This week's episode is a Michelle Solocast where she will take the listeners on a deep dive into her design philosophy and review her Top 10 Display Tips! Michelle was asked earlier this year to write an article for Gift Shop Magazine on design & merchandising. This episode is a broader stroke on that article and the tips Michelle learned while working for both Fred Segal and Anthropologie. We have linked the article for your reference. Sit back & enjoy!
ep-24 Solocast - Top 10 Display Tips
Michelle: Hey there. I'm Michelle Sherrier, and this is the retail whore podcast, the stories and Lessons from the Life and Retail. Hello. Hello, guys. Welcome back. Today's a solo episode. I was honored to have been asked to write an article for Gift Shop Plus magazine back in the spring. And she asked me to write an article on design and merchandising, and I decided that I would share my top ten display tips from my time at Anthropology and Fred SIEGEL. And, you know, because in article, you can only have X amount of words in it, you can kind of explain stuff, but you can't go real deep into a lot of it. So I figured this would be a good time to kind of take a deeper dive into my philosophy of design and merchandising. And if you haven't seen it, it is available online. If you just Google Gift Shop Plus and you Google the top ten display tips, I believe it comes up very easily right now. I think Alyssa, who is our digital marketing manager, will put a link in the show notes so you can find it that way as well. But let's start out. Number one is when in doubt, color it out. So I know you're all going to understand when I say this, when you are merchandising, say a giant cabinet and some of it goes together, a lot of it doesn't. And you finish it and you look at it and it's completely chaotic because mostly the stuff that doesn't go ends up totally ruining the rest of the display.
Michelle: This is where the rule of thumb of coloring it out works really well. Zee Gallery is phenomenal at this. They will do whole entire runs of bookcases all in one color. The merchandise is some of it goes together, a lot of it doesn't. And that's the beauty of this trick of coloring things out. One, it makes things so bloody cohesive. It's crazy. You can have, I don't know, something that has to do with like say you go by the color on the label or the color of the bath gel that's in the bottle. And you start looking back at other part of your merchandise, say things that maybe you don't know what to do with. And if you can start building a story based on color, it's much more cohesive and it's a lot easier to blend merchandise that doesn't go back and forth. There's a store that is in San Diego. It's called Pigment. I follow her on Instagram. She has probably one of the best eyes for merchandising and especially coloring out again. Some of it makes sense together. Some of it doesn't. A lot of it is all tied together. Not a lot of it. All of it is tied together by color. She even mixes in some apparel with it for Christmas. She did a post that had the 180 degrees Santas that's out of the the kind of whimsical group.
Michelle: And they're like in these funky colors and they're flocked Santas and they look kind of like 1950s. She because they come in an assortment, she took the assortment, broke it apart. She did the Blue and Green Santa together and then other blue and green ornaments. And then she tied in a blue and green candle. I mean, it is phenomenal if you guys have a chance, I highly suggest you take a look at her Instagram. Her coloring out is literally the best of the best, and that's probably the best example I can give you. But what happens when you do this because you will have some random merchandise? We always do. And if I can't seem to find a place for it, say, if I if I've already merchandised a section and I have a couple of pieces, a handful of items that I don't know what to do with, I'll literally put those to the side and I'll continue to keep merchandising. And as Lisa and from Stephen Young and I say a lot when we're merchandising together, is that it will reveal itself where it ends up. And nine times out of ten, the item that you're trying to find a home for, you are able to kind of add it in somewhere. A lot of times it is if the section is not colored out, a lot of times you're able to add it to something of the same color way or the same shape sometimes works.
Michelle: Tip number two merchandise by concept. So the cohesiveness that you see at Anthropologie is very deliberate. Merchandising by concept creates a very impactful statement also at the same time while telling a story. And if you all of us have been in Anthropologie. You can see how it is merchandised very much by concept you walk into. They also merchandise by public to private. But when you walk into an Anthropologie store, you are walking into the most public space, which is usually a garden or an outdoors entertaining area. That's usually what they open up with and everything in that concept works together. When we set Odile, who was a lady who made quilts for the Anthropologie brand way back in the day, I guess she was an actual lady. She lived in France and when they went to buy the quilts from her, they went into her house and it was super layered and very vintage feeling. And that's the concept that we got at the store level with inspiration, photos and whatnot. That's a little next level, but you certainly can create concepts when you're merchandising your store. I When I go out buying, I will go the first day of the show. I'll go and walk the show just to kind of see what everybody's putting out. And after a full day of walking the show and in showrooms, you will see a very definitive trend that's happening.
Michelle: And Camp is still one of my favorites. It's still super strong. So when I buy, I start at the very beginning of the merchandising part of it, as I start buying by concept and then as it rolls out to the stores we merchandise by concept. For me, it makes it a lot easier. I know a lot of my clients when we get to shows, they want to buy everything. And I know you know what I'm talking about because you get to the show and it all looks amazing and you want to buy it all. And then you have a rep who's also, you know, this is the top ten item and this is what's driving everyone's business. So, you know, you you end up buying some more of that because of that. And you get it all to your store and you start unpacking it and none of it makes sense. So I did that for a long time when I had my stores, and I quickly realized that none of it made sense together. Even when I colored it out, there was still a lot of random things that I loved and I still loved. I just suddenly realized there was literally not a place for them. They didn't go with anything. They didn't go with a concept, they didn't go with the color. They were just these random items. And I know you all know what I'm talking about.
Michelle: And usually what happens is everyone likes to put those at the cash wrap, which is another big no, no. But I started a long time ago buying by concept and it does make it a lot easier at the show level because I know I have X, Y and Z that are my concepts for this season, and that's literally what I'm kind of searching out for. And then I'll run into other items that I love and I have to have, and I have to literally sit and think about where are they going to go in the store? So I don't run into the situation of because I'm a lot of times I'm not at the store when it arrives. I have gift managers who are doing the placement. I will give them an overview of the concept. But you know, if you send something that's super random, they also at the store level don't know what to do with it either. And it ends up being this random item that bounces from place to place to place. And nine times out of ten it does not sell. So camp is is the one concept that we did this last season. It's in the men's department. I did a little in the summer for Burt's Pharmacy for women's camp. But, you know, there are so many great books right now that go back to camping and building a fire and outdoor cooking, camping, food, and then we'll combine it with candles that smell like a campfire and then we'll do matches because you want to have that cross merchandising out on sale.
Michelle: And then there is a couple of lines that I can't remember the name of them, but they did some amazing, really small down blankets that roll up into little bag. We did those. We did some great gadgets that were from a couple of different companies and all together cohesively. When it's merchandised like this, it becomes a whole story. And you're basically leading your customer through the story of, in this case, camping. And, you know, they are all meant to go together. Most of them are. Add on sales, but it made such a fluid transition for the men's section to have this and I will I will say it forever, is that if you merchandise by concept, it it becomes a much more cohesive statement if you can do it at the buying level. I highly suggest that as well. It makes it a lot easier. This one's a big one. Number three banning. So I from anthropology days I have always used small glass jars, medium glass jars, large glass jars to house anything from headbands to lip balms to crystals, small books. It does two things I have never been a fan of. I forget you say you're buying a lip balm and it comes in the big shelving shelving unit and I know there's a name for it and I apologize.
I don't remember the name of it, but they come in a shelving unit that you just pop onto your cash register, you pop in, and I hate those things. And the biggest reason why is that we are all buying from the same vendors and we are all basically buying the same products when they're amazing. We all buy that same thing. I personally want my products to look different than they will four doors down at another store that's close to us that we all sell the same things and not every line is zip code protected. In fact, matter of fact, most lines are not. So in order to kind of protect what we look like, I've always purposely taken those items out of those shelf boxes so they look more special, especially when it comes to those dumb little lip glosses. The great thing is they are so inexpensive and they're super cute and they're easy gift, but I like to have them be a little bit more leveled up and when they're in those glass jars, they don't look like the cheapie little lip glosses that they are. Sometimes you can actually add a little bit more onto it in cost because most of the time the customers, it's in the shelf packaging, the customer is going to recognize it nine times out of ten when it's out of the shelf packaging, it doesn't it's not as recognizable and you have a bigger chance to make a little bit more profit.
And that's always at the end of the day, that's what this is all about. But also the other part that is with jars and binning, whether it be a basket or a bowl or a glass jar or whatever it is, the the way I merchandise I merchandise in a pattern because I never want my shelves to look like CVS. I'm sorry, CVS, but the straight line up, everything at the same level, everything lined up like little soldiers. I prefer to have my shelving, have a little bit more of some flow and where you have different levels. So I will do a stack out of something. Say, for instance, Frazier, Frazier Four Candles will stack up a box of those. Then I will do a glass jar of matches right next to the candle because you want that cross merchandising. Then I will do a row of something else, whether it be another one of the Frazier items or whether it be a row of I don't know, I'm drawing a blank, but then I will do a stack out of books or something else that's stacked up. And then I repeat the pattern stacked up. Boxers stack up something, something jarred, something lined up. And I will repeat that pattern. And that's the beautiful thing about these jars that they're able to kind of break up that lineup of items and it doesn't feel so.
So CVS But the biggest thing that glass jars do is they make things look more inviting and they also add value to them. So that is tip number three. Tip number four, the hardware store is your best friend. So, you know, my my philosophy on risers and I'm sitting out, it is going to be number nine. So when trying to find different materials for whether it be a jewelry case or something different for a riser, I realized when we were at Anthropologie that hardware stores are your best friend. And if you're lucky enough to have a super small, family owned specialty hardware store, there's one that's here in LA. It's called Liz's. And she. Things that you cannot find anywhere. Plus, she has a bunch of vintage things as well. But so I always like to go into hardware stores still to this day, and I'll walk in with a very open mind and not I try not to focus too hard on what I'm purchasing. I try and go in and looking at things with the idea of What could this be, what could this hold, what could this cover? And anything from Astroturf cut in squares for the bottom of a jewelry case or two by fours, that if you cut down at different heights and you sound down the edges and you use one of those big, beautiful nails from HomeGoods or HomeGoods home art.
Sorry, home art. They make amazing jewelry, case risers, and I've done those a couple of times. And when you sand down the edges, you can give them a clear coat. To be honest, you usually really don't. I kind of like the rawness of them and that big nail you can hang your your necklace on that. You can hang bracelets on that. But if you do them at different levels, it gives it almost an architectural feel. I also have taken in the tooling areas, there's different brushes like that have copper bristles that are meant for standing down wood and different things. And those brushes, those brushes, when they are flipped up with the copper side up laying in a jewelry case, hold rings beautifully and stuff like that is what I try and look at and try and have an open mind on where where I could utilize some of these things. Pavers from the garden section of Home Depot are great, another great riser as well as they're really beautiful in jewelry cases, pots, when you give them a little coat of paint and flip them upside down and the spring make great risers as well. What else have we used? We've done displays with hoses and turn them into fountains for Anthropologie. But you see where I'm going with this. But if you go into a hardware store, they nine times out of ten, the cost is much lower than if you're going to go look for props at, say, a reclaimed place or a salvage place.
But there are so many amazing things that are there that are easy display things and that most importantly, are super cost effective. Another one of my favorite things, and I do this all the time is for those of you who have slot wall. I you know, I've said this before, I have a love hate relationship with slot wall. I love the versatility of it. I love that you can tear it all down and you can put shelves up and do a parallel mixed in and you can still even mix in some furniture there. But at the end of the day, when I step back and and when I start looking at photos of sections and, you know, it's, it's it's most time we have slot wall and heart in the pharmacies. But all I can see is the slats like it, no matter how much you fill it up, unless you go all the way to the ceiling with your merchandizing, you are going to see those slats. And it's like, that is my hate part of the love hate relationship. It's, it's, it's horrible, but it's also the most amazing invention ever. So what I started to do for birds a while back is, you know, it's we have pretty big runs of of slot wall. So you're talking about I don't know how many feet, but it's it's enough that if you cover it in fabric could be very expensive.
So what we started to do was buy the oversized canvas tarps from Home Depot. And you can either put them up natural and you staple them up against the slat wall. And then you could also put a coat of paint on it, which gives it a really cool look because the canvas sucks in the paint and it still remains. It still has that texture to it. And then once it dries you, all you have to do is take an X-Acto knife and slit holes in it for your hardware for the slot wall. So once you figure out where you want and it's one of those things like you got to make sure you know where the shelf shelves are going to go and where your racks for your apparel are going to go. Because as soon as you start cutting this, it's like it's very obvious if you make a mistake and you decide to drop it down, even one slat, you will see that that tear in it. And as well as like when you start putting more hardware in there, what happens is the it pulls the whole so it becomes really obvious. So be super cautious about like when you decided to make these slits that you know for sure where they're going. So I will start with the biggest thing. So we, I cross merchandise apparel in with my gift section.
So we have a big girlfriend gift section at the pharmacy that we recovered all the wall. And I will start with the biggest thing, which is usually a rail for apparel. So we'll measure out the longest item that's on that's going to be on the rail so saves joggers. So we'll hold that up to the wall and then we'll make our slits just above that and start putting in the hardware for that and then we'll do shelves above it. And then I will move left to right on filling in the rest of it. And the beautiful part is when you step back, you don't see any of those slits. And the even better part is if you decide to change concepts in that section, all you have to do is tear it down and you can replace the fabric and it becomes a whole new section. But those are my favorite items from the hardware store. Again, like I said, go in, walk it, keep an open mind and like really think about like what some of these things can do and what what they can hold, whether it be a riser or merchandise. But hardware stores are really are your best friend. Number five, you hear me say this all the time, don't treat your window like a garage sale. So this is the thing I, I know because I hear it all the time.
We this is brand new or we love this item or everything sells from the window. So we put it all in the window. There is a reason why when you walk by, say, Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters or any of these stores that do phenomenal, cohesive window displays, if you really sit and you look at it and you kind of analyze it, you realize there's a handful of items in there. It is not filled to the brim. It is not. Every single surface is covered, whether it be the table or the floor or the platform, it is not completely covered in merchandise. And I can't tell you how many times I've gone through malls or shopping areas and looking at people's windows. And it's like, one, there's no theme. It's just like it's it's new. So we put it in. Window and to there there is no cohesiveness to it. It's like everything. And three, it's literally packed to the brim, like there is no room for your eyes to rest. And that's the one thing is that when you're standing in front of a window, you have probably 30 seconds to catch someone's attention. And if they look over at your window and there is so much shit in there that they can't even figure out what they're looking at, they will literally walk away. And now you've lost the sale. Cleaner is better. It doesn't mean you don't have to have a lot of things in there.
But what I would suggest is if you do want a lot of things, put a bookcase in there, don't fill the entire floor of the display. Like for those of you who have platforms that are eye level, decide what you're going to do. You can switch your windows out every week. That's the beautiful part of your window. Unless you're doing like these heavy installations, like a lot of us do, where it's meant to last for six weeks or something like that. But the beautiful thing is most of you can change your windows out every single week, which means you can change out all that merchandise, which means if it's new, it's still new. A week later, it just it just makes a much more. A cohesive, less chaotic window for when people are walking by. And believe it or not, the busier they are it is not better. And believe it or not, you really will. Customers really will stand there and look. And if they can't figure out what they're looking at, they they will walk away. The other huge rule, and I know you all hear me say this all the time, is never leave a mannequin undressed in the window and never leave a mannequin bald in a window. I, i, i know I'm on my soapbox right now, but goddamn, y'all like a naked mannequin. I know everyone gets busy. A naked mannequin tells your customer we didn't have time.
We forgot we we don't care. And I. I know you all care. I've been in stores where the sales girls on the phone not paying attention to the customers. There's a naked mannequin in the window. And the. I think I heard what did I hear a customer say? Like, Oh, they must not have time. Well, they do have time. Your employees on the phone, in the store, not paying attention to your customers or the fact that your mannequins is not dressed. This is the thing Anthro. It's a standard. You cannot leave a mannequin naked in a window. It is a total standard. It's very easy to get busy. I know what it's like. You have tons of customers. People are coming in. The customer wants to sweater in the window, you rip it off the mannequin, you hand it to her, you have the sale, she's happy, you're happy and then you forget. And what we started to do was pull the mannequin out of the window. Pull it out the window. Put to the side. Take the sweater off. Do your thing. And then if you forget and you get busy, your mannequin is not in the window. Half dressed or not dressed at all, which is really bad. The naked head, the no wig, no scarf, no hat. There are stores that purposely have mannequins with no hair, no hat. Know what? That's that is a standard issue for them.
That is a design. That is a design decision that they've made. All their mannequins are the same. They are all bald. But when you a mannequin in a window and it still has tape on it from when it had a wig and it doesn't have a wig on now put a scarf on it. Put a hat on it. You may not sell scarves, bring a scarf from home and wrap it around sister's head because there's nothing nothing looks worse than to see a mannequin with tape on her head. I mean, I could go on for hours. I'm just going to leave it at that. Number six is show items as you would use it. So there there's a rule of thumb that I I've realized I don't know when I figured it out, but closed doors on cabinets, things won't sell inside them. If you have lids on jars, most times the customer will not lift the lid up to take the item out of the jar. And same thing goes with boxed merchandise. Last season we at Bert's we bought and it was for the camping theme. We bought these really cool. They were like pocket knives, but they were bartender tools from two's company and it was great. It worked perfectly. We did a cocktail thing along with the camping, and what I realize is that we I kept seeing the reports and I was not seeing one of themselves.
So, you know, rule of thumb is if it's not showing up on sales reports, it's either in a bad place, it's not on the floor or it's in a packaging that people don't understand and aren't opening. And so that when I went to the store and we're looking at it and we're doing a walk through and we're talking about what things are selling, what things aren't. I asked about that and and it was there in the front, it was clear as day. But even though it had a very clear illustration of what it was, plus the name, people weren't buying it and people weren't opening the box to see what it was. So what I do now is I'll, I'll take them out and we'll show it as we would use it. So take it out of the box. We show it next to Barware with some limes and we show it like as if it's cutting a lime open and it gives a customer a clear idea of what the item is and what it does. Another thing we did, same thing with two's company. Again, they did these great magnifying glasses that were I think they were like a ruler and something in the box they weren't selling. And we took it out and we opened up one of the books and we put the magnifying glass on one of the pages that had super small writing. And sure enough, they started selling because people could see what that was supposed to do, being a magnifying glass on a book.
So I will often show the displayed item out of the box and show it as you would use it at home, because it just it's a lot easier for customers to understand it right away without having to do a lot of investigative work because, again, customers are not going to open a jewelry store, they're not going to take a lid off a jar, and they're not going to take something out of the box. Number seven is my favorite. Go out and get inspired. Anthropologie had an mandatory inspiration day for all of us and it was once a month. And you were expected to go on a working day, go out and get inspired. So whether it was to go to museum, to go see an installation show like the Happy Museum or the Ice Cream Museum that came around last year to if you got inspired by magazines, which I do to watch a movie, if it's something inspiring like that, it was mandatory that you took a day, a work day, and I can't say this enough a work day and you went out and you got some inspiration. Going to other stores is always a super inspiring trip and you spent it getting inspired. We came back, we were all fired up. We were excited again. We saw some amazing things nine times out of ten.
You want to utilize something that you saw into your store and Anthro would ask you to write. You know, that they'd ask you to send in pictures and write up what you did and how you applied it to your store. So what I can tell you is I still still believe in this philosophy of going out and getting inspired. And unfortunately, because my schedule right now is a little chaotic, I'm not able to get out to very many stores I did when we were setting up Bristol Farms in in October. We stayed an extra couple of days in San Diego, and I did have a chance to go out and get inspired and God, such great stores and it was so fun to be excited about it and like even just a different way of merchandising. There's a store that I love that's in Solano Beach that it's multiple owners are in the store and their merchandising is so good. And the way they mix product was so fun to go back and see because I, you know, I have a very distinct way I merchandise, but it was so great to see how other people merchandise the same items that I use. And I took some pictures and told them what I was doing. So you always want to be respectful of that, but you really get a lot out of going and seeing other people's stores for movies. We had a job for Diane's swimwear a while back, and Crystal, who is my assistant at that time, she and I decided there was a Cynthia Rowley runway show that she made all these giant oversized ice creams and oversized candies.
And it was amazing. It was so whimsical, so crystal. And I decided we're going to watch the Willy Wonka movie and kind of see if we can get inspired and find some things to do for Diane swimwear. And we came up with giant cotton candies where we rolled up Kraft paper or white Kraft paper, and then we put batting glue batting onto the top of it and then sprayed it with floral spray. Floral spray. The trick is if you use regular spray paint, it will eat the acrylic stuffing. So floral spray spray is very, very gentle. So and it comes in all these great colors. So we sprayed all the cotton candy pink and we had those and we had giant ice creams and then we had giant lollipops, which were basically wood dowel on a Styrofoam disk that we spray painted the swirly paint and then covered it in yellow and then big bright ribbons. And that was Diane's swim was windows for, I think, of a spring. And then back in those days, I was doing a lot of vinyls for windows, so we'd use like a tagline. So the tagline that for that window with all the candy was called eye candy, and it was such a fun window.
But that going and sitting and looking at the first inspiration was Cynthia Riley's inspiration from her show. The second was to go and kind of watch a movie and see how we can kind of recreate something. At least that feeling. I still do it. It's it's a bit obsessive for me, but I am obsessive about magazines, and I will once a month go and purchase literally a giant stack of magazines where I walk out with like I think the most has been like $400, I'm embarrassed to say, but I will get everything from food magazines to international fashion magazines to gift and home magazines. The European magazines are always super inspirational, and I will spend afternoons with outside in our backyard or in our living room and go through magazines and pore through them for ideas, for display or for merchandising and all. I'll be honest, you guys, and I don't know how many of you know this, but if you follow fashion and for fashion magazine, fashion dictates what happens with apparel or with with gift, probably a year and a half in advance. So the tie dye thing was in apparel way before it had hit gift apparel. And the gift industry, the indigo thing was massive for fashion and it dribbled down a couple of years later into the gift industry of the indigo prints and all that, the blue and white tie dye.
And, you know, so all knowing all of this, I will pore through magazines to see, you know, inspiration for paint colors or for how they merchandise or, you know, the food magazines are super inspirational to me as well, both how they style it, as well as all the color and the textures. A lot of times I'll get ideas for fixtures from that, but I'm always poring through magazines just to get myself inspired and get myself out there and seeing what other people are doing because it's really important you don't. Stay within your bubble. I know you're all going to say it's super hard to get out of your store, but it's really important you do. And it's really important you keep your eyes open and and just go out there with a fresh sense of of curiosity, because you will be amazed. You will come back more inspired to your store, which your store team will be more inspired because you're going to be fired up. But really, honestly, it's the best thing you can do. So that is my favorite rule of all of them. Number eight, cross merchandising. You know, you hear me say it all the time. Cross merchandising does two things. First, it helps tell a story and then, more importantly, it creates add on sales. The simplest ones are a candle and matches a candle and candle, dishes candles and candlesticks. If you sell soap, you should be selling soap dishes right next to it.
You know, Tabletop is because become my favorite and Tabletop and Pantry have kind of blended in together and this made this beautiful. It tells us beautiful food story but it has created so many add on sales meets on a she started out with a little bit of food she has a ton of food now so I will merchandise bella coquina dips and sauces next to beautiful little teakwood bowls and little spoons and they become a beautiful add on easy gift, especially this time of year. We will pre wrap some of them so we will do a little bowl show the Bella Cucina on its side. So you see the label and then do it up in SLO, do some ribbon and then tie the spoon on the outside so it becomes a sweet little gift. And the great thing about that is if it doesn't sell like that, you can always take it apart. I wouldn't suggest doing all of them like that because you're going to have people that want to buy it one or the other. And if you have it all tied up in gift, it's it's a little bit counterintuitive. The other part of of cross merchandising is that it you are able to really build stories. Anthropologie we did a concept called Patisserie and it was everything from dish towels to latte bowls to cake plates to I think it was a loom candles that had a candle that smelled like either vanilla frosting or birthday cake because Anthro believes in sight, sound and scent.
So with their concepts, not only are you looking at the concept as one big statement, this big telling of a story of who lives here or what the items are, but the sound music, or if it's a fountain in the garden and the scent. And to have this birthday cake patisserie smelling like candy, kind of sweet smelling candle burning within this concept, every single person bought the candle, but it created this story. So cross merchandising does two of those things I will forever cross-match because I also believe it makes a much more interesting story. I think that a lot of people, you know, there's there's cooking stores that do it's merchandise departmental. And I think that looks beautiful because as a as a retailer it is one concept kitchen, but it's by far and large again, it makes it a lot easier as well when you're shopping for me, same thing when I'm doing the gift shows, I'm both looking for concepts and I'm also looking for what I can create. Add on sales with for the cross merchandising part of it. And we also, I also believe heavily into for those of you who sell apparel is to merchandise your apparel back into some of your sections. And for Missoni for holiday we did like this fun kind of gift able pajama area and it was pajamas and it was like these mushy little jackets.
And then we did hand cream and eye masks and neck pillows and candles and all these, like yummy, mushy, easy gifts. But they all told a story. So the cross merchandising will help you do that. And when you're able to do it in a big scale, like really big concept, like, say, is tabletop or kitchen, you're really able to build in a lot of product into these into these sections. Number nine risers. Think outside of the box peeps again. You will hear me say it over and over again. Step away from the plastic risers. They are never allowed Anthropologie. And because of that I've kind of stuck with that. I know a lot of you love them. Ashlyn From Serendipity, when I first came on with her, she loved her plastic risers and she loved her little pieces of mirror that she put underneath her displays. And I, I would take them away. I'd come back and she would put them back out little by little. She started to see she's able to get that high on tables, different with different items other than her plastic. At Stephen Young, we use everything from puzzle puzzle boxes from those of you who shop. Stephen Young If you remember when we set up Jelly Cat. They did those little teeny tiny stuffed cactuses. And we used the puzzle, the cactus puzzle from Chronicle as their riser.
So plastic risers are a big no no in Anthropologie, so I, I no longer use them. Anthropology forces you to think outside of the box and, and utilize everyday products as risers. So I've learned that, you know, food cans, canned goods without the label make amazing risers for pantry sections, bricks and pavers make amazing risers for garden sections as well as for jewelry as well as for men's departments. Books are phenomenal. I like to go to Salvation Army. Salvation Army, and you can get tons and tons and tons of hardcover books. The trick is when you are buying them, you take them out of their sleeve. And what I'll do is I'll shop the store and I look like a crazy person when I'm there because I'm like looking at every single spine color. So if you're there and there's a ton of them pull all black or all blue books, it's when you go in and just grab every single hardcover book and then you get home, you start taking off the covers. They don't match. They're much more cohesive when they are the same color. So we will do that. It's Glitter Ville. The boys buy a lot of the used vintage books, not vintage, but use books from Salvation Army and whatnot, and they cover them in craft paper so it makes them much more uniform. And you don't you do away with any kind of labeling.
Anthro We've torn the the hardcover off them all together because this is the thing. What happens where I realize I should be tearing them off in some situations is I will show this the spine side away from the customer. So what you're looking at is the side of the book with pages because even though you may have the same cover, color colored cover is that all the titles are different and they're super random titles and they're all in different color font foils. So I will turn them around. So all you're looking at is the pages. Ultimately, at some point I come into the stores and they're all turned around and it's all of the labels and it's like, Oh my God, why didn't I tear the labels off or tear the covers off? But if you tear the covers off, it makes a very clean, interesting. Usually the pages of older books are like yellowed, so it kind of gives it a cool, cool look. I will say tear the first page couple pages off. So you're into all all writing from that point. And as far as like all words versus like. The half empty page or the intro page or whatnot, or just it looks better when it's all all the verbiage. Another one of my favorites is wood slices. It's I buy them at the flower market because I don't have a gardener that I know that is is cutting down trees.
I think a lot of you in the Midwest and the East Coast probably have a better chance of flagging down a gardener if you've got one, and ask them next time they are taking out. Cutting down someone's tree to save you some of the wood. They can slice it down. So all my guy downtown L.A., I can get all different heights of the wood slices and they just make a very beautiful natural, organic riser. And I use them a lot for rock paradise, for the crystals. And we also use them in different places. For Steven Young's right now, we've got elegant baby. We've got kind of a woodland theme. So you're your risers help tell your story as well. And that's the one thing. Everything you're doing as a merchandiser, your whole goal is to tell a story and to have your display read as a cohesive as possible. But most importantly, where you're telling a story and these risers really help do this and it keeps you away from those damn plastic risers. The last display tip of the day is number ten. Lifestyle props. Hands down. My favorite way to tell a story. Hands down, my favorite way to level up some of our displays. Anthropologie again is brilliant at this. They incorporate a lot of found objects. For instance, when I say lifestyle, I will do bar setups and you know, serendipity. We sell tons of bar things and bar stools and I love to bring in Perrier.
I'll soak the labels off and we'll show a bar cart with the Perrier and then we'll use real limes. You can use fake limes if you'd like if you sell them for mass on a. She is a huge super fan of lifestyle props, so she has every faux vegetable, every faux fruit, every faux flower known to man. And I'm telling you, it makes your displays look straight up. Anthropologie worthy. My favorite of the little cherry tomatoes. She where do we get them. I think the in temps in Vegas there is a lady there that does amazing faux vegetables the little cherry tomatoes shown with truffle tomato sauce. I mean, it's photo worthy. If you go to MK Design Collaboration, there's a lot of photos that I have from Ms. on a from her props because she hands down like she believes in the props. And I fully, fully believe that it takes your displays to a whole nother level. Faux flowers. Huge. And even like if you sell something like bonbon jar filling one or two of them up as you would use them in your house at Christmastime for Beautiful Mess, she sold these big, beautiful bonbon jars and we merchandise them in in with the I think it was the sweet section. So we did a whole hot cocoa bar look. So it was I went and we did the big giant marshmallows.
And then she sold the cocoa, the stirring cocoa, chocolate sticks, and then we paired up mugs with it. And I took out and this is my favorite trick is I took out I did the stick yardstick or yard, but literally a twig out of your yard. And then jet, I think it's jet jet marshmallows. They make huge oversized marshmallows that those on the stick shown with this little cocoa thing is like, you know, it just lifestyle the whole thing. It told a story and to be honest, it was super kitsch. And I think most of you I know a lot of you have done that marshmallow trick because we did it for Elegant Babies Display back for Stephen Young. And I've talked to more people than I can think of that have recreated the marshmallow display and those are the little things that really are going to make your store and your display stand out. They're super cost effective. A lot of my my stores don't have giant budgets. So something as simple as, you know, for Masonic, she sells all of those lifestyle props for those if you're just telling a story for a window display super cost effective and like the marshmallow thing I think it was cost of the bag of marshmallows. And then we also took it. One step further and bought cut cut firewood and then did them into like a little like firewood pile and then showed the mannequins with the marshmallows.
But it's just those lifestyle those lifestyle elements are what are going to completely level up your display. And people much like yourselves, we all buy buy visual and the better and the more cohesive and the more desirable your displays are are going to make your customers buy. And that's if you think about you guys when you go to the gift store gift shows and you know, for the days of the people that do the most amazing displays and Stephen Young is is is one of those showrooms that the lifestyle element is display is heavy fine line same thing and I know you see these items the way they're display at the shows and it gets you inspired but more importantly it makes you want to buy it because it's like it's so beautiful, it's so interesting, it's so eye catching. Whatever it is your customers buy, the same way you buy by visual and all of these little elements and all these little display tips that I told you about today from my time at these stores, these are all tried and true tips, and I hope that you guys utilize some of them. If you do, please drop me a line either here or design collaboration, take some pictures, tag us because I want to see what you guys are doing. But hopefully this helped you guys out a little bit. If you have any questions again, you're more than free.
Feel free to reach out and DM me either at design collaboration or here at the retail store and let us know. I'm super excited to see what you guys have to do and any any questions. Give me a ring. And again, if you're interested in reading that article, it is the spring issue of the Gift Shop Plus magazine, the magazines. Amazing. By the way, she does a phenomenal job on trend spotting and forecasting and she does a lot of trips out to other retailers. So it's a great magazine for the trade. So if you guys are interested in it, you can look them up online. They also have a great Instagram and that's about it. So hopefully you guys learned a little bit this afternoon. Again, if you have any questions, please DM us and again, thank you guys so much for your continued support. I really appreciate it. We would not be here without you guys if you can. I'd love to hear from you if you can give us a review at the retailwhore.com or on Apple, Spotify, etc., I would really appreciate it. Again, I'm super grateful for you guys tuning in every single week. And that is a wrap. Thank you all so much for joining me on today's episode. I really appreciate it. And be sure to tune in every Wednesday for more stories and lessons from a life in retail. And don't forget to follow us on Instagram at the retail whore podcast, and you can find us online at the retailwhorepodcast.com