Basic Principles of Merchandising 

What catches your eye when you walk into a store? Is it the line of well-dressed mannequins positioned along the entrance? Perhaps the store’s dim lighting and mysterious atmosphere piqued your interest? Personally, I can’t stop myself from journeying into every shop with an extravagant window display. 

While shoppers often overlook many small details that go into retail displays, visual merchandisers put hours of work into creating a specific look and feel for each store. By drawing attention to the store and its merchandise, visual merchandisers hope to encourage sales. This practice of utilizing artistic elements to persuade shoppers into buying products is known as visual merchandising. 

What is Visual Merchandising? 

Visual merchandising is a creative field in which visual merchandisers strive to create enticing displays that persuade shoppers to make purchases. This form of merchandising is commonly used in retail stores where clothing and accessories are sold. Central to creating an outstanding visual merchandising display is the treatment of the merchandise. All other additions to the display, such as decorations and lighting, enhance the items the store wishes to sell. By highlighting these pieces, customers take notice of what is for sale and are tempted to buy it. 

However, visual merchandising is more complicated than just putting pieces together because an associate thinks they look good. Behind each carefully crafted display is a science made up of design principles that can enhance the perception of the merchandise. Some basic principles of visual merchandising are:


Color is one of the more critical aspects of visual merchandising. Many customers are drawn to an item based on its color alone. For instance, if blue is a shopper’s favorite color, they are likely to purchase blue merchandise when they come across it. A visual merchandiser must play into this desire and highlight the colors of a product to grab customers’ attention. Unfortunately, colors are not as simple as knowing which sells best. Color trends and forecasts must also be considered when creating displays, as what was popular one season could quickly fall out of style by the next. 


Like color, texture is another ever-changing principle of merchandising. Visual merchandisers must understand what textures complement each other and draw shoppers’ attention when making a display. Additionally, some textures may fall in and out of style as fashion trends develop and seasons change. For example, a chunky knit sweater may be a desirable texture in the winter, but customers are drawn to sleeker, more lightweight apparel in the warmer summer months. 

Line and Composition

The use of line and composition in visual merchandising is vital. Composition takes art elements and design principles into account when creating a display. This includes color, texture, balance, rhythm, and more! Line is equally essential as it can be used to manipulate many aspects of a display. For instance,  visual merchandisers can use lines to create feelings and emotions like movement, humor, and weight. Without excellent knowledge of line and composition, an exceptional visual merchandising display cannot be made. 

Types of Displays

Color, texture, line, and composition are all used to create eye-catching displays to sell products.  These displays can come in many forms, all of which utilize visual merchandising elements to showcase items sold in the store. Some basic display types are:

One-item Displays

Known for displaying only one item, one-item displays are used to highlight a specific piece of merchandise that a store wants to promote. 

A related merchandise display includes similar items that a store thinks should be promoted. These items are placed in the same area in hopes of increasing sales. Related merchandise displays can consist of matching articles of clothing, products that work well together, or complementary accessories.  

Line of Goods Displays

This type of display highlights a single item that comes in a variety of options. An example of a line of goods display would be a store setting up a table to show that a bag comes in multiple colors.  

Assortment Displays

An assortment display is used when a store wants to promote multiple non-related items together in one area. These displays are standard in places such as pawn shows where a wide variety of merchandise is housed. 

Benefits of Visual Merchandising

Visual merchandising is a highly effective sales strategy all retailers depend on to sell merchandise. By drawing attention to their products using artistic displays, retailers catch shoppers’ eyes while subtly convincing them of the item’s quality and necessity. Therefore, visual merchandising is vital for successful retail.” Visual merchandising is a highly effective sales strategy all retailers depend on to sell merchandise. When done well, visual merchandising can dramatically increase sales as customers can not help but buy merchandise that looks beautiful on its display. Shoppers are easily influenced by what they see. For example, if a customer is searching for a dress, they are more likely to find and purchase a piece they see on a gorgeous display than one they have to dig through racks to find. Therefore, visual merchandising is vital for successful retail. 

How To Become a Visual Merchandiser 

Visual merchandising may be your dream job if you have an eye for detail, a passion for retail, and an artistic flair. Although relevant experience is required, visual merchandisers come from a multitude of backgrounds, and a degree is not necessary for the job. However, this does not mean that a degree is not beneficial in the visual merchandising field. Those who have received an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related course of study will likely find they have a head start in the industry. Degree holders are also more likely to be met with greater future job opportunities and mobility. 

As more and more universities now offer in-person and online visual merchandising courses, obtaining a degree is more accessible than ever! New York City College of Technology is just one of many colleges embracing the future of visual merchandising with their City Tech fashion courses. The New York City College of Technology’s Bachelor’s degree in Business and Technology of Fashion provides priceless experience that will help jump-start your career in visual merchandising! 

Other Key Terms:

  • Principles of merchandising pdf
  • 5 principles of merchandising
  • Principles of merchandising ppt
  • 5 key principles of visual merchandising
  • What is merchandising
  • Types of merchandising
  • Features of merchandising