Visual Merchandising Tours and Why They Should Be a Part of your Process

what's the point?

what’s the point?


Outdoor Retailer is just a few days away and for my outdoor retail friends, I want to recommend making the time for visual merchandising tours. Merchandising tours are a task I recommend to anyone in the merchandising, sales or marketing arenas for two reasons:


  • Inspiration – When you see something that inspires or moves you, you refresh your perspective and have an opportunity to reignite your own work from a space of excitement and you just might get a deeper insight into how to tell your business story.
  • Solutions – If you struggle with merchandising a particular item, it’s pretty certain you are not alone. Visual merchandising tours give you an opportunity to see what solutions others have discovered. Even better? You begin to think outside the box and open your creative mind to finding your own unique solution as well!


I recommend taking advantage of fantastic visual merchandising opportunities like trade shows or scheduling time with your sales staff to wander a local mall. This is not to be confused with a competitor analysis or tours with the primary focus of checking out what your competition is doing, though visiting competitors is a great idea! Instead, a visual merchandising tour should include a wandering kind of spirit and be an adventure into what captures your attention.

When I led Visual Merchandising Tours at Outdoor Retailer, I spent a few hours just walking the floor noting where something caught my attention. I worked off a list of merchandising elements in an attempt to capture examples in as many categories as possible for participants. The categories I kept in mind included:

  • lighting
  • flooring
  • signage
  • display
  • fixturing
  • story
  • use of technology
  • product interaction
  • booth architecture


After I had a good list of notable booths, I revisited them and looked in depth at what caused me to ‘see’ in a place heavy on visual and auditory overload. I asked booth personnel if I could take a picture and took a few moments to chat about what I was seeing and getting some background.

What is key to an inspirational and educational tour is an ability to look outside your own product specific focus and here’s why:

It’s a little like heading out to shop and specifically seeking a white blouse, but while you browse you don’t find a white blouse. You find yellow, pink, maybe even a light blue that you love, but your focus is so strictly on the white that you fail to notice that maybe, just maybe another color might do. In other words, if you only pay attention to how footwear is being displayed, you might miss the innovative fixturing someone developed for dog products, a fixture idea that you could have potentially adapted to footwear.

I believe inspiration speaks loud and clear, and often the issue is we just don’t listen. A visual merchandising tour is important little break you give yourself to remember how to see, pay attention, and how to listen to what pulls your attention and especially, how to let the human part of you be pulled.

Just like you want to pull your customers to you.


This entry was posted in merchandising displays, shelving, display cases, Merchandising Planning, Outdoor Retail Merchandising, retail display, trade show merchandising, Uncategorized, visual merchandiser, visual merchandising training and education and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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