10 Tips for Holiday Merchandising in December

macy's holiday interior new york

Access My FREE 5-Part Retail Sales Training Email Course!

Holiday merchandising is always hard. It can feel like "another thing to do."  For many it can feel irrelevant. It isn't.

You need shoppers to discover more than they initially came in for.

Otherwise, you aren't scaling your retail business. You are just a warehouse to fulfill what people come in and ask for.

And with more shoppers venturing out this important holiday season, you have to do even more to engage and entice them to buy today from you.

A lifetime ago, I managed a western wear store in South Coast Plaza, the nation’s No. 1 mall, and I both embraced and dreaded December. I hope this story helps you understand how to make your store merchandise pick-upable.

I embraced the holiday season because, as one of the highest-paid district leaders, it was the time of year I could score big bonuses due to the crush of shoppers.

I wouldn't say I liked the holiday season, not because of the holiday songs or the traffic getting to and from the mall, but simply because I thought I had nowhere to put all the merchandise.

Supply chain issues have mainly solved themselves, and like I was back then, many of you are sitting on piles of merchandise in hopes of moving even more of it the last six weeks of the year. 

Here are several pictures from December that show the holiday merchandising of that western store at the time I received the highest increase in sales … and my highest bonus ever.

The following pictures illustrate the first three visual merchandising suggestions for when your retail store must be crammed with merchandise.

Here are the first three:

  • Highlight the Unexpected to Boost Holiday Sales
  • Get Them Hooked from the First Step In
  • High-End to High-End: A Strategy That Sells


straw hats on jeans

Take a look at the picture above; what do you think I wanted you to buy?

Yes, straw hats.

Normally on a rounder like that we would have had a jean display and a shirt. But during the holidays, I had too many straw hats to fit in the hat department, and while other western stores had signs “Please ask for assistance with hats” or “Please don’t try on hats without a salesperson,” I put hats everywhere.

I wanted to catch the eye of the casual shopper who was maybe looking for jeans and, by having the hats at eye level, I hoped they would put one on, laugh, and look in the mirror. Most times they did and then my well-trained sales crew took over.

Worked like a charm.

1. Highlight the Unexpected to Boost Holiday Sales

You always want to highlight certain merchandise to interrupt shoppers into considering something they didn’t know they wanted – especially at the holidays.

ostrich jacket-1

This display was in the first one-third of the store. Normally, this wall unit would have had just one hat because it was too hard to get to easily. Not at the holidays! I used that space to feature one of our $ 1,000 lambskin with ostrich inlay jackets surrounded by one-of-a-kind hats and boots - the works.

Up there in an unexpected area and spotlit, that jacket grabbed our attention and also helped give us something to point out on our store tour. Those jackets also sold out twice in a month. 

I moved less expensive moccasins, belts, and hat protectors around the featured display, and you know what, that merchandise... crowded as it was sold well, too.

2. Get Them Hooked from the First Step In

Create at least one feature display in the first third of your store and move merchandise that can appeal to a wide group of shoppers around it. Make sure your crew knows how to sell from it and add on.

boots + buckles

Normally, our silver buckles were displayed on these two shelves with nothing on top. But if you want to build holiday sales, you interrupt your shoppers with something they hadn’t considered.

That’s why I lined up the $800+ boots in exotic leather that suggested that you might like buckle and boots if you were looking for something flashy.  

It's also why we put all the most expensive lambskin jackets at the front where a passerby could see them, and the salesperson could use them to make more sales.


How? As the customer went to try on the second boot, the salesperson guessed their size, unlocked a jacket and met them at the mirror to complete the look.

Never forget that merchandising is there to help you salespeople make more sales, but they need to be trained on how to do it. 

3. High-End to High-End: A Strategy That Sells

While we often create this-goes-with-this displays made with average products, it is essential to picture the specific type of person who would buy the high-end category of merchandise and connect it to another high-end product and display them together.

I did a single-day re-merchandising of a country store in upstate New York. Watch to see what I did.

While your products will be different, I’m using this video to show you an additional seven down-and-dirty tips to help you merchandise your store during the holidays. Note they all begin with a question.

What do you want the shopper to look at first?

4. Get Them Looking Where You Want: The Angle Trick

Decide what you want shoppers to look at first and put it at an angle to their path.

Are your fixtures forming barricades?

Check out this re-merchandising I recently completed at a beverage center in upstate New York to see the difference angles and fixtures make on ease of shopping and discovering new products.

5. Small Sections, Big Impact: Rethink Your Fixtures

Break long lines of fixtures into smaller sections. Notice in the country store, we cut the long line of four tables and put spaces in between them so shoppers could move more freely. We broke up the 30' lines in the beverage center into smaller, shoppable angled aisles.

How can you combine items into a focused display?

6. Unclutter to Upsell: The SKU Strategy

You want shoppers to help themselves and build the bigger basket, so keep displays simple with just a few SKUS. In the top video, you can see it is several products all built around a pancake breakfast.

Can your shoppers easily understand what they are looking at?

7. Don't Leave Them Guessing: Add Clear Signs

Add signage or other clues so shoppers don’t feel stupid. Notice the edible clues we added to differentiate the nine nut butters. 

Have you stuffed merchandise into a cubby?

8. Add Levels, Add Sales: The Cookie Strategy

Merchandise sells better when you break it up - like I did with the cookies in the video. Adding height and some baskets to visually break up their sameness allows shoppers to consider the impulse buy. And if it can fit in their hand, even better.

Do shoppers notice your fixture or display case more than the product?

9. Turn the Spotlight on Your Products, Not Fixtures

Angle your fixtures so the product is the showpiece, not the display basket or fixture like I attempt to show with the apples.

Are the impulse items the correct ones for this time of year?

10. The Price Rule for Impulse Displays

Fill displays of impulse buys with products priced between $10 - $15. Keep the displays well organized to make it easy for shoppers to pick up items without having to think about the cost.

See also, How To Visual Merchandise Your Holiday Windows

In Sum

Why bother spending time with any of this? To chunk down your merchandise into easy-to-consider moments.

To build a higher average ticket.

To build the average number of units per sale.

To build your margins.

Now is the time to highlight your very best merchandise... like the lambskin jacket... and interrupt shoppers to pick up something they hadn’t been looking for when they entered your store...like the straw hats.

Use these visual merchandising tips, and it won’t matter how full your store is with merchandise, as it will sell better than ever. 

I have a full merchandising course that comes standard with the purchase of the SalesRX to help you learn how to merchandise your store correctly.

Access My FREE 5-Part Retail Sales Training Course