we have been discussing the benefits of stacked and massed product displays. Stack it high and watch it fly! But, your customers may be looking at their environments differently these days. The cozy, filled to the rafter experience may feel overwhelming for some customers. How can you balance social distancing while still providing the same welcoming, and interactive shopping experience?

Mud Pie showroom display

I find it best to create a space in which most people can feel comfortable. It’s important to keep the personality of your unique retail concept. You’ve worked hard to build up the reputation and identity of your business. Now is not the time to become a whole new store with an entirely new personality. Customers are looking to you for some amount of the familiar. Familiar staff, same inspirational displays, same great product and service.

Encourage Repeat Visits

Let’s look at some ways to balance the past with the present.

Keep rotating and refreshing your sales floor experience. Even if you haven’t been able to update your merchandise selection it is important to keep the appearance of newness for your customers. Give them a reason to come back next week to see what new things you’ve done with the shop. Motion and movement is life. The effort to keep a fresh look will always pay off.

Save room and plan for the most important object in your stores, the customer. Open spaces on your sales floor are important. Consider that at least one half of your customer base is going to be conscientious about practicing social distancing. Look at your floor sets with this in mind. Consider customer movement options as you look at the flow of your spaces. Dead end aisles or spaces with one small entrance might be off putting to some customers. Use this early time before the holiday shopping season to try new layouts that provide a more free flow of movement throughout your space.

Now, you might be thinking “Wait, I can’t afford the room needed for social distancing. How do I create more traffic space when I have so many products to show?” Here is where the balance of massing out versus open floor space comes into question. As you consider your own needs, this balance will fall into place. If you find that you need to capture more open floor space consider these solutions.

Limit Product on Floor

Limit the amount of any single product out on the floor at one time. Smaller stacks or linear runs of product will create opportunity for tighter displays. This may require more frequent replenishment. In order to avoid that task, consider offering to have a “fresh” item brought from back stock for some purchases. Sell items from your back stock first. This will keep your sales floor replenished, and provide the customer an opportunity to purchase items that have not been handled multiple times. Some customers may find this an attractive option. For example, those of you who sell the Mud Pie Initial products or items that are similar in design with slight variations can benefit from this style of merchandising.

Mud Pie showroom display


Create focused displays that showcase each variation of the product. One of each style or letter displayed in rows on shelves or pinned neatly to the wall. Allow the customers to select from this display of actual product, and then request their choices from your back stock. This provides the dual option for your customer to interact with and shop from a tight, focused space, while also keeping your sales floor to a functional minimum as well as offering products to your customers with limited interaction from other people.

Think Vertical

Another space-saving tactic is to always look at the vertical lines of merchandising. Think in terms of floor to ceiling. Too often we default to wide puddles of product. These puddles can be very difficult to shop and significantly diminish your sales productivity per square foot. As the holiday shopping season is fast approaching, the vertical tactic can also provide some much needed back stock spaces.

Mud Pie showroom display

Fill the underside of a table or bench with packaged products. Cover the table with a floor length table cloth if the packaging isn’t really very attractive. Place a shorter shelving unit on the table for even more height. This will also create more wall space by hanging plaques or framed artwork on the backside of the shelf. Use product in your decorating. Think of it as “Storing” products as decorations in garlands hanging from the ceiling, or in wreaths wrapping a chandelier. These are just a couple of ways to open up your sales floor for a more comfortable and functional sales season.

We are all considering some new challenges with the upcoming retail season. There are so many questions and unknown possibilities. But there are also so many opportunities. Now is the time to be creative, and innovative. As much as we want to get back to the familiar, we are also looking ahead for new ideas and fresh solutions. If ever there was a “build it and they will come” moment it is now. Be proud of your strengths. Build on those strengths and let them show.

Continue traditions, and schedule your regular events in as safe a manner as you can. Perhaps those events take place outside this year, or there is some other new creative spin. Either way, you are holding to your brand identity and contributing to the sense of structure for your community.

Chad Gieseke

CHAD GIESEKE, Director of Visual Merchandising for Mud PieChad Gieseke is the director of visual merchandising for Mud Pie. He has worked in the wholesale gift and specialty industry for over 20 years. For more of Chad’s visual inspiration visit

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