visual merchandising suetables

Visual Merchandising in Market Spaces

Written by Ani Nersessian

Trade shows, craft shows, marketplaces or any pop-up spaces in general, are all amazing opportunities to showcase your product-based business to a large audience. They are places to educate customers about your offerings and convert them to your clientele, as well as gain prospects for retailers to source your products while on the hunt for their buys. Plenty of benefits, but it can all be very intimidating. The question that takes over any entrepreneur’s mind is, “How on earth does one make the best use of the market space they are given?”

Whether you have a single table setup to plan, or an entire booth design setup, a marketplace is certainly an investment financially, as well as time-wise, and there is pressure to prepare the right amount of product quantities. Let’s explore how to maximize the potential of your space through retail design and merchandising.

I have had the pleasure of supporting various craft and trade shows, including The One of a Kind Show, the Toronto Home and Gift Show, various markets hosted by Oxford Properties, as well as the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District, specializing in providing retailers with visual merchandising services that are catered to small businesses. A common issue that vendors are faced with is how to place the setup in such a way that they are showing everything they need to, given space limitations. To solve this, we would need to gather more information for space planning.

Questions to Consider When Planning Your Setup

  • What are the set-up possibilities, vertically? Are vendors permitted to add any height? This is often forgotten.
  • What storage facilities will you have access to, helping to decrease the amount of excess inventory needed to include?
  • What is the show providing in terms of actual build, furniture/fixtures, or lighting?

Next, having a better understanding of the space you have to work with, zone your key sections. You may not have enough room for all, so prioritize in the following order:

  1. Branding Space: An area showcasing your brand and logo, including social handles and any ways that you want the audience to connect with you.
  2. The Main Product Story: The most important collection, such as the most relevant theme based on calendar year or newest collection, should be placed in zone seen first.
  3. Commodity Areas: Sections that are purely grouped by product type.
  4. Secondary Stories: Other product groupings that are either already a collection or curated based on your advised pairings to create whole packages for customers.
  5. Storage Space & Checkout Points: Purely functional areas that are advisable to be kept as minimal as possible to prioritize selling spaces.
  6. Point-Of-Purchase: The area by the cash-out point to capitalize on the last opportunity to upsell with easy add-on products.
  7. An Experience Zone: Areas that are more interactive or that customers are being entertained for a memorable experience.

Perhaps you are satisfied enough with a previous marketplace set-up. Even so, as a Visual Merchandising consultant, I would push you to strive to elevate your presentation each time. If in doubt, here are some questions worth reflecting on:

  • Are there any standards that can be upgraded, particularly when comparing with the other exhibiting vendors?
  • Were the customers interacting with your space the extent that you would’ve preferred, or can manipulate the level of handling at all?
  • Is your space design cohesive with your branding?
  • Is your product assortment still relevant, and do the product adjacencies per section logical?
  • Are there any frequently-asked questions by that can be efficiently answered via visual cues?

Understanding that many market space clients are juggling far too much in work and life, here is an additional piece of advice: don’t be afraid of a very long wish list. Simply prioritize what you are going to tackle each time. Little by little, the tweaks add up to an impressive upgrade.

Lastly, after you’ve included every single component that you think you need, edit down. This retail merchandising tip is both in regards to the actual setup design as well as the product merchandising. Represent your business in the most premium way by creating the impression of a showroom and not a stockroom.

*featured image photography by Jennica Hookstra, courtesy of VM ID (Suetables new store opening)

Ani Nersessian is a visual merchandising specialist and the face of VM ID. She holds a B.Des from Ryerson University’s Fashion Communications program and has also taught the Visual Merchandising & Display course at Ryerson University’s School of Fashion. After 15+ years in the retail industry, working at various brands/companies such as Holt Renfrew and Adidas Group Canada, Ani founded VM ID to share her knowledge and skills with a wide range of retailers both big and small, helping them create the perfect visual identity for their brand.

Want to be featured in our Success Stories?
Become an Annual Member!

Receive access to mentorship, opportunities for promotion, and so much more