Attention Seeking: Visual Merchandising

26 Nov 2019

To thrive in retail today it’s not enough to simply look good and carry great stock… changing times require a fresh look at the rules of consumer engagement, says Belinda Morris.

“The purpose of visual merchandising is to attract, engage and motivate customers to buy,” says Cathie Osborne, founder of packaging company Hatton & Spencer. “To stand out from the crowd you really need to tell a story and speak to the customer’s imagination, from fashion trends and provenance-at-the-bench, to romance and the meanings behind your products.”


One of the biggest developments in visual merchandising, according to Rebecca Sharman of Innovare Design, has been the impact of the waning popularity and strength of the fashion jewellery brands
(and the demise of some). “We’ve been helping clients to explore how to retake ownership of their store space and exploit the new opportunities.

“For instance, there are a growing number developing their own jewellery ranges and therefore need to reflect this changing offer in store layouts, through VM and graphic storytelling as well as in unique display furniture.

"Space that was once dominated by the brands is also being reimagined to improve customer service areas, accommodate more events or to showcase a specialism like engraving or even a fully operational ‘visible’ workshop.”

Kirsty Egan-Carter of Shopworks feels that in the last 12 months “it has become apparent that the retailers who’re working hard to differentiate their stories from on-line, are the ones who’re winning”. As she sees it, the key opportunities lie in: enabling customers to touch and experience products before they buy; delivering face-to-face expert and specialist customer service; immediacy and instant gratification and delivering new products – “good retail doesn’t make you sift through heaps of options in order to find the newest and best, it presents it to you… ta da! Anything the retailer can do to give leverage to one or all of those things will give them a competitive advantage. Having a good-looking store just isn’t good enough any more.”

“The high street is changing,” says Scot Walker of Parify (LED Display Lighting) and Progressive Display, “and retailers who say people are not buying, perhaps don’t understand the demographic that is buying today – how and when they are buying.” Maybe, he suggests, we need to look at the Continental model – shops open from 12 noon until mid evening; a time when many potential fine jewellery customers will be out, pre- and post-restaurant dining. “To be competitive, jewellers need to communicate closely with other boutique owners to look at adjusting hours of trade.”


“In an effort to recognise that the internet is ever encroaching on retail sales, we decided to reinforce our qualifications and skill set by adding the Lab onsite so clients could see what and how we do valuations and stone assessments. They can see that we are trustworthy and qualified to handle their high value items, and that they are safe while in our care. Basically… a reason for them to have to come to the shop.

“So we renovated the basement of our store to convert it into a valuations/gem laboratory. We opted for a clean, clinical laboratory look, using slate grey units with white kitchen work surfaces, in order to keep it clean and find any naughty gemstones trying to run away! We used gloss white slat walls with stainless steel runners for the wall fixings and grey carpet tiles for the floor. I wanted the equipment to be open and out on display and we’ve created a space that clients can sit in while their items are being assessed.

“As well as looking lovely, the Lab really adds validation to our service offering. We’ve also done the new branding, packaging and website to suit. It's mostly consumer facing now but we hope to be offering trade services further down the road.”

gem lab


“Our showroom is located in the centre of Ilkley and over the years the business has grown but we struggled with the space that we had. We needed to increase our footprint and have been negotiating with adjacent businesses for the last 10 years. Now, the store is 1,500 sq ft over two floors, with a further 1,500 sq ft for back office.

“I knew how I wanted the space to work. We’d worked with Jo Coleman from Nason Foster on a previous fit-out and she helped us on the design stages of this one, which was great. It was a significant expansion, as we were not only increasing in size, but also taking space above. We wanted an inviting and spacious showroom, plus a hospitality area, with the different floors feeling connected. The atrium and double height chandelier pulls the space together.

“We’ve developed a brand identity for our stores over the last few years, in keeping with our history as a county jeweller with a contemporary twist. It was important to have an inviting and luxurious environment where customers felt at ease to relax and enjoy the moment. Like our Halifax showroom, we’ve used walnut and rich neutral colours throughout, but the new showroom has a more contemporary edge.

“We’ve increased the internal display areas with a curved cabinet and free standing display table, giving customers much more space to browse freely. The overall display and seating area has increased significantly, offering clients more privacy, both on the showroom floor, our lounge and hospitality area upstairs or private area downstairs. We’ve installed Parify lighting throughout – which can be adapted to suit different occasions, such as when we hold events.”

Lister Horsfall 1


ROX is to open a new concept boutique in Argyll Arcade in Glasgow; a two-phase store development programme to create Scotland’s largest jewellery and watch boutique on one floor. It will be the brand’s third store in the Arcade. Initial works have commenced to restore the original 900 sq ft boutique in the Arcade, with the new boutique opening in time for the Christmas shopping period.

Phase two is scheduled to begin next year to the building behind the Arcade. The new boutique will house the ROX signature Champagne bar, shop-in-shops, private shopping areas, a whisky and cigar lounge and a ROX Café. In addition, there will be an exhibition and events space where arts and fashion partnerships and pop-ups will be regularly showcased, plus a workshop area which will bring customers closer to the product.

“We’ve been planning this concept store for many years and as we celebrate 10 years of success of the ‘Thrill Room’ at our Argyll Arcade flagship, now is the perfect time to evolve our experiential offer,” says Kyron Keogh, MD, “Buying habits have changed and consumers are shopping in a completely different way to how they did 10 years ago, especially in the luxury sector. The new store will be quintessentially ROX but we must appeal to a new generation of shopper that has grown up in the digital era and lives their life at the forefront of fashion. For us this project is all about redefining the brand-consumer relationship.”


“We wanted our Primrose Hill studio to have a more urban feel while keeping our brand identity: designer drawing boards; recognisable chandeliers and customer thank you cards on pin boards.
“We’ve always tried to be as different as possible to other jewellers – to engage browsers with the idea of clean-sheet bespoke, rather than just buying from cabinets. There’s a fine line between being so different that browsers don’t recognise you as a ‘proper’ jewellers and having a clear identity that sets you apart. We think we have got this balance about right.

“We went for a more ‘urban studio’ feel – with a large concrete feature wall and exposed air conditioning pipes, which helped this idea come to life; the space was a challenge for Callum Lumsden and his design team. Our colourful pull-out drawers not only help to explain bespoke but are also clever space savers. We mix up jewellery displays and information in these drawers, adding to the sense of discovery by browsers. We ditched traditional counters, with staff standing behind them, a long time ago; we don’t employ sales people – customers are helped directly by our designers.

“The unit’s large window gives us the opportunity to be creative with displays and (importantly) for customers to be able to see clearly inside. Our window displays are coordinated centrally
with seasonal themes and themes that illustrate our brand such as Fairtrade, hand-making and design. We like to show a wide range of jewellery in the window which helps to bring people into the store as well as show that bespoke isn’t necessarily an expensive option.”

Harriet Kelsall Bespoke Jewellery interiorjpg


Right: Jameson & CarryJameson and Carry (VM and Events)

The word ‘experience’ is bandied about ad nauseum these days, but undoubtedly retail jewellers are having to think outside the usual box in order to thrive. Rebecca Sharman agrees: “Experience may be an over-used term, but it really matters to customers. With so much choice in the retail market, vying for customers’ attention should be a full time strategic job for all retailers. But authenticity is also critical for customers,” she adds.

“It’s no good designing some exciting immersive gimmick if it has no relevance to who you are or what you sell. As designers it’s our job to help clients understand how to express themselves in-store and online in a relevant way that will engage new and existing customers. We call this brand storytelling."

“Retailers have definitely been giving focus to customer hospitality and services areas, soft furnishings and a relaxed atmosphere partnered with in-house branding, colours and signage – showing strength and loyalty to their customers,” explains Suzanne Robinson of VM & Events. She also points out that increasing numbers of retailers are entertaining their customers by holding VIP events – from Champagne receptions to black-tie dinners. “It makes their customers feel special, and in a way, thanked for their continued business,” she adds.


Clogau Compose (Innovare)

Left: Clogau Compose by Innovare

“Jewellery and watch displays continue to move in a more ‘curatorial’ direction,” says Rebecca Sharman. “This more modern ‘less is more’ approach to VM starts from the shop window and tempts customers inside to see more. It also allows for an ever-changing, fresh window display that entices passers by.”

Scott Walker has a tip for his clients who have concerns about the impact of their windows. “I tell them to stand on the opposite side of the street and look at their shop; see what a passer-by sees,” he says.

“Refreshing the look of windows creates a huge boost to a presence on the high street. Light boxes and video screens, for instance, allows you to change the look.”


• Showcasing icon pieces avoids the ‘magpie effect’ that detracts from the ‘specialness’ of individual items, and helps to add uniqueness to emotional and subjective purchases
• Create a focal point in your display to draw attention of passing crowds – consider items either suspended from the top, or built up from the base to reach eye level
• Just because you know about the product, don’t assume the customer does. Stories and product descriptions can be very powerful
• Space in a window is just as important as where the merchandise is – space equals luxury: if you cram items together they’ll look cheap
• Keep window displays fresh – change up displays to avoid potential consumers becoming accustomed to the appearance of your shop window. Plan visual merchandising six-months at a time to keep up to date with trends and be creative!


Italian fine jewellery brand FOPE launched its first London flagship in Old Bond Street last month as part of its 90th anniversary celebrations – its second stand-alone store, the first being in Venice. The store is a joint venture with The Watches of Switzerland Group, which has sold FOPE jewellery in select Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths shops across the UK for several years.

The interior of the Bond Street store was designed by Italian architect Flavio Albanese and his Asastudio and it features all elements of FOPE’s brand identity, including sharp lines, subtle elegance and soft tones of green. The interior is divided into the main exhibition space, with a high ceiling overlooking the central counter, and a more intimate space for private client meetings on a mezzanine floor.

The inspiration integrates and balances traditional British elements, the distinguishing marks of FOPE style and references to Italian design from the 1950s. The historic ceiling, the white stuccos, the soft velvet curtains, and the dark wood flooring complement the green walls, satin brass details of the furnishings and the large custom-made chandelier.

FOPE London flagship


“Sustainability is a new topic of conversation for all small UK business right now,” says Rebecca Sharman. "And for the retail environment this is an emerging concept for some of our clients. Obviously as interior designers we specify as much as we can from a sustainable materials palette but what is changing is that more and more ecological materials are becoming available to us. And we are doing a lot more of up-cycling materials where we can, especially furniture, but this isn’t appropriate for all brands. As far as lighting goes, the advent of LED lighting has resulted in major improvements in energy efficiency right across the retail sector."

“There has certainly been a move away from heavy perspex and plastic fittings,” adds Suzanne Robinson. “Recent projects have been trending for luxury fabrics and natural materials for creative theming. I’ve also noticed that we’ve been using UK suppliers for all our materials rather then looking further afield!” This year Kudos Giftwrap has sourced an entirely eco-friendly recycled range, which is proving very popular.

Georgina Austin at display company TJDC anticipates a green Christmas. “As brands continue to increase their sustainable efforts, we see visual merchandisers turn to pine cones rather than glitter,” she says. “This natural trend emerges from customers’ desire for brands to address environmental issues. The muted colour palette, combined with natural textures, result in displays that are welcoming with a winter flair.”

Kudos wrapping paperKudos 1


“Store layouts are becoming less formal. The traditional cash desk is a thing of the past as now there so many different ways to pay – cash transactions have become relatively rare,” says Peter Cunningham of Design CLD.

“This means less barriers between consultants and customers; desks have given way to coffee tables and lounge chairs. For big purchases exclusive VIP rooms offer the retailer opportunity to build relationships by pampering the customer and creating a relaxed atmosphere in which to sell. Another trend, which is influencing showroom design, is the power of marketing via social media. It’s not unusual to create exciting feature areas (often branded) to serve as backgrounds for selfies.”

“Build on your brand by incorporating the right packaging, interior décor, furniture and channelling your brand colours and motifs throughout your interior space – make your brand more than just a logo,” advises Cathie Osborne. “And while they may not be a new concept, ‘touch and feel’ units allow customers to interact with product in a relaxed and informal way – and are a source of boosted sales for many fast-growing brands. It’s important that customers feel comfortable to try on pieces.”

Left to right: Hatton & Spencer, Jaycomdisplay

“These days, your packaging says everything about your brand and your products,” she adds. “We’re here to assist the jeweller achieve the impact they want and hope they’ll find inspiration in our specially-selected, stylish packaging and display ranges – complete with the finishing touches that add the wow factor. Get it right and you’ll make customers feel special and make your product even more memorable. Using the art of the reveal creates theatre and tells a story to add depth and personality to your brand experience.”

While retailers may have their own themes and colour schemes in mind, display and packaging suppliers work hard to create new directions and moods. Sodem’s display solutions and jewellery boxes ooze refined sophistication that works in contemporary as well as traditional stores. Clear thought has been applied to creating the best and most flexible backdrop for all types of jewellery in any setting.

At Jaycom necklace stands are curvaceous forms inspired by human silhouettes and sea life shapes merging together, echoing stones in jewellery from the earth or the sea. Contemporary rose gold/yellow gold accents can modernise traditional shops, as well as complement sleek, modern shops and concessions. “Customers want eye-catching window displays that are large enough to see by someone walking or driving by,” says Jaycom’s Chandni Tanna. “And they also like something new that’s in line with wider interior design and fashion trends.”

Sodem Display Solutions SODEM - Display solutions - Anthracite

Ronnie Devine of Kudos Giftwrap explains that for online, customers are realising that the packaging is very important. “So we have been producing better, more attractive delivery packaging to create brand engagement at point of delivery for a more engaging unboxing experience. Online packaging has previously been viewed as a necessary evil,” he adds, “but more are becoming aware of the importance of investing in their brand and creating that great moment of arrival.”

Osborne also suggests retailers “keep up-to-date with the latest technologies in omni-channel retail and elsewhere online. A designated space for a ‘click & collect’ service will highlight the offering to customers, encouraging them to engage with your brand online as well as in store.” She adds that reducing friction in the purchase process can encourage sales by helping customers find what they want more easily. “Separate areas of your store with clear purpose – consider an ‘Instagram’ space, ‘newness’, ‘own brand’ or ‘bridal’ areas for example.”


Right: Laings (by VM and Events)Laings (VM and Events)

How visual merchandising can help create a sale… even in these challenging times:

• I don’t belong to the school of retail theory that states everything has gone on-line. Research shows that small independents are holding their own against shopping malls and internet-only retailers. Many of these jewellers are in secondary positions and offer services such as valuations, re-modelling of old jewellery, bespoke, repairs and pre-worn sales. There’s always a reason for going into a shop like that.
• On-line is just part of the story. It’s essential for testimonials, opening/ closing times and location details. But services offered should be an essential part of window displays, and rarely is in my experience. Social media is useful for mentioning day-to-day activities; websites describe product, skills and services offered; but window displays should celebrate the staff and their skills… and product. They should entertain, inform and inspire.
• The challenging retail climate encourages retailers to be safe in their stock choices, with a resigned acceptance of merchandising materials that can be uninspiring. The clutter of unknown brands creates confusion. Surely it would improve sales prospects if stores used their own display material, integrating useful images or logo blocks from suppliers?
• Free display IS hard work and not everyone has the time to dress a window imaginatively every morning. But it creates excitement and allows for flexibility by changing the display as often as possible. A window that’s been dressed by someone who loves the stock, is proud of the services offered and enjoys what they’re doing, will always grab the attention. Once stock is in the windows, it can be tidied/adjusted throughout the day – activity attracts attention.


“The concept for our current shop was light, airy, clean and most of all, low cost. We had six days to turn a dark, dated shop into a relaxing, peaceful retail space. We envisaged an open gallery style, with freedom to walk around and admire our jewellery in comfort, keeping visitors’ focus on displays, while avoiding being stark. Our £3,000 refit budget meant we had to be inventive and resourceful: using furniture from high street shops, upcycling old display cabinets – stripping and hand painting them ourselves; bargain-hunting vintage shops for props to liven up the main window and internal display, all add to something a little different.

“Our planned new shop will have a slightly different appearance. All internal showcases are being bespoke-made, so they fill the space exactly the way we want them. We’ve worked incredibly hard to create a store that not only we will be immensely proud of, but our customers will enjoy coming to even more. Our colour palettes and feel for the store will remain along the lines of our original concept. We wanted to show of as much of the Grade 2-listed building as possible; to be sympathetic without detracting from the key focus – we’re a jewellery business.

“The main showroom is exactly the same size as our current shop, however it’s a more usable space. We’re converting an old storage room into a private consultation room, completely redesigning the showroom itself and integrating an on-site workshop. The large double frontage allows us to rethink the way we display jewellery, making use of the new space to showcase new collections in a more visually pleasing way. Ultimately we can become the jewellery company we always wanted to be.

“Project managing a full shop refit was more than we wanted to take on, so Scot Walker of Parify is carrying out all work and building our bespoke showcases. As we worked through the design with him and his project manager, they suggested alterations that from their experience would enhance the appearance and functionality of our finished store. I’d highly recommend this approach to anyone thinking of doing the same: they have taken control of everything and thought of tiny details that we hadn't. We knew what we wanted and between us we are making it happen.”

MD Jewellers


So, has Brexit uncertainty caused a downturn in retail spending? “In some sectors we’ve witnessed cautiousness,” says Rebecca Sharman. “However, it’s not all down to Brexit! There’s a perfect storm out there with rising overheads, changing consumer habits and Brexit. However, the latest Mintel market insights report shows the UK Jewellery & Watch retail sector is actually showing good growth. Those clients who have stuck to their store development programmes are now reaping the rewards. So, despite the media’s obsession with bad news stories, there are actually plenty of retail success stories too.”

“I think the uncertainty around the BREXIT process has led to delayed spending decisions, but it’s hard to just pull the shutters down and wait for better times," says Peter Cunningham of Design CLD.

"After all, since 2008 we have been living through a time of great change. BREXIT is a symptom of this but it’s not the only one; we’ve had the financial crash, political turmoil and dire predictions of climate change and what’s more, no sign of a conclusion.

“Yet, I’d say many of our clients have flourished during this period. I’d put this down to a willingness to recognise and face up to the challenges with an open mind and flexibility. Everything’s up for grabs and fortune favours the brave.”


Jack Murphy Jewellers showing extension  plan (1)

“With increased footfall and our ever-growing team, the time was right to expand into the corner unit next door to our existing showroom. The expansion will see Jack Murphy Jewellers breathe new life into an iconic unit that has been lying idle for a number of years – something we’re very excited about. We’ll be gaining an additional 2,760 sq ft of retail and office space, and significantly increasing window space for showcasing many exclusive pieces.

“We don’t want to give away too much at this early stage, but we can reveal that the additional space will include a brand-new bridal jewellery lounge, extended jewellery showroom and luxurious coffee and Champagne area, all designed to complement our existing Hill Street showroom. We understand the importance of the customer experience and want Jack Murphy Jewellers to become a destination.

“In our existing Hill Street showroom, we have two luxurious ‘Private Selection Rooms’ located towards the back of the shop floor. They’ve always been a part of our retail offering – a safe and private space for customers to make important purchases, such as choosing an engagement ring.

“We’ve carried out thorough research, which will be reflected in the design and feel of the extended showroom. We have a strong understanding of what works and what doesn’t for our customers. My daughter Gemma and I have visited trade shows and done research on shop fittings; ultimately, our customers will remain at the heart of the design and fitting out.”


“When I took this shop on I wanted to move away from the old model of a traditional jewellers with built-in cabinets; to connect with the modern-day consumer who’s influenced by clean lines, open space and simple décor. We carried out the design and work ourselves through our family building company, with subcontractors for lighting and heating.

“The store was previously a tack room and known widely in the area as such, so I felt it was important to retain some of the features, but also bring it in line with our style of jewellery. We exposed ceiling joists and laid walnut flooring for a warm sumptuous feel. We also left in place the bark-covered stair banisters, as a nod to the countryside surrounding us. Black gloss cabinets and counter front complement the flooring and continue the contemporary/ traditional look.

“The shop front has been finished in anthracite grey, which works well against the red brick building and appeals to the trend-conscious consumer and reflect our modern jewellery style. This theme continues with the light grey inside walls. Our ethos when it comes to creating jewellery is to not over complicate the design, so we’ve tried to continue this in the design of the shop. Keep it simple but of high quality.”

Richard Burton


“Ultimately, you must put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Understanding what your customers want at every contact point will ensure you remain current, flexible and successful!” says Rebecca Sharman. “The fact is that if you are in retail today it’s just not an option to stand still – your customers just won’t forgive you as they head off to your competition!”

We love hearing about your new stores and refurbishments – if you have a story to tell get in touch:

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