Retail Display Inspiration, tip 4

Gift Shop Plus Spring 2021
Top 10 Display Tips By Michelle Sherrier

Merchandise knowledge learned at Fred Segal and Anthropologie

I consider myself a creative curator. Spending the last 41 years in retail, I have learned a lot about merchandising and design. Between seven years at the iconic Fred Segal to another seven years at the mecca of retail, Anthropologie, I was able to hone my eye and business sense alike, and grow a deeper understanding of the intricacies of retail and the key role visual merchandising plays. Here are my “Top 10 Tips” that I learned along the way!


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 1

I know you know what I’m talking about…you just finished re-working your shelving unit and it looks chaotic…a lot of merchandise; some of it works together, a lot of it doesn’t. This is where this rule of thumb comes in handy. Try pulling together items by color. The color on label, maybe it’s the packaging or the product, you will see a common thread. Start pulling them together, little by little you will see it come to life. I often start with my groups and then start shopping the store for more that will create a more impactful statement.


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 2

The cohesiveness you see at Anthropologie is very deliberate. Merchandising by concept creates an impactful statement while telling a visual story. Our “Camp Concept” was a combination of books, Pendleton inspired games and campfire scented candles. Props to embellish your concept can be anything from tree slices as risers to an oversized marshmallow on a twig (they dry beautifully, by the way).


Bin “smalls” like lip balm, loose crystals, small books, and jewelry on cards in glass jars. A lot of vendors ship smalls in “displayable” case packs. I prefer to take them out of the packaging. By placing them in a glass jar, basket, or bowl you add value to the item and make them look so much more important and inviting.


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 4

Take a walk through a hardware store. There are so many things that are cost effective that create amazing risers, backdrops and displays. We created

multi-levels for a jewelry case out of 2×4’s that have been cut different sizes and sanded down. I liked them raw but a coat of paint or stain would give them a whole new life.


Pick a theme, color or category. A lot of people think “more is better” but in the case of windows, putting everything you sell into a small window isn’t

better, it’s just busier. The other rule of thumb is, never leave a mannequin undressed or without hair in the window. This should go without saying but I see it all too often. No hair? No problem! Throw a scarf on her head for a chic look or a hat. Just don’t leave her bald.


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 6

Boxed merchandise tends to stop people from opening up an item and looking or trying it out. Show one out of the box as it would be used. We showed this cute magnifying glass paintbrush with a book so the customer could see what it does. It also created a chance for the customer to interact with the product while giving the display a lifestyle feel.


This is something that was required at Anthropologie and to this day I still do it! Once a month, get out of your store and go see what others are doing. I look at everything from how they sign things, to the window displays to the way they display. I love getting out and getting inspired by other retailers!

It doesn’t have to be a gift or apparel shop, specialty grocery shops are one of my favorites because of the way they bin or stack products, the color and textures of the produce and how they merchandise it.

My other go-to is magazines. The apparel industry is about a year and a half ahead of the trends that hit the gift industry. The big indigo trend that happened a few years back started in apparel, same as tie dye and the bees you’re seeing pop up now from so many gift vendors. I use the magazines for sourcing new products, looking for interesting window ideas, etc… it keeps me on trend!

Some of my favorites:

  • Magnolia (great display ideas)
  • Food and Wine (great layouts and styling)
  • Country Living (visually inspiring)
  • Any fashion magazine out of the UK


Cross merchandising does two things. First, it helps tell a story. Second, and more importantly, it leads to add-on sales. Show candles cross merchandised with matches, soap with soap dishes, plush with books that correlate.

My favorite kitchen concept one year at Anthropologie was patisserie – dish towels, latte bowls, cake plates and a candle in a tin that smelled exactly like cake – all cross merchandised together creating a yummy looking and smelling presentation.


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 9

OK…this goes back to my days at Anthropologie. We were not allowed to use the plexiglass risers in any way shape or form. No exception. Years later, I still abide by this rule. We learned to look at everyday merchandise as a riser. Soup cans without the label as candle risers. Old books with the covers torn off. Wood slices, 2×4 cut wood, bricks etc…you name it! What it does to your displays is magical. It gives it texture, adds personality to your concepts and makes merchandise come to life.


Retail Display Inspiration, tip 10

Hands down my favorite way to bring a display to life! Using fruits (faux or real), veggies, flowers and plants are the best way to tell a story! For bar set ups, I like to use glass mineral water bottles with the labels torn off shown with glassware. For bowls and table top items, fill with lemons and oranges in the spring and artichokes in the fall. Fill bon bon jars with marshmallows and candy canes at Christmas. It all tells a story, as well as giving your customer an idea of how to use it in their own home.

Michelle Sherrier

Michelle Sherrier and her business, MC Design Collaboration is a culmination of a 40-plus year career in retail. Specializing in merchandising, design and display, she brings her experience to independent retailers and wholesale gift showrooms. Launching soon, her new podcast, The Retail Whore, will share stories and lessons from a life in retail.

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