WHAT ARE PROPS IN RETAIL? (PLUS EXAMPLES!)


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If you stop and think, what is it that motivates a customer to close the sale on a product? It is a combination of many marketing ingredients. Color, visual graphics, messages appealing to a customer’s need are all part of a successful recipe that makes a product enticing. Selling a product is about telling a story, and a story needs props to set the stage.

As you think about how you want to tell your product’s story, you will discover there are many retail merchandising props that can help you develop a supporting “cast.”

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WHAT ARE PROPS IN RETAIL?

A prop is an item or group of items you use to tell your product’s message. It is usually placed in a window display, floor display or stand alone by an end cap. The items are solely for sales support and are not for sale.

Most of the time, props are used in visual merchandising within a window display. They don’t have to be expensive and finding just the right props can be time consuming. One thing is certain, when implemented into a good design, props can help attract foot traffic.

MOST COMMON TYPES OF VISUAL MERCHANDISING PROPS

Merchandising props used in visual displays are productive when they tell the product’s story in such a way, the customer wants to know more. Visual displays are especially attractive around popular holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day. Here are some of the more common types of visual merchandising props:

  • Potted plants
  • Ceramic pots
  • Colorful and artfully arranged lights
  • Boxes or crates
  • Barrels Wrapped gift boxes denoting the occasion
  • Ribbons Flowers, both artificial and real arrangements
  • Sculptures
  • Signage
  • Artworks
  • Holiday motifs such as turkeys, Christmas trees, paper mache hearts
  • Artificial grass
  • Artificial snow
  • Fabric

Let’s walk through an example. TV personality and entrepreneur Marcus Lemonis featured a candy business, Sweet Pete’s, on one episode of Lemonis’ show The Profit. He revamped the business and made it ALL about props. When you walk into the storefront, you see:

  • Color splashes of reds, pinks, purples and white
  • White baskets with plush stuffed animals
  • Promoted designated sweet items
  • Accordion hearts, (Focusing on Valentine’s), suspended from the ceiling (These later were shown to be pinatas).
  • Huge graphic posters depicting sentiments
  • A volunteer handing out candy samples An explosion of heart-themed balloons floating around the store

Specific props, along with color, design and clever signage told a story. Customers were enchanted by surroundings and were motivated to buy. Why? The take-away from this scenario is that when you want to promote visual merchandise, you must be deliberate in your approach. It’s about color, theme, texture, movement and how you use props to tell your product’s story.

HOW TO USE RETAIL PROPS EFFECTIVELY

Customers are nearly always attracted to storefront windows with cleverly featured visual merchandising. It increases foot traffic and is often responsible for most retail sales. How do you effectively attract these customers? Here are several suggestions that will help you on your way to having a great visual presentation.

  • Less is more. There is a technique in design called empty space. You do not have to put every single prop you have found into the design. The star of the display is your product. Let it rest on a large block of color or odd shape. Don’t have too much around the product to clutter it.
  • Odd numbers are the bomb! Think about placing your product and props in groups of 3 or 5. It will give the display an elegant feel and won’t confuse the customer by having too much to focus on. 
  • Use the pyramid display. Pyramid designs attract customers with both texture and shape. Practice placing your product at various places within a pyramid stand and use props spaced at intervals around the product. This provides an interesting display and encourages customers to focus on the product. 
  • Contrast is king. When customers view your display, you want them to focus on the main event-your product. Ensure the background is muted, perhaps contrasting subtly in color, but is solid and void of any graphics. Texture can be used, such as metal or fabrics, but don’t have them alongside a glossy surface. It distracts.

As you experiment with props in your visual merchandising, you need to think about the overall experience. It isn’t just about the props you use or how the design of the displays and signage plays into your product’s story. You want to make the customers’ experience exciting, meaningful and convincing enough for them to feel like they are leaving your store a winner.

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