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How to merchandise in your newsagency

Merchandising is the process of displaying products in a retail store to achieve maximum sales. There are experts who make careers out of providing merchandising advice to national retail chains. There are consultants who provide merchandising advice to independent retailers.

Smaller independent retailers (like newsagents) don’t have the luxury of hiring experts. Many have not had the opportunity to access professional merchandising training. What they do is learn on the job, as they go. This is not a bad thing.

Some of the best merchandising I have seen has been by people who are self taught and more time poor than the professional merchandisers.

In reality, merchandising comes down to some simple principles which, when followed, deliver excellent business results.

Tell a story. Good merchandising is about showing a product in context, in a way that a browser in a retail shop gets what the product is, how they can use and why then need to have it. This is conveyed in a good display by taking a creative approach.

Look at the example of a great cookbook. One store may have a wonderful display of the cookbook looking all very professional and attractive. Hey may even open a copy on a page showing a delicious recipe.

Another store may have the cookbook displayed on a small table dressed for dinner with cutlery and glasses. Such a tale display would look out of place in a bookshop, or special. This will get it noticed and shoppers will see the cookbook displayed on the table and get a warmth from this that the basic book display will not convey.

So, tell a story, a compelling story.

Get my attention. A merchandising display has to stand out. Many shoppers are store blind. Combat this with a compelling display.

Remember the pyramid. Treat displays based around product volume as a pyramid with a peak at the top and a wide base at the bottom. Build the display with balance and pyramids on your mind.

Have fun. Use the merchandising display to demonstrate the character of the business. By having some fun you can make browsing the store more enjoyable.

Retail is theater. There is no avoiding this. Many people shop for something to do. Boring product displays can leave them not enjoying the show. A terrific merchandising display commands attention and entertains.

Change. Don’t leave merchandising displays up for too long. Change is good in retail, good for customers and good for employees.

Good merchandising is all about speaking to your customers. Embrace it, learn as you go and have some fun.

FOOTNOTE: I was approached to write this article a few months ago.  It has gone on to be republished in a few places.  I publish here as a resource for newsagents who wonder about the importance of visual merchandising and how to get started.

visual merchandising

Join the discussion

  1. Hamish

    Good stuff Mark, not enough is said about the importance of visual merchandising. These days we employ someone whose sole responsibility is to present the store, it makes that much of a difference.
    When we started merchandising properly it was through a contact at the local TAFE, we gave the design and art students a blank canvas to work with and a rough theme . They could then photograph their work and use it it for their portfolios / resumes.
    Cost basically nothing and got us involved in the community, made us a talking point in town and helped pull customers from the street.Win – Win situatioin really.

    The best thing (and what opened my eyes) was that bringing people in from outside gave us a fresh new look, a look that wasnt dictated by historic ideals on what makes a a good newsagency display.


  2. Niall

    Hamish – Excellent work. Bringing people in for the outside does exactly what you said it did…..gave you a fresh new look. Visual merchandising is massively under-utilised in Australia. The big chains do it but have slacked off in recent years. The big companies (suppliers) in Australia also have Shopper Marketing departments that conjure up new ways of getting their products noticed amongst the “noise” of the retail environment.
    You have got to try it. You will be surprised how much you learn from the experience.


  3. Keith

    Excellent article Mark. I visit newsagencies when I am on holidays as I am sure many of us do and I am more disappointed than pleased at the quality of visual merchandising.

    I made it my business to learn how to VM for myself so that I could make better decisions about displays. This changed my perspective some years ago.

    Like Hamish I bring in an expert but I am lucky since I can afford it.

    Your advice is ideal for newsagents who don’t have the funds to bring in an expert.

    More articles like this please.


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