Spring 2019
Soapy Gnome entices and inspires with creative displays By Debbie Eisele

2019 Creative Display Contest winner combines artisanal flair with natural arrangements

PRIZE SPONSOR DM Merchandising

The winner will receive a Krumbs Kitchen Pop-Up Shop from DM Merchandising. The collection features bright and affordable cooking utensils and accessories that combine a playful aesthetic with practical function.

Retail stores around the world incorporate creative displays to entice and inspire customers. Artistic, creative, subtle and sometimes bold arrangements allow shoppers to experience merchandise, view complementary products (to spur on additional purchases), and to provide ideas, or simply grab their attention.
Gift Shop has an amazingly diverse group of readers, and we hope this contest provided enthusiasm and insight on various ways to display products to engage customers in a variety of retail settings.

We enjoy sharing the display submissions with our readers and we thank everyone who competed this year.

Also we would like to thank DM Merchandising for sponsoring the generous gift of Krumb’s Kitchen Pop-Up Shop to the winner of this year’s contest. Many entries caught our attention, but we selected 11 finalists which were featured in our winter issue and on our website and social media accounts. The voting closed on Feb. 12 and readers selected their favorite merchandise arrangement. Enjoy learning all about this year’s winner, Soapy Gnome.


This independent retailer is located in Goshen, Indiana, and specializes in handcrafted soaps and personal care products. Soapy Gnome is also known for the gift items, stationery and bath accessories it carries. And of course, the tween items it offers are also popular. In addition to the retail offerings, Soapy Gnome also provides wholesale products: soap, lip balms and sugar scrubs.

Since opening in 2013, Jenny Frech, has been welcoming customers to her store with an array of cozy and enticing product displays. Initially, she began as a soaper working out of her own home. Demand grew and she moved her business into the space which now serves as both a workshop (in the back of the store) and a retail store. Soapy Gnome’s merchandise is centered around soaps and body care products made on premise, but also includes an array of products from other makers.

Soapy Gnome owner Jenny Frech

Frech’s motto: “We craft your cozy.” She shared that everything they make or bring in to sell has to be practical or cozy. “If it [products] isn’t cozy, we don’t bring it into the store.” This approach works with all their clients, a mix of women and men. Since most of the merchandise consists of consumable products, Soapy Gnome sees repeat customers on regular basis.

Frech crafts ways to keep displays fresh and pulls inspiration from Pinterest and other stores, but most importantly from what feels inviting. “I am always looking for the ‘cozy’ component and natural theme. We are not a farmhouse or a spa. But we use more natural elements, warm woods and other natural elements — nature inspires us,” Frech said. Displays are changed frequently, at least once a month, and help showcase the myriad of options available in the store.

Soapy Gnome also buys directly from the makers and its in-house products paired with an eclectic mix allows for some visual arrangements that customers love. “Having the makers’ products helps us with our store. These artisan-made items help our displays and make them unique.”

GS: Can you describe your store and clients?
Jenny Frech: Our store is completely different from any soap store I’ve ever been to. Providing the gift shop elements helps since we are in a small town. We carry soaps (facial, shampoo, shaving varieties), sugar scrubs, body balms and butters, facial care line and a diverse array of shaving brushes and other shaving items. We even have Turkish towels, which are popular. And we also sell a lot of stationery — it makes up about 10 percent of our sales. Additionally, we carry essential oils and even socks which are a huge seller — they fit the cozy theme. We provide a tween section and kids love to come to the store. We hide gnome statues all over the store and if kids find all of them, they get a prize. This has helped us keep them engaged and now some of those children are tweens and are enjoying the trading cards, hair ties ideal for 8- to 12-year-olds. It is a fun little section of the store.

GS: What are your top sellers?
JF: Our soap, bath fizzies, essential oils, and Turkish towels.

GS: What purposes do the displays serve and how do they appeal to the senses? JF: For our soaps, we want people to pick them up. If they can’t touch and feel, they won’t purchase it. When we rearrange a display it has to feel inviting. The “cozy” comes into play again. We want them to look nice and be interactive. But we also want them to be “smart.” We want our displays to make customers feel smart through organization and signage. If it isn’t clear how a product can work for them, we make sure there is a sign which makes it clear. We even have a tester sink so people can test all the products, and any time they can try a product, it sells better.

GS: Do you make the displays yourselves?
JF: Certain things we buy, like the card racks with clear acrylic — I like them because you can see the whole card. And I purchased some displays for the baby section. I also purchase some older items to repurpose, so it is a mix of DIY and repurposed materials.

GS: What product mix do you include in a display?

JF: We do a variety … some displays will be all the same product, some will be complementary products. Right now we have a display of Japanese incense paired with a variety of teas which allows for cross selling opportunities.

GS: What has been a successful sales display, one that stands out?
JF: This Christmas we were looking for ways to increase our margins on soap. I bought recycled Sari bags, and we pre-packed soaps in the bag with a label with Merry Christmas on it — they sold like hotcakes. We marketed them as wrapped and ready and sold about 100 combos of these at Christmas time; they were perfect for teacher or hostess gifts. We also found for us, in our market, $20 [products] is our ceiling. We sold a lot of gifts, ideal for co-workers at the $15 mark and that was our sweet spot. We placed two soaps in a box and sold them as a gift ready to go.

GS: Do you have any display advice to others?
JF: Actually, Jacie Smeltzer — our employee who took our photos — gets credit for this response. She just graduated from college with a graphic design degree and she said when creating displays to start with the biggest thing first, vary the height, and include a focal point.

All photos by Jacie Smeltzer

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.

Social Connections

With it being her first industry event since joining the magazine in May, Gift Shop® Plus Managing Editor Ellen Wagner noticed trends throughout showrooms including sustainable products, flameless lights, and bold colors and prints. 🛍🥣🎄Check out her 21 Editor's Picks from 2024 Summer Atlanta Market: giftshopmag.com/article/summer-2024-atlanta-market-21-editors-picks-by-ellen-wagner/ ... See MoreSee Less
View on Facebook
Gift Shop Plus Summer 2024
Get one year of Gift Shop Plus in both print and digital editions for just $16.

Interested in reading the print edition of Gift Shop Plus?

Subscribe Today »

website development by deyo designs