Relating your craft show booth or table to a store window is a good way to look at your space from a different perspective and ensure you have elements that will catch the eye.
Although you may only have a few feet, you also want to think of your table or booth like the inside of the store and create a layout that draws shoppers in on one side and then has a setup that allows people to shop and pay without blocking your eye-catching elements.
You only have a few seconds to grab shoppers’ attention, so you need your craft show booth to stand out.
These techniques will help.
TOP 10 VISUAL MERCHANDISING TECHNIQUES
These are techniques major retailers use because they translate into dollars.
I studied these techniques in college and have implemented them for multi-million dollar retailers and in my own craft show booth.
So I know they work and have seen the impact they have on sales.
- LINE & COMPOSITION
1 – COLOR
Color is the best way to catch the eye, evoke an emotion, and even tell a story (e.g. blue and beige can help communicate a “beach” story).
Every craft show display should (properly) use color.
Consider your target market and the colors they’re likely to be attracted to. Are the soft pastels, earth tones, or dark and moody colors?
Typically, the fewer colors used, the stronger the impact (and the easier it is to create a cohesive display).
Imagine an all-red display showcasing ruby jewelry.
However, a booth full of color can also work. It takes a little more technique, but a display full of primary colors can also grab attention and even tell a whimsical story (great for children’s products).
The absence of color is another way to stand out, letting your products do the talking. White walls, floor, tablecloth, props, and uniform are bound to make shoppers stop and take notice.
USED AT A CRAFT SHOW:
Here’s a craft show display by Don Fisher that properly implements color. Please see more of their photos and an explanation of all the visual merchandising techniques they’ve successfully implemented, at the end of this article.
USED IN RETAIL:
An eye-catching hot pink color is pulled from the product label and used in some oversized tassels that mimic the tassels on the bottle in a Jo Malone window. This window also uses REPETITION with the same product being displayed 3 times. (Image Source: VM)
An all-white window with bright lighting at JOSEPH really catches the eye (Image Source: VM)
2 – REPETITION
Repetition is another merchandising technique that should be used in EVERY craft show display.
It should start with your products.
Limit your selection (which was proven to have increased sales by 27%) and be sure there are elements repeated within your products.
For example, every piece of jewelry may be made out of copper and use geo shapes. The designs may be different but the repetition of color and shape creates cohesion across all the products.
Repetition should also be applied in the way you display your products.
- Repeat colors from your products in your props, signage, images, tablecloth, etc.
- Repeat a product that is displayed (e.g. set up 3 bust forms and have them all wearing the same necklace; one in each stone.)
- Repeat shapes within your display (e.g. create a pyramid shape by stacking bars of soap on risers. Repeat that pyramid shape using jars of cream and bottles of bubble bath)
Odd numbers tend to be more pleasing so if you’re going to repeat an element, repeating it 3, 5 or 7 times is the way to go.
More examples are shared in the free email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY.
Here are a few examples of using repetition in the elements that surround your products in a craft show display.
In the photo below, signage, props, risers, and color are repeated. A spring collection could be inserted into this display:
The display below also repeats signage, props, display fixtures, and colors, but in an asymmetrical setup.
Find more examples and ideas for implementing repetition in: How To Use Repetition in a Craft Show Display
USED AT A CRAFT SHOW:
Here’s a craft show display by Poppiejanes and their effective use of repetition through shapes of products, colors, and patterns (notice in the top left how the vendor is even wearing a black and red buffalo plaid shirt to coordinate with her pillow covers). See more of their photos and an explanation of all the visual merchandising techniques they’ve successfully implemented, at the end of this article.
USED IN RETAIL:
Color, pattern, lines, and products are all repeated throughout this Louis Vuitton window. (Image source: VM)
A clutch is repeated 3 times in a window at Anya Hindmarch showing off the product and varying color options. (Image source: VM)
3 – LINE & COMPOSITION
Another merchandising technique that should be used in every display (the rest of the techniques in this article are optional).
Compositions purposefully lead the eye around your booth or table.
This is done by deciding which element is going to grab the shopper’s attention first (usually the bigger, brighter display at eye level or above), then creating a trail for the shopper’s eye to follow, from one display element or product to the next.
This is why laying products flat on a table does not help attract more shoppers or encourage more sales.
When everything is on the same level, the same size, or stacked/piled in the same way, nothing catches the eye or creates a path telling shoppers where to look next.
When line & composition isn’t implemented, the display can look cluttered and overwhelming to shoppers.
Line & composition can be difficult to master but is important to get right.
Once you understand it, you’ll notice it being used in store windows, in-store merchandising, photos, advertisements, etc.
When standing back and looking at your display, one element should grab the eye. From there, products, groupings of products, props, or signage should catch and direct the eye around your display.
The eye is naturally drawn to bigger/higher/brighter/lighter/etc. objects in a display. These act as “stop lights”; telling the shopper to “stop and look at this item”. How objects are overlapped and directed within a display will create “traffic lanes” for the eye to follow to the next stop light.
This setup uses line and composition to catch the eye and lead it to other items.
It’s like a game of connect-the-dots.
Use line & composition throughout your entire booth AND within each element.
The photo above is an example of the technique used across the entire display.
The photo below is an example of line and composition applied to a smaller grouping within the display.
The way the products are overlapping and go from tallest to shortest creates a visually pleasing grouping and the eye naturally flows from one product to the next. There’s no confusion about where to look next.
USED AT A CRAFT SHOW:
Here’s a look at Our Blue Abode‘s craft show display and their effective use of LINE & COMPOSITION. Notice how your eye is drawn down from the wreaths on the wall, and onto the product groupings on the table. I explain how she’s successfully created flow and share more photos of her displays at the end of this article.
USED IN RETAIL:
Depending on which way someone approaches this Harvey Nichols window, their eye is either drawn to the brightly lit group of 3 mannequins and then follows the angled line and writing to the 2nd group of mannequins or the opposite; the contrast of the white hashtag on the black background grabs the eye first and leads it down the angled “work hard, play hard” line to the 3 mannequins. (Image source: VM photo credit Melvyn Vincent)
You could literally draw a continuous line from one display element to the next. The overlapping of products, props, and mannequins, the way the mannequins are angled (even the line of the leg on the mannequin in the tan coat directs your eye to the next element).
The beautiful floral art grabs your eye at LK Bennett as the oversized paint tube & brush lead the eye to the product (colorful shoes). On the other side, if your eyes are down as you walk by, the flower paint spilled on the sidewalk will lead your eye into the window in the reverse direction. (Image source: VM)
Consider the flow of your craft show table too. You want shoppers to:
- Be drawn in at the front of your space by a showstopper
- Be led to the middle of your table where they can browse and try items on, pick them up, etc.
- End at the “cash desk” where they can be out of the way of other shoppers while they browse smaller “add-on” items and complete their transaction (think of the checkout line at the grocery store; why not, I’ll grab a pack of gum, it’s only a couple bucks, it’s right here and it’s simple to add to my cart. Check out: HOW TO USE ADD-ONS TO SELL MORE HANDMADE).
CRAFT SHOW LAYOUT TIPS thoroughly explains how to break your display into zones that encourage stopping, shopping, and buying.
4 – LIGHTING
Brighter objects naturally grab the eye, so lights in your space can make your entire booth stand out.
If you have a booth, you may have a way to add extra lighting throughout.
However, even a simple task lamp directed onto a product, or group of products can grab shoppers’ attention.
Consider which products you want to highlight; these should be your bestsellers, showstoppers, highest price point, or most profitable products.
Lighting can also set the mood or create a different atmosphere.
For example, battery-powered candles throughout a display might create a romantic vibe or a calming, spa-like vibe, depending on what the vendor is selling (e.g. jewelry vs. bath products).
Mini lights wrapped around a tabletop Christmas tree can catch the eye and make a space look festive at a holiday craft show.
Ideally, the craft show venue will have good lighting. But if the space has limited lighting, adding lights to your display will help it stand out.
Be sure to ask the organizer if you’ll have access to electricity before you plan your display around lighting that needs to be plugged in (battery-powered lighting is an option if you don’t). And be sure electrical cords won’t be a tripping hazard (you may want to bring Gaffer tape if your cord will run along the floor where people walk).
USED IN RETAIL:
The light fixtures and light draw attention to each individual shoe at Charlotte Olympia. (Image Source: VM)
Gucci directs spotlights on each mannequin to make their bold colors stand out even more (Image source: VM)
Macy’s uses light bulbs and their cords to create a tree design and add extra lighting to the window. (Image source: VM)
5 – SCALE
Adding larger-than-life elements can immediately grab a shopper’s attention. As they walk around the venue seeing everything in proportion, an oversized picture or prop will make them stop and take notice.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money either…you’re crafty! Cardboard, foam, paper mache, etc. can all be used to create lightweight, oversized objects that can hang above your table with the use of fishing wire. It will catch the eye of shoppers as soon as they walk into the venue.
Examples are shared in 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT DISPLAY, but imagine a giant ball of yarn made from a styrofoam ball wrapped in rope and spray painted the same color found in a logo or product collection. Add a flat surface to the top and bottom and you have a cool display shelf for knitted goods.
USED IN RETAIL:
How fun is this oversized pop can mimicing the print on the mannequin’s dress in a Moschino window? (Image source: VM)
Larger-than-life beauty tools draw attention to the makeup Kate Spade is selling inside. (Image source: VM)
Big props create color and interest through needles knitting a pattern at H&M and promote the knits they have in-store. (Image source: VM).
Hairpins are something that might be used with these Hermes scarves. (Image source: VM)
6 – CONTRAST
Using display elements that contrast product features can draw attention to product features you want to highlight.
- Dark backgrounds are a contrast to light-colored products
- Rough textures in display fixtures can contrast the smooth finishes of products
- Large elements contrast small elements and can point out delicate features
You can also create a contrast to the surroundings. If the event is busy, bright, and loud, your quiet, serene setting will be quite the contrast to the event’s atmosphere.
If the weather is cold and snowy, a warm beach theme will also stand out in contrast.
USED IN RETAIL:
The crisp, clean Alexander McQueen dress stands out in contrast to the dark background. (Image source: VM)
7 – HUMOR
Who doesn’t love to laugh? Humor helps us let our guards down and feel more comfortable…and a comfortable shopper is more likely to stick around and buy.
You don’t need shoppers to keel over in laughter; a simple smile or chuckle will immediately make them relax (and when shoppers are comfortable, they’re more likely to buy).
Be sure your humor is on-brand and doesn’t need explaining…keep it simple!
USED AT A CRAFT SHOW:
Here’s a display by Don Fisher that uses humor. Their bags are fish-themed so the vendor has created a “fresh fish stand” and even dressed the part.
USED IN RETAIL:
French Connection UK uses its F.C.U.K campaign to have some fun with phrases that will make you chuckle and maybe even shock you at first glance. (Image source: VM)
A giant whoopee cushion uses humor, scale and nostalgia to make you take notice of Fred Perry’s back to school children’s clothes. (Image source: VM)
8 – NOSTALGIA
Most people enjoy seeing something that reminds them of their childhood. It evokes a strong feeling, which is incredibly important when it comes to being memorable; do you remember products that made you feel nothing?
Items from our past, or “before and after” photos reminding us how far we’ve come, will encourage people to stop and have a closer look.
Consider your target market and the people, places, and things that were popular during their childhood.
For example, if I was selling adult lunch bags, I might find images of lunch snacks that were popular during my target market’s school days (e.g. fruit rollups, Lunchables, or the crackers and cheese dip that came in a pack with a red plastic stick for spreading). I could print those images to scale and glue them to foamcore so they could stand next to a lunch bag in my display.
USED IN RETAIL:
This Moschino window brings us right back to playing dress-up with our Barbies. The oversized toy packaging grabs your attention and makes you envision how the bright and fun outfit will look on the mannequins…or you! (Image source: VM)
Theo Fennel’s window immediately reminds you of the sound and feel of spinning the tin-top that’s used as a prop, along with wooden blocks (spelling out Theo), both used to display beautiful jewelry. (Image source: VM)
9 – MOTION
Something moving among static products can catch a shopper’s eye.
You don’t want it to become a hazard or annoying (strobe lights are not the way to go), but something that makes people want to stop and watch a prop go through the whole motion, can work to your advantage.
The more complex the movement is, the further out of reach it should be (up high or behind your table). You don’t want moving objects to be in the way of products shoppers are trying to browse.
Movement can also be implied through displays to show off components of your products or to create a feeling. Pulling the end of a scarf up using fishing wire can imply the movement of wind and make the shopper think of chilly days.
USED IN RETAIL:
This Anthropology window is so serene. Fans gently blow scarves to show how delicate they are while sunlight highlights the beautiful colors. (Image source: VM)
Movement is implied in this windy Hackett window, creating an interesting scene to stop and look at. (Image source: VM)
10 – SURPRISE
An element of surprise is involved in many of the ideas above but you can make an even bigger impact by creating a moment shoppers aren’t expecting at a craft show. It should leave them amused and excited to tell others about it.
You can also add intrigue. Make shoppers do a double-take and hang around a little longer to check something out or solve a puzzle.
For example, encouraging shoppers to come closer to peek into a shadow box or behind curtains to see what they’re missing out on. Having something out of place or missing intrigues the mind and forces it to figure out the missing piece of the puzzle or how to solve the equation, which gets shoppers hanging around a bit longer. Perhaps long enough for you to make a sale.
USED IN RETAIL:
You may be surprised to see an island backdrop set up in the middle of the city for you to have your own photoshoot. And if you’re not quite camera ready, it’s a great opportunity to head in and try some of Liz Earle’s beauty products. (Image source: VM)
A broken chair makes you take a second look as you walk past The Conran Shop, which is pointing out that their furniture is well-constructed and will last a lifetime. (Image source: VM)
If you need help putting several of these elements together, or making them work for your business and products, join the free email challenge:
The lessons will walk you through how to stand out and tell a story through your craft show display so you can sell more product.
Over 30,000 people have taken the free email challenge. Below is a small sampling of the feedback it’s received:
“I am brand new at doing Craft Sales. I started in November 2017. Did my first sale sold nothing. Did my second sale and sold a couple of items. Took the 5 day challenge and made a profit at the last sale.”
~Just for you cards by Kathryn
“I applied some steps from the challenge and it was AMAZING, it really helped and improved my display. More people came to see the booth and many bought from me.”
~Beatriz, Owner of Pretelie from Brazil
CRAFT SHOW EXAMPLES
Try testing your new-found knowledge. Take a look at each photo, think about the visual merchandising techniques they have implemented and then read the caption.
Abagail from Our Blue Abode, sells beautiful home decor pieces and these are a few photos from craft shows she’s participated in. She clearly has a talent for creating compositions and photography. Please check out her website or follow @ourblueabode on Instagram
In these two displays, there are several well-implemented design techniques, but she’s focused on a few key ones:
- COLOR – colors used in her display are limited: cream, white, and green with a few touches of black. The colors have a very natural, earthy, and calming feel, which match her brand. The absence of color in her backdrop curtain, tablecloth, props, etc. allows the products to stand out. The neutral colors used in her display props (backdrop, tablecloth, props) create contrast between the dark rich color of the greenery.
- REPETITION – She’s limited her product selection, which naturally implements the “repetition” technique. You see the same circular shape repeated through the wreaths. The texture of the glass jars is also repeated, as well as the color of the greenery used in each product. Colors, shapes, and textures have created repetition.
- LINE & COMPOSITION – in the second photo, your eye is drawn to the highest object in the display; the wreath. It’s then drawn to the two lower wreaths. The greenery on the left side of the bottom wreath catches the eye and draws it to the grouping of glass candle holders on the stack of books (which creates a composition). The rolls of paper and eucalyptus stems create a line over to the second table composition. And the eucalyptus stem and candle in that composition create a line back up to the wreaths, so there’s this continuous loop (instead of the eye being drawn over to someone else’s table). It sounds complicated when you dissect a display into lines and compositions, but just as the eye is naturally drawn to red, without thinking about why, the eye does naturally follow a path. Properly using lines and composition helps keep shoppers’ eyes on your products.
Here’s another example of Our Blue Abode’s display at another event and an example of many visual merchandising techniques successfully implemented:
I have been admiring this company for years. I first noticed them because of their craft show display, I just think it’s so smart and creative.
Don Fisher was started by Julia Castaño (and her boyfriend helps where he can…like dressing up as Captain Don Fisher). Julia is a graphic designer based in Barcelona, Spain, and has studied branding and design. She started her business with fish-shaped pencil cases and now offers a wide variety of fish-themed bags. Check out their website and products; the details are amazing.
This is a photo from their first craft fair in 2013:
Here are a couple of photos from a more recent craft show, after a logo and brand update:
In these two displays, there are a lot of well-implemented display techniques but they’ve focused on:
- COLOR – the color scheme varies for each display. In the first craft fair display, they focused on pink, blue, and turquoise. The color of the wood is also repeated in signage, fish crates, business card holders, etc. The color palette in the first display evokes a fun, playful feel. They’re still having fun with their second craft fair display and letting their brand come through, but the colors used have a softer, more elegant feel to them.
- REPETITION – in both displays, the main colors are repeated throughout, as well as the wood & wooden crates are repeated. Their products and the way they’re grouped creates repetition through shapes and lines.
- LINE & COMPOSITION – in the first display, the lighting helps catch the eye at eye level. When the spotlights are on, they would help lead your eye down to the crates of fish-themed bags. But the big chalkboard sign also catches the eye, then leads the eye down to the bucket of fish and crates. Both displays use the angle of the crates and groupings of products to draw the eye down and from one product to the next.
- HUMOR / SURPRISE – both displays have a playful feel that would put a smile on any shopper’s face, and I’m sure Captain Don Fisher’s beard got a few chuckles that day. Their displays also add an element of surprise; who’s expecting to see a mock fish market in the middle of a craft show? They’ve even placed their fish bags on material that looks like ice…to keep them fresh of course. It’s such a fun idea that I bet every shopper stops at their booth.
When I was scrolling through Instagram, Poppiejanes‘ photo of their craft show display instantly caught my eye. Poppiejanes sells pillow covers that have a farmhouse vibe; many also have a “buffalo” theme, incorporating a buffalo shape or buffalo plaid. Check out their Etsy shop or Instagram feed for more amazing photos of their work and lots of inspiration for your home.
I wanted to point out how she’s successfully implemented these techniques throughout her display; even within a smaller section on her table. I also love the attention to detail shown in this close-up photo.
- COLOR – tan, cream and black create the base for this display and little pops of red and gold help lead your attention around the table. She’s kept this color palette consistent from her products to her props and display fixtures. It’s consistent right down to the twine used to attach tags and the bow around the base of the small spruce. This attention to detail creates a clean, cohesive look.
- REPETITION – this display is another great example of repetition, but just look at how many places it’s implemented. The burlap is repeated in the tablecloth and on the base of the spruce. The font on the pillows is repeated in her signage. I also want to draw attention to the placement of the repeated elements; red touches are perfectly spaced, and the darker tan pillow covers are broken up by the lighter tan and cream pillowcases, so they don’t blend into the tablecloth.
- LINE & COMPOSITION – the pillow sitting on top of the wooden crate, along with the small spruce tree, help grab attention, with the bigger pillows sitting on either side, drawing the eye down to the pillow covers sitting flat.
- LIGHTING – there’s a subtle touch of lighting in her display through the use of mini-lights inside the wooden crate. The mini-lights help to highlight the pillow inside and also create a bit of focus in the center of the composition.
Thanks for reading!
You’re so far ahead of the competition if you just took the time to read through those professional merchandising techniques.
If you want to learn more techniques to improve your craft show display, join the free email challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY
I’d love to hear your thoughts now…
Which standout display elements do you currently use at craft shows, and which are you going to try at your next event?
Reference: Visual Merchandising & Display (4th Edition) Martin M. Pegler
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!