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Dos and Don’ts for Trade Show Merchandising


Just as in a store environment, products merchandised at a trade show need to be displayed to attract attention, draw in traffic and maximize sales. To avoid displays that are either too sparse and boring or overly cluttered and overwhelming, use the following guidelines for your next trade show layout.

Start with Your Type of Display

Begin by deciding whether you need a showroom or a storefront type of display. Storefront displays are intended for portable products that attendees purchase and take home from the show, whereas showroom merchandising is meant to instigate orders that will be fulfilled after the event. The growth of e-commerce and modern supply chains has led to more people embracing the showroom model, but it’s not one that works for all sellers. Imagine how unfulfilling it would be to go to a Wal-Mart or Target and only be able to look at samples!

Select Only the Best Merchandise

Don’t overwhelm the audience with quantity. Choose a broad enough selection of products to appeal to discriminating tastes, but keep the display simple, open and inviting. Focus on your bestsellers, newer items, and anything of special interest to that particular show’s attendees.

Choose The Right Booth Materials

Many factors will determine what type of booth materials will work best with your merchandise. Large, floor items may be best paired with an adjoining kiosk. Complicated items may need a product demo conducted around a table or island. Smaller items may need to be secured for safety, or amplified with signage and lighting.

Of vital importance is a floor plan that’s easy to navigate. If your booth creates a bottleneck, visitors can get temporarily trapped in corners, blocking other visitors’ access. Try to create a floor plan that allows people to enter and exit the booth without any backtracking. End cap displays can allow passersby to see some of your products even when the interior of your booth is full of people. And to ensure a speedy checkout and to open up the booth for new shoppers, make sure all booth staff have some sort of portable payment-processing device.

Product Placement and Prop Styling

Make all aspects of your booth reflect your aesthetic, from your furniture to your table covers, draping, signage and lighting. Group your products in logical ways, whether by color, material, price or function.

Create visual variety in your product placement, with some placed at ground level, and others cascading upward. Fan out some items at waist level. If applicable to your merchandise, try to use the “pyramid principle” in product placement — place the largest item at the center and smaller products on the outside, creating a “step down” effect like a pyramid. Don’t just display items unadorned – use props as accents to help buyers envision end-use. Use such props sparingly and choose them carefully; neutral colors and textures ensure they won’t visually overwhelm your merchandise. If you’re uncertain of how best to stack your products or how to accent them, consider hiring a professional prop stylist to setup your booth.

Think of your booth as a retail store window, and consider what would compel you, as a shopper, to walk into that particular store. Experiment with your layout and observe how attendees interact with your products. With time and modification, you’ll end up with merchandise placement that is appealing to the eye and that maximizes in-booth sales.

The Value of Trade Shows White Paper

Looking for proof that trade shows are still a powerful marketing medium? You’ve got it! Skyline and EXPO Magazine have created a new white paper. Based on extensive surveys with over 500 trade show exhibitors and attendees, this report reveals that even in the midst of recent technological changes, exhibitors and attendees still find significant value in trade shows, and expect to for many years ahead.

Request your free copy today! Complete the form below and we will send you a copy as soon as possible.

About the Author

Mary Rita Crowe was the Managing Director at Skyline Exhibits Chicago.

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