Designs & Displays: Great Tabletop Displays

Cross-merchandised tables with different levels, like these at Dance Etc. create dimension and draw the customer’s eye.

Tabletop displays are the most effective way to keep your merchandise interesting, engage customers and help suggest new items. “We have found that the key to keeping the store fresh is to keep the tabletop displays fresh,” says Debbie Ortiz, owner of The Dance Bag in Cypress, TX. “It refreshes the atmosphere so customers have a new take on the whole store each time they come in.” Usually placed a few feet back from the front entrance, tabletop displays help switch people’s focus from what they were doing before they entered the store to the shopping experience. Smaller tables placed throughout the store make arranging impulse purchases easy.

For these displays, retailers can use round tables, tiered tables, nesting tables or long rectangular tables. Display tables in dance stores are often purchased from retail-fixture supply companies, but they can also be repurposed furniture pieces, like vintage desks or end tables. Which style is right for you? And how do you arrange your merchandise on a table effectively? We talked to three veteran storeowners for best styling tips and advice.

Temptations for Each Changing Season
Dance Etc., Raleigh, NC

The first display that customers see when they enter Dance Etc. is a six-foot-long tabletop display of five nesting tables—two that face the door and three that face the back of the store. Owner Danea Polise-Bickerstaffe, along with manager Ariana Jones, keeps the tables fully stocked with a selection of dancewear that relates to the time of year. During back-to-school, the display is typically stocked with practice leotards and dance bags; for recital season, customers will find gift items, such as training tools and fancy black leotards, that her customers like for summer intensives. “We use signage to help merchandise those items as an alternative to flowers during recital season,” Polise-Bickerstaffe says.

The display is placed several feet past the main entrance. The different levels of the nesting tables, combined with cross-merchandised product in a variety of shapes and sizes, help create dimension, which draws the eye. “We try to create height and depth there,” Jones says. “Having things low and high is visually appealing. And we always try to group things in threes, because it’s clean and symmetrical.”

Polise-Bickerstaffe often has to undress body forms in this display to sell the apparel to interested customers, and she is frequently asked for styles similar to the ones featured on the front table. “I think it grabs their attention, and they can see the backs of leotards better than when they are just hung,” she says.

The Dance Bag

Three Tiers—and an Antique Table
The Dance Bag, Cypress, TX

Owner Debbie Ortiz has success with a round three-tiered table that stands approximately six feet tall. The display table was purchased as part of a kit from GUND, a plush stuffed animal manufacturer. The top two tiers usually display stuffed animals and plush gift items. Dance bags line the bottom tier and also hang on hooks around the base. Ortiz arranged the display this way to keep the stuffed animals out of children’s reach. “I want to keep them fresh and clean,” she says. As items sell, she rotates other products into the empty space to keep the display looking stocked and new. All items on this rack are $20, which makes them attractive gifts. “Even if they don’t buy it now, they remember that we have things like this,” she adds.

This past recital season Ortiz featured makeup on an antique table near the cash wrap (see right). The table was previously in her home, but she thought its long and narrow size were a perfect fit for her small store. To best showcase the makeup, she grouped like items together and used clear acrylic containers purchased at a home store to hold the products. She placed a bright-colored runner along the table to create a more appealing backdrop for products. During other seasons she uses the table to display small items, like key chains and hair accessories.

Grit & Grace uses tabletops to create changing vignettes of cross-merchandised dancewear.

Tabletop Displays as Conversation Starters
Grit & Grace Studio to Streetwear, Newnan, GA

Owners Stephanie Carney and Paulette Coleman have a two-tiered display table positioned within the first six feet of their store. Carney says this display is the first thing a customer sees when she enters, so she and her staff pay a lot of attention to creating something that is clean and captivating. “We focus on new products, from apparel to gift items,” she says. “Items customers can touch and feel are prominently displayed at eye level, presented to them in constantly changing vignettes.”

Typically this display includes new leotards and skirts, coordinating bags or accessories that are arranged around a current theme or trend such as back-to-school, holiday or athleisure.

“We combine brands and create new looks that otherwise may not have been thought of,” says Carney. She and Coleman change the theme and featured products once or twice a month.

The storeowners purchased the table from a retail fixture supply company; it has a champagne finish and glass tabletops. Carney says they were drawn to the fixture because it is in line with the rest of the store’s design, which incorporates soft and hard elements in merchandising displays, fixtures and lighting.

Grit & Grace Studio to Streetwear also uses smaller tables to offer a minimal, clean look for easy grab-and-go items. “These displays are positioned close to the register and combine a higher-price-point item with small-price-point impulse purchases,” says Carney.

Grab-and-go products on a table near the cash register at Grit & Grace

“With all of our displays, we focus on ‘simplicity is beautiful’,” Carney adds. “Customers love simplicity. It is less stressful for a customer when walking into a store. We want our display to speak for itself regarding the quality of the products.”

These tabletop displays also help open the conversation with customers. “Seeing a certain leotard displayed with a skirt or leggings gives the customer a visual they may not have otherwise thought of,” Carney says. “Combining apparel with a new accessory is an easy up-sell. The customer must be able to see themselves wearing and using the items displayed.”

What Makes a Great Display?

Becky Tyre, retail consultant and owner of the Retail Details blog, shared with us her top tips for creating an effective tabletop display.

Don’t neglect the back of your displays.
“Arrange merchandise on tables so they are attractive from all sides for 360-degree shopping,” says Tyre. “Place the tallest or featured product facing the front of the store, but do not ignore the backside.” Must-haves like dance bags are nice items to display in the back of a round or rectangular-shaped table.

Use the color wheel. ”Create visual interest on table displays by stacking multiples of like products in alternating colors when possible. The contrast of two or three colors is visually appealing,” she says. Complementary colors like blue and orange, red and green, and yellow and violet are the most eye-catching.

Stick with a theme. If you feature strappy-back leotards in your front window during back-to-school or large paper flowers come spring, add those same products and props to your table displays to carry the theme further into your store. “This will create continuity and have an impact,” says Tyre.

Rethink your risers. It’s easy to build levels in your displays by using various repurposed items. “Stack small tables, crates, chairs and stools on top of display tables to create various levels and to increase the display area,” says Tyre. “Similar elements may be used on the floor beneath tables to merchandise products up off the floor, as well.” —LB

Photos courtesy of the retailers

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