The Artistry of Retail Merchandising

Last week, the Lawrence Journal-World featured three of the talented designers responsible for making Lawrence, Kansas one of the coolest places ever for window shopping.  Grace Chin, a Wonder Fair intern and artist featured in the YWAs: Young Woman Artists exhibition, is one of the creative minds behind the fun window displays at the Toy Store in downtown Lawrence.  She explains, “It’s a nice greeting on the street; People in this community take a lot of pride from creating really interesting displays at their stores, and we’re no exception.”  Chin has worked on window designs that included literary themes like Alice in Wonderland and Where the Wild Things Are, as well as a community Lego contest, and even a humorous Whoopee cushion proclaiming “Love Stinks” for Valentine’s Day.

The Toy Store’s Valentine’s Day Window (photo by Tyler Waugh, Lawrence Journal-World)

When I was a grad student in Lawrence, I worked part-time at Weaver’s Department Store.  This was one of my first introductions to the world of creative retail merchandising.  While my job mainly consisted of customer service and keeping the men’s department neat and tidy, I was inspired by the eye-catching window designs that highlighted seasonal merchandise.  Our talented window designer once showcased colorful men’s t-shirts by allowing them to cascade out of paint cans in a splashy rainbow of summer hues.

A 1920s window display at Weaver’s Department Store in Lawrence, KS, established 1857 (photo from Watkins Museum of History)

I think my experience in Lawrence is part of the reason the Visual Specialist position at JCPenney caught my eye.  Although, I must adhere to the corporate Vision Guide, I have the chance to use my problem-solving skills to keep the store looking its best, which drives sales.  Recently, I took packaged leggings off of a floor fixture and used them to make a wall display, which resulted in a 40% increase in leggings sales in one week!  It feels good to create order out of chaos, and it has been fascinating to investigate how the passive shopping experience can be manipulated by changing the three-dimensional visual environment of the store.  This experience translates into my gallery and museum work, as the principles of visual design are the same in any setting.

Being more aware of retail merchandising techniques over the past year does NOT mean that they don’t still work on me!  I’m still just as susceptible to the impulse items by the register at Trader Joe’s—or the skirt that looks SO good on the mannequin, but now I can call it “research” whenever I go shopping.

Window Design by Salvador Dali, 1945

Window Design by Salvador Dali, 1945



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