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Welcome to BHMA Sign & Display Solutions.

Marketing & Merchandising Tips

Hints & Tips for Marketing & Merchandising


This section of our website is dedicated to helping you market your business and merchandise your products effectively, and best of all: It’s free!


We have used terms (marked in bold) to try to get you to remember them as a though trigger, rather than having to remember the whole document.


Let’s start with the definition of Marketing:-


MARKETING - The definition - Part of a business that controls the way that goods and services are sold, it creates a customer perception.


Methods of Marketing


1. Selling – A verbal Communication.

2. Promotion – To heighten awareness or to add value.

3. Merchandising – to visually display the product itself, triggering purchasing.

4. Advertising – Use of a medium such as poster, newspaper, TV etc.

5. Public relations – Use of the free press to enhance sales – e.g. editorial.

6. Word of Mouth – Getting your customer base to advertise for you.


Customer Perception – How your customer sees you.


Ensuring that your customer understands your offer is of prime importance. Mixed messages are detrimental to gaining more sales. If we display one item on a pedestal with its own spotlight and don’t add a price, the customer perception would perhaps be: this product is an expensive item. On the other hand, if we take the same product and display it in abundance in a retailers ‘dump bin’ the customer perception would probably be; a value product. Even colour makes a difference, red is found on mass market brands, e.g. K.F.C, McDonalds, Woolworth’s, Tesco etc, whereas green is found in the logos of Marks and Spencer, Body Shop, Harrods etc. The product sold in these businesses is more exclusive and slightly higher in price, but still representing value for money. Your marketing should be based on achieving ‘customer perception’ as the intended perception. A cake shop with one cake displayed in the window obviously has stale cakes! ‘it must have been there a long time’, no-one wants this one, is the perception.

If your business looks closed from the outside, then customer perception would be exactly that, and they will bypass you even though you may be open.


Think about your business……………your customer will!


The Medium is the Message –


How you communicate to your customers is vital to the success of your business, the message you want to give should be clear, and non ambiguous, the medium you use is as important as the messenger itself. A broken ‘A’ board or sign is a negative message, it demonstrates that you don’t care!



  • o Messages can never be value free
  • o Style and context affect our customer perception of message content.
  • o Ready-made events show a level professionalism and a corporate image whereas a carefully events board looks individual, informal, and authentic.
  • o Printed boards using handwriting style fonts communicate a personal customer message, and can be mass produced.


No Message is a Message


There are hundreds of businesses up and down the country who are offering their customers empty promises, Demonstrated by an empty message board, an empty poster frame, a lack of Menus or even an under stocked fridge etc. Positive communications are essential for business growth. 



  • o Services have to be performed and experienced – empty promises don’t form part of a ‘service’ as a feeling.
  • o An empty chalkboard is like a bar, reception or shop counter with no staff, it communicates “no service”, “nothing happening”, “go away!”
  • o Un-priced menus or goods discourage impulse purchases - many customers won’t ask the price and tend to assume the worst, tell them what they need to know, a price displayed is a ‘trigger to action’.
  • o Over elaborate signage, or chalkboards themselves can render the message irrelevant and an irritating distraction, communicate, don’t decorate.


Communication, not Decoration - Categorising your displays by product type and in bite size chunks is an effective way of getting the message to the customer without causing confusion, if a display is disorganised and distracting this can make your products almost invisible. Over decoration causes confusion and destroys impulse purchasing. The friends of good communication are:-


  • o Simplicity, clarity and relevance. The enemies are therefore:-complexity, confusion and ambiguity, steer away from these!
  • o Communication is about receiving as well as transmitting information. Always check, for customer comprehension. (Make posters clear and concise they should only take 3 seconds to read, if it takes longer you have too much information for the customer to take in)
  • o Effective chalkboards, posters and displays are like good jokes, pretty pointless if the customer does not get the point immediately.
  • o Complex gaudy chalkboards may be attractive as a decoration – but they are an inefficient communication and potentially distracting. (Use the “KISS” principle) Keep It Simple Stupid!


Eye Level is Buy Level - When you go to a supermarket you can notice that the high profit earning products are always placed on the upper shelves, because retailers know customers don’t readily view the lower shelves. They don’t like to reach for things out of arms length. Make sure your key products can be seen and if possible touched. We can take some lessons from the successful market trader; they place products in customer’s hands to get them ‘involved’ with their products. Human behaviour is a study all on its own, but, here are a few tips that may help you.



  • o People seldom look above their heads – particularly when shopping, it’s even the same in a bar or a restaurant.
  • o High level notices, chalkboards and signs are useful only as long range communications which means they have to be kept simple.
  • o Position important messages at or around eye level – the average British eye level is 5 feet 2 inches (women) and 5 feet 6 inches (men)
  • o Display products between eye level and waist level – keep all impulse products (purchased on the spur of the moment) at eye level.
  • o If you really want to sell a product, involve the customer, put it in their hands, make them use their senses, if it is consumable, let them taste it.
  • o Always have plenty of stock as this promotes confidence in your customer. Abundant stock sells!


Abundance - Categorised and consolidated key items displayed with volume give high impact because they catch the customer’s eye immediately. Substantial gain in sales can be had using quantity displays. They promote both customer confidence and attract the customer’s eye. Never let abundant displays, become sparsely stocked through good sales, as when this happens sales will reduce too.


Focus and Consolidate - Grouping “like” products together strengthens the customers focus. Chunks of information are easily digested and powerfully merchandise. Chunks of ‘like’ products together, in a prominent position can influence the entire buying experience for your customer. Don’t mix categories unless there is a ‘cross merchandising’ opportunity.



  • o Winners focus their customer’s attention on their products. Losers spread their products widely incorporating many items. He who tries to sell everything, sells nothing
  • o Sparse fiddly arrangements of products are visually weak, unconvincing and sell very little.
  • o Focus and consolidation applies to chalkboards, signs and notices as well as products when advertising forthcoming events or promotions for example: - consolidate you message in a prominent position where customers congregate e.g. around the bar, at the checkout etc, now they will be noticed.




Stages of a life cycle – Understanding a product life cycle is of major importance, as it tells you, when to market / merchandise effectively. The stages are: - 


  • o INTRODUCTION STAGE – When a product or service is new. Merchandise it heavily to get the product or service to grow.


  • o GROWTH STAGE - If a new product is successful it will become accepted and popular with your customers, and enter the growth phase, these products should be merchandised regularly to maintain customer awareness and continue growth to the next stage – maturity.


  • o MATURITY STAGE - Once demand for a product has levelled out at its peak, it has entered the mature phase. Customers will know the product well enough to ask for it by name now, so you need only merchandise the product occasionally in order to maintain demand. Keeping your products at this phase is important, try to prevent sales erosion by monitoring constantly. Your ambition has to be to get and keep all your products at this stage


  • o DECLINE STAGE - Once demand for a product starts to decline, you must merchandise your products to establish whether the customer doesn’t want your product or whether you have decreased your sales by not merchandising it enough. After merchandising you will know the answer. If your customer no longer requires the product as regularly as before, promote it to clear stocks. If sales are restored through merchandising, then you should treat the product as if it has returned to the growth stage.


Respect & Rapport - In merchandising the product is king, so if you saw Budweiser bunting draped over a radiator, or saw shoes merchandised above hats in a clothes shop, it wouldn’t be showing a respect for, or a rapport with, the product itself. This could be reflected in your sales. Maximising sales with ‘Respect and Rapport’ can be demonstrated as in the following examples: -



  • o Merchandise a ‘coffee mill’ with coffee to demonstrate its freshness.
  • o Display children’s clothes on a child manikin, rather than in a sales shelf.
  • o Use wicker baskets for breads, use iron or pottery for hot food, stainless steel or glass for sandwich fillings or salads and so on.
  • o Use work implements as props, like a ‘pick axe’ to merchandise work boots for example.


Sell the Extras: - Meal deals have been left to the likes of McDonalds, but there is great advantage to be had by joining products together as a ‘deal’.



  • o Food Sales encourage drink sales i.e. ‘A pie and a pint promotion’
  • o Group complimentary products together (cross merchandise) for example hiking boots and thermos flasks, candles with a lighter and so on.


Simplify to Amplify - Sometimes the merchandising campaign with the most detail and often the most work is not the most effective, it can cause distraction and confusion. Keeping your message simple will have hard hitting results. Avoid mixing unrelated messages as this will confuse. Also beware of contradictory products displayed nearby.



  • o The best way to get the message across is to keep it simple and BOLD.
  • o Avoid mixing unrelated messages on the same chalkboard or display.
  • o Beware of contradictory products nearby when building displays.
  • o Customers don’t have time to interpret lots of different messages, so choose one strong message that’s relevant and simple and apply it.


Use Calls to Action - These are short dynamic statements aimed at grabbing the customer’s attention and encouraging them to act on what they have just read. For example “Book a holiday today” or “Spoil Yourself”.



  • o Always use empowering verbs, prompting positive action.
  • o Use words like get, feel, buy, try, indulge, save, have, look etc.
  • o Calls to action can be used in ‘sales creating’ literature using words like “Indulge yourself” or “give generously”
  • o In a retail setting, you can amplify the message verbally, therefore increasing sensory impact. Statements like, buy two and save. 


Ring the Changes - Research shows that posters and point of sale communications loose their impact after 10 days, merchandising is an active verb in itself, meaning that you need to keep doing it. 


  • o Keep the message on posters and chalkboards simple, direct and topical-change them frequently. Rotating different posters between frames can be advantageous, as from the customer’s point of view the messages are changing.


If you’ve got it flaunt it - be brazen with your messages and merchandising, make your establishment stand out from the rest.


  • o Beware of too much “tack” though; you could cheapen its look.


Human Behaviour- A basic understanding of how customers behave and make choices is invaluable in helping you decide how to display products in your business. The following simple facts should help you with your merchandising decisions.



The majority of people are right handed therefore they will:-

  • o Look to the right first.
  • o Walk in a clockwise direction
  • o Notice products on the right-hand side of where they arrive, sit or stand.


Tips -

  • o Place chalkboards, signs, promotional literature etc on the right-hand side of car park entrances (drivers sit on the right).
  • o Position adverts to the right of food counters or bars.
  • o Put wine to the right of food ordering points.


Ring the changes. People don’t read communications which have been displayed for more than ten days as they are used to seeing them. Change the look and positions of you messages regularly.


Seasonal Merchandising;

Use notice boards, poster frames and banners to promote your festive fun using seasonal decorations, posters and colour to catch your customer’s eye.  


Written by Patrick Huggins ABII, Director for BHMA Limited. Tel 01353 665141 Fax 01353 665253


Copyright BHMA Limited 2004

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