5 Retail Merchandising Trends to Watch Out for

Merchandising is — and will continue to be — one of the biggest drivers of sales and customer engagement in retail. How your store is merchandised influences everything from brand perception to customer experience, which is why it’s important to keep your merchandising initiatives fresh and relevant.

Part of doing that requires paying close attention to trends in the merchandising world. You need to know how consumer taste is evolving and how other retailers are responding so you can refine and implement a winning strategy.

To help you do that, we’ve put together a roundup of the top merchandising trends to watch out for in the coming year.

The rise of richer and more informational signage

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While “SALE” signs will always be a staple in shops, we can expect retailers to use more “information rich” signage in their locations. Merchants will progressively get more creative with their signs, and use them not just to grab attention, but to drive shopper interactions and engagement.

Check out what Amazon is doing. In some of their physical stores, the retail giant cleverly uses signage to make product recommendations.

Photo credit: Nicole Leinbach Reyhle https://www.instagram.com/retailmindedworld/

And here’s one from Kohl’s. In this example, Kohl’s uses signage to give shoppers ideas on how to wear certain items.

Photo credit: Francesca Nicasio

Calls to action will be much more prominent

“…retailers should look beyond the traditional expectations of merchandising and begin to incorporate new ways to engage customers through merchandising and displays,” says Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, Founder of Retail Minded.

According to her, one of the ways merchants can do this is through strong call-to-action displays.

“An example of a call-to-action display can be as simple as a sign framed and displayed by an item that says ‘Pick Me Up’ or ‘Try Me On,’” she says. “This is low in cost yet effective in triggering customer emotions and actions, two important variables when trying to strengthen sales.”

Stop leaving money on the table with poorly executed merchandising

Merchandising will be more experiential

Excellent merchandising isn’t just about product arrangements and displays. It’s also about the experience that they help create. We anticipate more retailers will roll out experiential merchandising initiatives that engage multiple senses and encourage social shares.

A big reason for this is differentiation. Michael Decker, VP of Marketing Strategy at Medallion Retail says, “As physical retail marketing evolves, the idea behind ‘retail theatre’ has quickly emerged as our best differentiator from the ho-hum rational, efficiency of Amazonian eCommerce.”

Michael points to retailers and brands such as L’Occitane and Timberland, which have found success in delivering ever-changing in-store experiences. According to him, these companies are engaging in fresh merchandising that “constantly changes and sweeps their customers off their feet.”

L’Occitane en Provence, for instance, launched a flagship store that features “a social media area of inviting yellow bikes in front of a Provence backdrop for Instagrammable pics that are featured automatically on a live video feed.” Meanwhile, Timberland now has a retail pop-up that — quite literally — is full of life. The 3,500-sq. ft space is decked with Birch trees, hanging plants, and moss. Visitors can even participate in “weather experiences” which include a digital rain room.

So why the move towards experiential merchandising?  According to Michael, “Human beings — from Gen Z / Millennials to Baby Boomers — crave departures from their realities and not digital immersions into  ‘more stuff.’”

“Going shopping’ — actually getting in the car and driving to stores in search of both material treasures and priceless experiences with friends is a fun and wholly physical endeavor that many, many people dearly miss.  It is truly the journey that matters more to engaged and loyal customers. Best believe the merchants that deliver these unique social experiences will win the hearts and minds of their existing customers — plus all their friends!”

Keep an eye out for more “stores-within-stores”

Over the last few years,  a handful of retailers have dabbled in the concept of a “store-within-a-store,” and that number seems to be picking up lately.

Nordstrom, for example, has been running “Pop-In@Nordstrom,” which are themed shopping events that often include brand collaborations. Nordstrom sets up pop-up-esque shops within its locations, and they use those spaces to curate exclusive merchandise from specific brands.

Target offers a similar store-within-a-store experience. This holiday season, the retailer has the  “Wondershop,” a dedicated area in their stores that’s filled with holiday-centric merchandise such as decor and gifts.

Photo credit: Francesca Nicasio

So why go through all the effort to create stores-within-stores?

For starters, the concept paves the way for collaborations where brands can showcase their merchandise within a retail store without their items getting lost in a sea of other merchandise (as with the case with big department stores like Nordstrom).

In some cases (such as Target), a store-within-a-store creates a more convenient shopping experience. When products are well-curated, consumers are much more likely to find what they’re looking for. This, in turn, increases sales.  

The store-within-a-store concept makes tons of sense for many retailers and brands alike, and for this reason, we think we’ll see more of them in the coming months.

Less is more

Speaking of curation, we’ll likely see the idea of  “less is more” taking effect in retailers’ merchandising strategies in the coming year.

“In our digitally connected world, ads, social media, and continuous information bombard consumers every day,” says Carlos Castelán, Managing Director of The Navio Group.

“Whether through email spam or the five-second trailer in front of a music video, consumers have information thrown at them regularly and, in response, we’ve seen brands increasingly move towards simplicity.”

According to him, reducing the clutter in retail merchandising lessens “the cognitive load required by the customer to make a decision, and this approach is catching on.”

As an example, he mentions Nordstrom’s Men’s Store in New York. “Despite a large footprint in Manhattan, NYC, they have a limited but highly curated number of items to provide style without an overwhelming amount of options.”

Carlos also points to PillPack, a company recently acquired by Amazon. PillPack is a self-described “full-service pharmacy that delivers a better, simpler experience for people managing multiple medications.”  

“In both instances, these companies are simplifying their products and experience in order to be more attractive to the customer,” he says.

Data-backed merchandising initiatives will win

In the years to come, retail merchandising will be much more data-driven. While merchandisers will still use their intuition, taste, and creativity to design their assortments and displays, their decisions will also be largely influenced by data.

POS data, stock levels, and local trends are playing a bigger role in merchandising decisions, and this trend is bound to continue onto the next year and beyond.

A great example of this in action can be seen in Nike’s new flagship location in New York City. Part of the store will be merchandised based on what items are selling best online in the shop’s zip code.

John Hoke, Nike’s Chief Design Officer told Fast Company that this move demonstrates one of the ways that Nike is preparing for the future.  As he aptly put it “The future of retail is going to be less fixed, more fluid, and hyper-responsive to consumer trends and needs.”

More ways to improve your visual merchandising standards and boost sales


Refer to the Merchandising category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for merchandising.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is a freelance writer and content strategist who’s dedicated to writing about retail trends and tips that help merchants increase sales, improve customer service, and be better retailers overall. Her work has been featured in top retail industry publications including Retail TouchPointsStreet FightRetail Customer ExperienceVEND, and more. She’s also a featured thought leader on LinkedIn, and is followed by over 300,000 professionals on the site.

9 thoughts on “5 Retail Merchandising Trends to Watch Out for

  1. I really like less is more thing. People usually add more and more which make things more complex. I think you remove and follow less is more concept it becomes easy for customer as well as business.

  2. Great article Francesca! I particularly agree on the point of creating stores-within-stores. As display options evolve, brands will leverage on them to create unique shopping experiences for consumers. This is important in an age of increasing relevancy to e-commerce, rather than physical stores. Brands will always have to re-invent ways in which they gain exposure even in the brick-and-mortar stores.

  3. Loved reading this post. You’ve shared so many concepts that can actually be implemented. For instance, what you’ve said about calls to action being more prominent. Sometimes customers need a little prompting or some reinforcement to their decision to buy something. Displays with strong calls to action really work.

  4. Yes. I am a merchandiser at Home Depot and all of these trends are visible. It’s especially challenging when we house a warehouse-based hardware concept with home decor, appliances and flooring. While the cognitive load is a factor to be considered, I believe that a feeling of being in a vast universe of different product lines can present the shopper with new ideas for building out their lifestyle.

  5. Great article! We have already implemented some of these, and our ‘grammable’ Pampas Grass Cloud and plant wall are a hit. The challenge is to change it up every so often.

  6. Really informative article! Agree with all your points, especially the one regarding call to action. Marketers have realized nudging customers work great not only online, but offline as well. And they are making full use of it.

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