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High End Dumpster Diving…


By: Ali Levy
November 8, 2013

SIA is working with visual merchandising consultant Ali Levy to provide retailers with some fresh merchandising ideas for increasing sales and interest from consumers. Levy’s impressive resume includes managing retail, buying and trade show/retail merchandising efforts for some of the industry’s biggest names including The North Face, SmartWool, Cloudveil and Marmot. For more information about her company, contact Ali at or visit her website,

If you are a follower of the merchandising articles I write for SIA – then it’s no surprise that I am a huge supporter (and active participant) of dumpster diving for discarded junk that I find cool to use as merchandising props or for unique displays.

Lacking the shame gene – I have no problem seeing the potential of an item buried underneath piles of stuff.  It takes an open mind, a little bit of elbow grease and ingenuity to turn someone’s trash into retail treasure.

One of my favorite finds since moving back to the Northeast is the Barge Canal Market – located on Pine Street in downtown Burlington, Vermont.  The Barge Canal Market is a cornucopia of all things vintage and high style.  The store is merchandised in clever little vignettes, each distinct in its own time capsule.  And within these little period stories, I find a vast trove of inspiration as I sort through old signs, vintage colored glass, kitschy wall hangings and old office furniture that would look perfectly at home in some retail stores.  Of course reclaimed looks aren’t for everyone or every shop but just maintain an open mind and browse through a store similar to this in your hometown.  Keep in mind that the next great display idea may be something from the past – reinvented to work today…all at a reasonable cost.

You can easily spend hours browsing through the goods at the Barge Canal Market inBurlington, VT.


Not many outdoor shops would have a need for a claw footed bathtub….but then again – why not?  Is there something you carry that could be displayed in this?

When I enter this store I am instantly struck by the diversity of found items and how they are masterfully merchandised together.  The wire basket is great for holding socks, gloves, magazines or ski wax.

This desk is perfect for displaying clothing or shoes.  Open the drawers and add socks, belts or scarves.  Its bonus display space and just looks cool.  This desk would work well in a window display.  Also – why not try spray-painting it?

The sled is great for any ski/snowboard shop and I love the old signs – like the “customers park here” one pictured above.

More good stuff – love the deco looking “group discounts” signs.  Do you have a rental desk where you could use these??

These vintage blue mason jars can be filled with a multitude of little knick-knacks – or displayed on a high shelf.  What I also love about Barge Canal Market is their use of materials – like the pink and white zigzag contact paper used to line an otherwise white painted space.

This file cabinet would be terrific to display gloves and or mittens – even boxed baselayers.  You could have a different size in each drawer and make a label for each size and slide it into the little slot.