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Retail Merchandising Tricks: How to Capture Attention in Your Store


This is Q&A for Credibly with award-winning retail consultants Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender.


Which products should you put front-and-center in a window display, or right when customers enter your store? Which items would you highlight?

GEORGANNE BENDER: Customers have about four-to-six seconds to take in your windows, whether they’re walking by, driving by, or walking into the store. So if you have a window display that has a whole bunch of little things, they won’t see it. You need larger pieces in the windows.

Then, you have 10 seconds or less to capture the customer’s attention when he or she walks in the front door of the store. You also need to know that there’s a space inside the front door, between five and 15 feet depending 
on the size of your store, that’s known in the retail industry as the “decompression zone,” and anything you put in that area, customers won’t see until they’re on their way out.

RICH KIZER: The first thing that customers do when they walk through the door is take in the vista of the store. It’s like this huge picture in front of them. That first three-to-five feet in most stores is like a no-man’s land until they’re exiting. I always equate it to being at Disneyland. When you first walk in to Disneyland, your eyes are focused on Main Street to the castle — that incredible panoramic view.

kizer and bender retail merchandising tips
(Photo via

BENDER: We have retailers that put signage there, they put class schedules there, they put merchandise there, and that merchandise doesn’t sell and they can’t figure out why. It’s because nobody starts to really look at merchandise until they’re at least five feet inside the door.

Rich just mentioned the “vista.” We have this exercise called “The V and the Vista,” where we have retailers go five feet in front of their front door — so, to the end of the decompression zone — stand in the center of the door and open their arms up in a giant V. And whatever you see standing directly in front of you, that’s the vista. It’s the most important selling space in the entire store, because that’s what customers see first when they walk in. That’s where displays called “speed bumps” go. It’s new merchandise, it’s hot merchandise, it’s things you don’t want customers to miss.

KIZER: That’s the biggest opportunity a store has. It’s a story of who you are.

BENDER: Right, it’s telling a story. And then while you’re still standing in that space, you look from your shoulder down to the tip of your right index finger, and every product and piece of real estate that’s in that space, we call that “lakefront property.” That’s the second-most important selling space in your entire store.

KIZER: People have a tendency to either go right or look to the right as they enter the decompression zone.

BENDER: The wall that you’re looking at, at the tip of your index finger, that’s your most important wall in the store. Then, you look down from your left shoulder to your pointer finger, and that’s your third-most important space. So what we say to retailers is, you want to make sure that you’re merchandising and changing these areas all the time — that you’re not just putting merchandise on that front right wall and leaving it there for years.

How often should a store move around its product or rearrange the floor layout to keep things fresh?

BENDER: There are parts of your store — the endcaps and the speed bump displays, for example — that need to be changed once a week whether they need it or not. Because sometimes our salespeople don’t see the whole store, either. They’ll say, “Hey, when did we get that?” And you’re thinking, “It’s been here for six months, where have you been?”

You also need to “toss the sales floor,” which means moving the entire sales floor around, once a year at minimum, and even better once a quarter.

Now that we know where customers start looking when they enter a store, how do you create a path to get them moving through it and interacting with product?

KIZER: First of all, 50% of the store will not be seen by your customer; this was an actual study. Most people that enter a store will have something on their mind, they’ll focus on that, and they’ll go to that area. And so, our mission is to make paths, but those paths can’t be so easy that they just take the customers to the bread in the back of the store, so to speak, if that’s what they’re looking for.

So what we do is, we disrupt the designated path where they walk so that they’re forced to look at other things, by putting merchandise in the old path areas and strike-zone merchandising.

BENDER: You have to place your fixtures in such a way that you’re leading customers to look at different merchandise throughout the store.

KIZER: We want to move customers through the store almost in a 360-degree direction, so we focus on creating these pathways. We want to make you stop and look without completely being in your way, without inhibiting someone with a stroller.

If we look at a store knowing that customers are going to bend right, we’ll take advantage of that. After they’re in the store, we’ll plant speed bumps in the middle of an aisle, for example, to force them to stop and look and make a right or left. The point is, we’re trying to create paths that generate the most visibility for every product that we have to sell within a store. We try to make it a treasure hunt.

BENDER: You don’t want customers to walk in the front door and immediately make a beeline for the back of the store and miss everything else that’s in the path.

KIZER: In the MSNBC video we did with Peaceful Parlour, that store sold an awful lot of tea, and customers would make a habit of going in and heading straight for the tea. Now, it’s great that their customers are coming back, but here’s what can happen: A tea customer walks right in, they know exactly where to go, and they make a beeline for it. So when that study says 50% of a store potentially is never seen, that’s why, because customers get a handle on where everything is.

What we did in that store is just disrupt it a little bit. We moved things slightly so that the customer had a more pleasant experience of discovering within the store, while still not inhibiting them or taking a lot of time 
from them.

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