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Visual Merchandising: Are You Blocking Your Customer’s Path To Purchase?

blocking customers retailIs there some book for visual merchandising out there titled, How To Make Your 6000 Square Foot Store Look Like It is Only 60?

I’m talking about this obnoxious habit of retailers putting a long table right across the front of the store entrance.

What makes it worse is it is within about 8 feet of the front door.

Take a look at this retailer…

bad retail merchandising

And this

bad retail merchandising

These retailers visual merchandising managers have put whatever they think is their “best” on this table to grab passersby attention.  Usually it’s the sale stuff like this…

bad retail merchandising

These stores’ visual merchandising departments have effectively cut off the rest of their stores from the views of their customers.

Do they realize these tables, usually piled full of clothes, create a barrier to their customers’ entry?

If they had bothered to spend thirty minutes watching their shoppers, they would have seen them glance at the table then turn around and leave. They would have seen only a few customers actually walk around the table and into their store.

Nordstrom understands this. Take a look at this.



Their red carpet helps to draw the shoppers’ eyes and bodies into the store.

Saks understands this as well.  Their visual merchandising includes a table but angles customers right into the store.


Here’s a smaller retailer that, while they have a table, it is lengthways so it mirrors the flooring to again, draw customers’ eyes and bodies into their store.

good retail merchandising

Williams Sonoma understands shopper behavior too.  Their entry is sided by smaller tables that highlight special items or themes to encourage browsing.

good retail merchandising

That’s what you want to do those of you in charge of visual merchandising, draw customers in, not keep them at arm’s distance.  If you want to grow retail sales, don’t put up barriers to purchase –  and don’t put up tables that block.

When it comes to visual merchandising the front of your store, remember: less is more.

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Posted by Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor on December 31, 2012.

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6 Responses to “Visual Merchandising: Are You Blocking Your Customer’s Path To Purchase?”

  1. Rebecca says:

    Whoa. I have been blocking my door with tables as a rule. Thank you for this eye opening post.

    I was under the impression that we should not set up our small stores for easy visual scanning upon entry, I thought we were supposed to create physical barriers to force exploration and create interest. Could you reply to this school of thought?

    • Thanks for commenting Rebecca. You want to welcome customers in so if you use a table, angle it at least at 45 degrees so it is not a wall. Anything that creates a barrier is bad in retail. That’s why so many brands are anxious to remove their counters in favor of iPad or self-checkout. You want to make the interaction as easy and human as possible. Again, glad you found the post! Let me know how that more open space feels to both you and your customers.

  2. Maro Dimmer says:

    Our bakery showcases are laid out like a horseshoe to encourage customers to walk around them. However first we added a table horizontally and as time and more product variety cropped up the horizontal table became a lane of shelving and carts shoppable from both directions with space to get around from both sides of the store. Sometimes I feel that movement does feel somewhat blocked especially when we are busy. Removing some of these items would result in reduced revenue. How would you balance the need for more merchandising space? I seem to find that very challenging.

    • Smaller, round tables are where we are going in retail merchandising with several levels on those tables. Keep some in the back if you need to but the key I think for bakery is to keep enough product out to keep us interested, but not too much that we think no one buys it or it tastes good. Hope that helps and thanks for commenting!

  3. 1099 sales says:

    Of course a great post and pointing the right things that an owner or a visual merchandising manager should be aware of because its a fact that if the path of a store or any shop is blocked by a table containing all the mess that they want to show you to attract plays an opposite role and people feel depressed and just leave . Nordstorm and Saks have in fact the best entrances that attract people. I am myself a sales rep and have an idea of all this stuff.