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Think Globally, Mechandise Locally on Earth Day 2011


Tips By Merchandising Guru Ali Levy,  

Waste.  Rubbish.  Junk.  Don’t worry this isn’t another article on the high art of dumpster diving (although some scavenging may be required on your part). In honor of Earth Day, which marks its 41st anniversary this Friday, April 22nd, we challenge you to look beyond the trash and see the discarded for the trees.   Great merchandising ideas for your showrooms, shops and exhibit booths lurk behind and within receptacles full of someone else’s unwanted stuff each and every day.  All you need is some ingenuity, something to haul it in, and a passion for innovative design.

If you’re talking “showroom” or shop/POP, you may be executing some big changes so why not use this opportunity to highlight bright colors and new styles with some home spun creativity. You’ll note some of the information below focuses on merchandising the specialty shop, but it can be translated into your showroom, shop/POP and exhibit space. Here’s how to get started.  

Begin with a game plan for a specific display.  This could be shoes, packs, (a hiking story?  a sportswear color story incorporating footwear and accessories?)  Maybe there is a specific event you are hosting in your showroom, say a party or community event. Start by sketching out the space, including additional props and materials you may need, where product will go and signage appropriate for the display.  This may require a tape measure and definitely a pencil and eraser.  Recruit one of your staff or a friend with a flair for displays to help you out.  Together use this as your road map to execute your incredibly brilliant installation. Allow a full day to focus on completing the project.  Most importantly, however, is to have fun.   Below are some ideas that are wide open to interpretation presented to inspire and unleash the DIY/trash loving warrior within!

If I had a hammer………

Anthropologie NYC – How easy is this?  Take scrap pieces of wood, paint and nail together to create an interesting collection of shapes and colors.

Carhartt Store, Murray, UT – Old ladders make great use of floor space and provide a different way to display items like pants, sweaters and belts.

Burton Booth SIA – Wooden pallets are generally easy to find.  Big box stores like Home Depot or grocery store chains may have these at their back delivery bays.  See if they are willing to part with a few.  Also local breweries that ship their product may be a good source.  They can be used in window displays or stacked on the floor to create an interesting platform for product presentations.

Darkside Snowboards – Killington, VT – Don’t throw away that vendor POP because you don’t know where to put it!  The ceilings of many retail stores are greatly underused.  This is clever, colorful and eye catching.

Anthropologie Denver – Same concept except these bins have been painted and hold cabinet hardware such as doorknobs. 

Click here to view more examples. 

Things to consider when turning trash into display treasure:

  • Only use clean items.  Be sure to remove rusty nails, etc.  Wear and tear is great – splinters not so much.
  • The displays you create can be repainted and reused each season.  This can save you some money in the long run.   On the other hand, some displays are one hit wonders and that’s ok too!
  • If your store has a website, post your creations on line.  Give yourself some credit for finding new ways to use old items.
  • Create a Visual Merchandising/Display calendar for the year.  Make note of holidays, specials, sales, back to school promotions, etc.  This helps to keep the merchandising momentum moving forward and on track.
  • Create a Merchandising supplies line item for your yearly budget.  That way you can buy paint, glue guns and other essential craft supplies that will come in handy and are already accounted for.
  • Plan field trips with your staff.  It’s essential to get out of your retail bubble and see what’s going on in the world besides specialty and big box outdoor.  It helps get the creative juices flowing when you are stuck for ideas.   Hit up hardware and grocery stores.  Go to J.Crew, the Gap and Old Navy.    My motto is “never let the competition get in your blind spot.  Always keep them in the rearview mirror.”

Links and Resources

  •   – This is one of my favorite sites.  You can sign up for a newsletter.  It has fantastic DIY projects, before and after’s, links to cool design ideas from small companies.  You could spend hours at this site.  I do!
  •  – Thrifty, urban design on a dime ideas that even come with a shopping list of materials you will need plus skill level required getting crafty on a budget.
  •  – Factory Direct is a good source for inexpensive craft supplies.
  •   – This design site is fun so check it out.  Lots of great ideas on how to repurpose everything from old street signs to creating living room furniture out of old shopping carts.
  •  – While their website is currently under construction, this Jackson, WY based company specializes in shelving systems made from reclaimed and sustainable wood.  Contact Ned Hutchinson at for images, pricing and custom inquiries. 
  • Want to take a stab at making your own cardboard furniture and accessories?  Check out  for step by step instructions, including videos on how to create a masterpiece of out recycled cardboard.

Remember our last article, Tangerine Dream? The New York Times Fashion & Style recently had a piece on color – the highlight? Orange. Read about it.

Find SIA’s Merchandising archives here in case you’ve missed the last two articles on what-to-know, lighting and the tangerine dream.

SIA is working with visual merchandising consultant Ali Levy, to provide Members with some fresh merchandising ideas for increasing sales and interest from buyers. 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 on her company, contact Ali at