Display and Merchandising

A Continuing-Education Series from Chalk & Vemilion Fine Arts, Inc.


It’s a true saying that “first impressions count.” What you show to the world, whether it’s your window display, your advertising, or the appearance of your gallery, is often the only factor that some people will use in deciding to do business with you or not, before they even step through the door. If something you show or offer interests or excites them, they’ll take it a step further. Appearances count, even for steady customers.

There’s a reason that big department stores spend huge amounts of money on their window displays – the right combination of product, feeling, and “message” bring the customers in the door. If Macy’s window displays can make you think that March is a good time to buy a bathing suit (when we all know that it’s never a good time to buy a bathing suit), your window display can help convince shoppers that it’s a good time to buy art.

Changing your window display frequently is obvious; so is trying to keep it fresh and exciting. A few ideas:

1. Working around the seasons is a natural; holiday-themed for Christmas/Hanukah, romantic for Valentine’s Day, sentimental for Mother’s Day. Try to go beyond the obvious – instead of Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, try winter landscapes as a seasonaltheme.

2. Tie in a display with something that’s going on locally; if your town has a new sports arena or a winning sports team, congratulate them in your window and show a collection of shadowbox-framed sports memorabilia or sports-themed artwork, accentuated with props such as sports equipment and trophies. (You might be able to borrow such props from other merchants in your area; offer to put a nice framed sign in the display, giving them credit for the merchandise. It’s a little advertising for them, too).

3. Educate your customers about how art and framing can enhance or change their home décor – why not take the same art image and frame it in three or four different ways, setting up a little “vignette” around each one to reflect different decorating styles, such as traditional, modern, contemporary, etc. Or show a “before and after” – a hodge-podge of images and frames that do not complement each other, and then the same images – reframed – to create a pulled-together, designer look.

Merchandising goes beyond window displays and includes in-store displays as well. How you group your artwork and display your framing corner samples all help you sell those products.

1. Small informational signs, that might give information about the artwork, artist, or how a serigraph is made, etc. can serve as “silent salespeople” if you can’t attend to a customer immediately. One gallery customer of ours puts our slicks in an unobtrusive plexiglass holder, right next to the artwork.
2. Try changing the way you display your artwork. If you normally group by artist or media, mix things up and group by color or theme.

3. Props, once again, can draw attention to and create a little excitement about a piece of art or a grouping of an artist’s work. For example, playing up the romantic aspect of Liudmila Kondakova’s Parisian street scenes with flowers in French flower market buckets, or a little bistro table set with wine and candles can help set the art apart.

4. Painting sections of the gallery a different color to highlight some particular pieces is effective, as is changing the lighting.

Yes, all these things take time and a certain amount of creativity. If display is just not your strong point, enlist a staff or family member, or hire a freelance window display artist – it will be worth the expense. Your storefront and inside displays should be working for you, putting out a message about your gallery and attracting customers who want what you’ve got!

55 Old Post road #2, Greenweich, CT 06830 (800) 877-2255

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