Home » small business » Seven Secrets to Merchandising, Styling and Display for a Show, Market or Retail Store

Seven Secrets to Merchandising, Styling and Display for a Show, Market or Retail Store

It’s show, market and home decorating season! This is the time of year when everything gets ramped up and all of the holiday shows are starting! As well as owning my own retail store, I’ve been doing shows such as flea markets and other venues for just over 14 years now, and I normally wonder how I am either going to… A. Fill a space or B. Cram everything I brought into it.  And I worry I …A. Don’t have enough or B. I brought the wrong things. But the truth is, you can make you booth look great on the fly with these seven secrets to merchandising, styling and display for a show or market (or retail store!).

seven secrets to styling,merchandising and display

(This post contains affiliate links including Amazon affiliate links)

I’ve learned a few tricks about merchandising that I thought I would share with you! The best part is, these secrets work in your home too!!! Merchandising was one of those things I really sucked at when I started and each time I did a show I learn a little something more, and got a little better. When I opened my retail store, I put a lot of those things to work. I am happy with how much better I have grown and will  continue to grow and I want to share some of those things I’ve learned with you. You can also buy my eBook Your Creative Business and Getting Started for ways to make passive and active income and use the skills and talents you have.

If you’ve ever wanted to start selling at Handmade Markets or Vintage Shows check out this post.

I started learning by walking into a great store and gleaning all of their creativity by studying their displays. I still do it. But I wish someone could’ve helped me, or even if there was a class I could take. So here are a few tips about merchandising,styling and display if you feel the same way! And I’ve also included a video  of extra retail display tips and ideas below:

staging your booth for a show

Want to get a weekly newsetter about growing your small creative business with tips on display, wholesale, retail and more? Register here for the Kitchen Table Creative Club, it’s free!

1. Create a display that gathers like-minded objects. Everything in this case has a “collected” feel. From the old bottle to the statue, it all feels old, like it could be out of someone’s curiosity cabinet. It all goes together in theme and color scheme and it makes it feel cohesive.

nada farm sale

2. Repeat themes and objects. In the cabinet above,glass on the bottom, glass in the middle,glass at the top. and below, books and chairs.A desk, and lamp an “office theme”.In this even longer shot of the same cabinet, see how it looks really full now? It is important  to re-display constantly and keep your display active. As things sell, you need to fill holes and spread out if you don’t have items to replace them with.

Jennifer Rizzo merchandising

3. Go for height. Height is your friend. Don’t be afraid to safely hang, stack and move the eye upward. What looks better? Items laid flat on a table like  a craft fair, or items displayed at various heights to catch your eye? Use shelves, books,stools,chairs,little tables and even crates to get height. I love this collection of crates for display.

Nada farm sale

4. Make it interesting and group. Again, this could be a hodge podge hot mess, but  instead the clustered pictures look interesting. It makes you want to look again. None of them even relate  but since they are grouped the eye sees them as going together. You can also see how in this post about display rules of 1-2-3

use a tool box to display dishes

5. Use common items in uncommon ways. i.e. putting beautiful china in a vintage tool box. Hard vs. soft and masculine vs. feminine. Above all it looks interesting. Or even using a branch for a clothing display instead of just a plain old bar, it makes you want to look at it again. It’s commonly uncommon.

Nada farm sale Jeanne Oliver designs dresses

6. Add a pop of something unexpected. Hanging branches with hanging teacups, is unexpected and fun. You aren’t just selling your things, you are selling the idea of your things…You’re selling a style. It’s something unexpected and surprising that’s fun opens up the seller’s eyes and catches their attention.

Jennifer Rizzo Merchandising

7.Make it pretty. Customers aren’t always sure how to use what you are selling, and they can’t always picture the final result. If you make it pretty and show them how to use/display it, they feel they have a reason to buy it.

3 French hens Christmas display

Start noticing how stores with great displays like Anthropologie use these tools like height and the unexpected to make you want to spend your money.Heck, I like to go in there just to pretend I live in there. It gives you a certain feeling,and t makes you want to bring a piece of that place home with you. Google Anthropologie store windows and then hit images.You’ll see what I mean. You can find some items here to use in your display.

gather silver and display together

And I lied,  there are actually 9  secrets, but seven sounded better on the infographic. 🙂

Display at Urban Farmgirl Main Street Market

8. Create a story  Whether it is in your own home as a geese flying over the moon mantelscape,  or in a retail display called Camp Christmas  people love  to be transported into a good story. Pick a theme and run with it and make your customers mind be delighted.

Faux mantel with flying geese a moon and branches

9. Finally, Talk to “your” people. Talk to your customers. You don’t have to jump all over them like  a used car salesman on his first day, but how do you feel when you go in a store and someone ignores you?Or they are on the web on their phone? Say hi, be friendly and engage with out being pushy. And a smile goes  really long way. 🙂 I hope you loved these seven secrets to merchandising, styling and display for a show or market or retail store and are inspiring you to play with your visual merchandising.

And find out more about joining the Kitchen Table Creative Club here.

Woman working on a project with the words join the kitchen table creative club

If you liked this post, you might also like:

How to brand yourself and make your brand stand out


  1. Hello Jen,
    I just wanted to thank you for your great tips! Although I don’t sell vintage I love it and decorate with it. Your tips gave me some ideas on how I can mix up my studio/art displays for the holidays. I appreciate you sharing and for the gorgeous eye candy! Cheery Smiles your way…Laura

  2. Your tips are all good. I LOVE a good display. If everything is laid out flat, I keep on walking by. Most of the fun of shopping for me is seeing the create way shopkeepers display their goods.

  3. Jen, thank you so much for these ideas, I have always been in awe of the people with this kind of vision, that can create these kind of displays. Thank you so much for the tips. Your last few comments really hit home with me this week. I just moved across country and had been following a store online for a few years. I was so excited to be able to finally shop there. I drove a few hours to get there and was all excited, the store was beautifully decorated and the items for sale were to die for. But when I approached the owner and one of the staff working there, they were cold and distant. I was heart broken and did not even want to give them my money for any of their items. To say I was crushed and depressed when I left there is an understatement. I am going to go back in a month or so and try again, maybe I just caught them on a bad day. But if it is the same kind of atmosphere and treatment than I will never go back. lovely store just wish they had been friendlier.

    1. I think attitude does make all of the difference.I hope you say something to them, maybe they just don’t know.I hope your next time is better!

  4. Hi Jen,
    I have a small antique shop in Illinois and I have had years of customer service training as a secretary so being friendly comes easy to me. I am excited about the things I sell and I love to talk about them. People have told me the most interesting stories that I never would have heard if I hadn’t talked with them. Really fascinating stuff about why they collect what they collect, etc. Some people are good at finding things, good at repairing or presenting, but not so good with people.
    I liked your idea about mixing masculine and feminine things together. That is good. I will incorporate that into a section I have that is all masculine. All your ideas were good. Can’t wait to rearrange tonight. I rearrange the whole shop every two weeks. That’s a lot of moving around!

    1. I bet it looks amazing! You’ll have to let us know where your shop is so we can come for a visit!

  5. These are great tips, Jennifer! Thanks for sharing. I have a booth right now, but I’m getting ready to close it an am going to shows instead. Love how your space looks!

  6. Oh Jennifer……such good suggestions! I love creating vignettes in both my home and antique booth. There is something so fun about creating, then tweaking, then stepping back to appreciate the results. And, when someone else also admires it, pure frosting on the cake!

  7. Great tips Jennifer! Wish I had the energy to do shows like I once did.But I have no desire anymore.Looking to do something out of my house.We will see what happens…..

  8. You make it look so easy. 😉 I think, for me, that one of the most important tips is to only buy what you love. It really helps with decorating my home, but it got me into all sorts of trouble when I had a booth at an antique store – I didn’t want to part with anything. 🙂

  9. As I read through these I realized these are the same rules I use when doing a garage sale. Put your things out as if it were a store (which it is). If you went to a store and everything was on the floor or flat on tables would you want to shop there? Great stuff, thanks

  10. Thank you for some great tips! I have two shows coming up in November and can’t wait to try some of your display ideas. What stuck out the most was “You aren’t just selling your things, you are selling the idea of your things.You’re selling a style.” This is wonderful advice.

  11. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your great ideas!! They are going to be a huge help to me as I attempt to “anthropologize” my salon! 🙂

  12. WOW! Do you know how difficult it is to get anyone to help another store owner to set up a great looking display??? Thank you so much! I’m starting up an artisan & consignment shop in a little artistic community and this will definitely help me! I’m located in Burnstown, Ontario, just outside of Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Thanks again and if you have anything else you can pass along like this please let me know – I’ll also follow you on Twitter to keep me informed. cheers!

  13. Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. I am doing more craft shows and considering going to market and I want a display to really showcase my items. I have so many ideas now!

  14. Great advice Jen! You nailed the Anthropologie thing. Who doesn’t want to take a bit of that place home. Thank you.

  15. Hi Jen,
    This is Jay, well, i found this tips quiet helpful and innovative…..Could you also throw some light if there is any extra idea on displaying Indian Handicrafts items like lamps, leather bags, mojri (indian traditional shoe) in the Australian Shopping malls for we all know there are art lovers everywhere, its just that there needs to be some appeal on the presentation….Will certainly be obliged to have another great suggestions coming out of your brilliant mind…

    1. The best way to display your items is make sure it is easy to see each item and make it look interesting and pleasing to the eye.It depends on what your display space looks like. I would display your items with other regional items that complete the entire look. I hope this helps!

  16. Thanks for sharing these fabulous ideas, that can really be used to display ( and hopefully sell!) anything! Really helpful

  17. Well done. #8 is worth repeating. I love the saying ” a customer is not an interruption of your business, they are your sole purpose”. If you love what you are doing and your window brought them in, appreciate them.

  18. Hi Jen! Absolutely love your ideas! The 8th tip is the added boon! Smile! Smile smile! Welcoming and brightens the shopping experience. But if I may add the 9th tip, it’s to make your shop or home unforgettable is the subtle but inviting SCENT! Depending on your shop display, the inviting scent of cinnamon, or vanilla or lavender, gardenia, patchouli , tea rose, verbena or even your favorite perfume sprayed gently on your items or around the room seals the deal. 🙂 A clever ploy and very effective, enhancing a memorable shopping experience. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Jen! You are so generous to share these hints … When I had booths in malls quite some time ago, one of the most important things I did was to change the merchandise around very frequently! Now that I only do “shows,” even if they are just for a day, I apply this same theory, moving my items around quite often. Sometimes customers wait to purchase, and when they come back, they might not immediately see an item they left ~ intending to return for later. This can cause surprised ~ even upset ~ clients if they think they’ve missed out on something by walking away briefly. But even in a one-day show, the “goods” need to be moved around to fill the empty spaces, and to keep things interesting, and always *invitingly arranged* … ! It’s extra difficult to “theme” with some handmade items, but I do my best, and bring in interest with some really fun and unique display, just as you suggested!
    Thanks for the hints!

Comments are closed.