Vignettes: 9 Steps to Beautiful Merchandising

The word “Vignette” is usually defined as something small or short to set the scene, particularly in books or plays. In retail, visual merchandisers use the word to describe displays set up around the store to set the scene for the products for sale.


The technique of creating vignettes is grounded in psychology. If a customer can picture the item in their life, and they like that picture, they are more likely to buy it. A product up on a shelf is unlikely to inspire visualisation, reducing the chance customers will show interest in it. Set a scene for the product and it is going to be the opposite story.

The most obvious example of vignettes in retail is window displays. The most successful ones employ mannequins in lifelike (but still fanciful enough to be pleasant!) situations. But vignetting needn’t stop there. Creating small-scale vignettes around the interior of your store leads customers on a journey of discovery. In the meantime, you will be silently upselling to them.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1: Choose a product you want to feature. The best items to use have high margins, and are on trend.
Step 2: Decide where you will set up your ‘little story’ in your shop. Position it close enough to where the items are on shelves, so customers can ‘take it home’.

Step 3: Choose a colour scheme for the vignette, remembering that colour influences moods.

Step 4: Find other items in your store that will contribute to the story.  For instance, you have a set of tableware you want to feature, that you are placing on a table. Consider adding a table runner, or a centrepiece… what about some wine glasses? 

Step 5: Look at the little group of items you have picked out. Can you see them together in a real life setting? Is there

 a variety of price points to appeal to all budgets? Add or remove products until these answers are both yes.

Step 6: Place the items in the area you have chosen for the vignette. Are there a variety of heights? Sometimes your products won’t look great without some outside help. Decide whether you need acrylic risersjewellery busts or other display aids to achieve the effect you want. Maybe some elements from nature, flowers, dried leaves or branches would add the right touch. The options are endless….

Step 7: Ensure the item you want to feature is dominant in the setting you create. Layer, add or take away items until it looks right. Remember; items look best in groups of three, and asymmetry adds tension (the good kind!)

Step 8: Step back and look at your step up as a whole. Does it tell a story, sell to a lifestyle, pique the imagination? Keep adding or removing elements until it does.

Step 9: Ensure all the items in the vignette that are for sale have visible price tags, so customers realise that they are for sale.

It’s done! Enjoy the benefits and upsells your vignette will attract; now all you have to do is change it often. Don’t be afraid to experiment – you never know what will happen!

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