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Ready For Holiday Displays? Expert Shares Tips

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ready For Holiday Displays? Expert Shares TipsWant to help ensure that your store's Christmas displays show off – and sell through – your holiday-themed merchandise? Midwest's director of visual display Chris Tkachuck, who does an educational buyer seminar entitled "Holiday Retail Display Secrets from the Pros," recently discussed some of her top Christmas visual display and merchandising ideas and tips with Giftbeat's contributing editor Sharon Bopp.

Q. Generally speaking, what are some of the biggest merchandising mistakes that you see retailers make?

A. A lot of retailers forget about the entryway and store window at Christmas. Ask yourself these questions: "Are [these two areas] inviting?" and "Does the window draw customers from the street?" These areas should say, "This is a holiday!"

Displays can lose their focus. Customers' eyes don't know where to travel if there's no clarity in the product line [being featured], or they don't know what story you want to tell. Keep displays organized, clean and clear. It's important to use balance, too, and repetition of a product line or the same pattern. Make sure items are not just thrown on the floor or lying in a basket.

Q. What ideas work well for fall displays?

A. Try pairing the colors of gold and copper in harvest/fall displays. Use primitive furniture pieces like a goat cart with built-up sides. Fill it with straw, then layer in ceramic, wooden and resin pumpkins.

Stacked wooden pallets at different levels can be used as risers. Put fall- themed earthenware dishes on them to create a tabletop statement. Create an autumn-themed candle display by filling antique birdcages with an assortment of candles in fall colors and various shapes. Set the birdcages on a tabletop or suspend them. Or hang a primitive chandelier as part of a fall display. These props can be re-purposed for any season by changing the color of candles for the season.

Q. What Christmas display ideas can you suggest to Giftbeat readers?

A. To add height and interest to the Santas or other holiday collections you're selling, use found objects such as wooden saddle risers, stacked vintage suitcases, cake plates, trays or compote dishes.

Nativities are presented beautifully in floor-standing or counter glass conservatory cases. Use natural elements such as moss or pinecones to soften the edges or snow with mini ornaments to add a touch of sparkle, depending on the look of your collection.

Create a great, inexpensive window display by using ropes or wire to horizontally hang two or three old windows. Suspend them at different heights to create hanging shelves and merchandise each shelf with a holiday collection.

For a Western theme that's interactive, create a 4-foot-by-8-foot cutout made from plywood or MDF board of a cowboy and cowgirl with [holes for faces]. Customers can stick their heads in the holes and have their photos taken! Decorate the cutout with cowboy and cowgirl items like ornaments, a sheriff's badge and bandana scarf. A nearby Christmas tree can have a Western theme including Western ornaments. The cutout could also be of Santa with a reindeer, or Santa with Mrs. Claus.

Create a [whimsical] statement by putting a fish ornament in a plastic bag, filling the bag with air and closing it with twine. It will look like a bag from a fish store! Add a fishing pole and backpack as props.

For a lodge look, set up a tent or small camper and deck it out with ornaments [and other lodge- themed product].

Remember that garland isn't just for trees. It can also hold up a door wreath instead of a nail or wreath hook, be used to fill bowls or hung on the back of a chair to hold a Christmas stocking. Garland in colors of white, hot pink or chartreuse can be woven into a traditional tree to make it look different from the previous year.

Q. Many of our readers sell candles. What ideas do you have for creating holiday candlescapes? A. With our Colonial Candle brand, we experiment and "play" with candle displays on a regular basis in our showrooms. Remember that the use of one color of candle makes a strong color – and fragrance – statement. Use holiday accessories like mini ornaments, garland or greenery to add holiday flair to these candlescapes. For winter garden themes, choose a color palette and display a number of taper and votive candles in clay pots. Or place candles in nests for a creative, unexpected look. Fill glass vases, apothecary jars or bowls with votive candles mixed with mini ornaments. Set a variety of pillar candles under cloches on a plate or platter and add Christmas elements.

Q. Our readers enjoy hearing about unusual props for Christmas-themed displays. Can you talk about some you've found?

A. I've been working with Midwest for more than 15 years, setting up nearly 350 trees each year in 10 showrooms, and I think we've used just about everything imaginable as a prop! Like an upside-down Christmas tree, a chandelier saves space and can make a nice statement for an assortment of ornaments. Also, the skeleton of an old patio umbrella creates a dramatic, canopy effect for hanging ornaments. Or hang ornaments from a canopy bed frame.

Bigger Christmas trees can be decorated in different and unique ways by adding life-size objects such as shoes and hats, a pair of skis and ski poles, French rakes and huge straw hats, or toy cars filled with little toys and ornaments.

To sell baby's first Christmas ornaments, place separate bowls of pink and blue ornaments on top of a white changing table and arrange other baby items on lower shelves. Then hang pink ornaments and other product on a white feather tree and blue ornaments and related product on another. Use small white chairs or highchairs as risers for the trees.

Q. What other clever ideas do you have for displaying ornaments?

A. Ornaments definitely aren't just for the tree! They can be hung on a mirror to get a reflective quality or between spindles on a staircase. They can also be used as shade pulls…or [hung] inside a circular, cutout section of a window shade. Line up ornaments on a ledge. Wind them along a table runner. Look at the runner's color statement and tie in the ornaments respectively.

Place a glass cloche over an ornament to make the product look special and give it a museum-like quality. Use ribbon or garland to suspend ornaments from the ceiling or in a window. When an ornament, figurine, miniature house or other key item is placed on Midwest's "Extendable Christmas Tree Shelf," designed to be attached inside a tree, it creates a visual statement or vignette-within-a-tree that really highlights the product and helps tell a [display] story. This shelf, available in red, white and green, is also a place to feature a key item that has a great margin.

Q. If a store is carrying less Christmas merchandise this year, how can it still look and feel festive?

A. Add a splash of Christmas with items like evergreens and garlands. Be sure there's a wreath on the door or green topiaries on either side as customers enter. Whatever you do, add lighting. It's so important because it gives a sense of the holidays. Color stories are also important throughout your displays or store. Faux packages wrapped with your store's signature colors give a hint that it's the holidays. Music and candles give a sense of Christmas without having every tree decorated. Scent is important because it is highly tied to memories. Bring in the fragrance of pine or sugar cookies. Fresh cookies and hot cider also evoke memories and welcome customers.

Add Christmas candy to bowls and plates. Imbed a branch into a vase and tack Christmas cards onto it. Decorate a tabletop tree with jewelry and place it at the cash register. If you're not carrying a lot of Christmas ornaments, fill a tree with other items. You can also turn a smaller item into an ornament. We suggested a Las Vegas sleepwear shop attach ribbons to its small pillow sachets. The sachet "ornaments" were hung on a white feather tree and the original sachets were in a basket. Those on the tree had a higher perceived value, so they sold faster. Note: You can reach Midwest at (800) 776-2075 or For a free copy of Midwest's DVD, "Visual Display & Merchandising Ideas," contact your local Midwest sales partner, call Midwest's customer service department at (800) 776-2075 or email with your name, your store name and mailing address.

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