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From Butane-Propane News 04/23:


Being a "locavore" isn't just for homegrown food & goods - propane retailers can also take part in the buying trend & benefit communities.

By Linda Cahan

Going local is smart business. It is a huge trend in buying across the board. “Locavores” are people who choose to shop, buy and eat food that is grown within 100 miles of its final destination. The purpose is to cut down on transportation costs — including the cost to the environment — of shipping goods

long distances. Plus, there is the added benefit of supporting people within your community.

Localization works for propane dealers as well. Although your merchandise isn’t (in most cases) manufactured locally, you can still be part of this trend in several ways.



Almost every city and town in the United States has something that setsit apart from the neighboring towns.
In Sisters, Oregon, there are the Three Sisters mountains that are seen from all locations. In Portland, there’s Mount Hood, the eight bridges that cross the rivers, and the proliferation of roses (Portland is called the “Rose City”),
just to name a few. In another town in the middle of the country — Poplar Bluff, Montana — I found a charming reproduction of a European village complete with a windmill, the Iron Horse Festival and a full-scale downtown revitalization project.

Think of Pawnee, Indiana, and their little horse mascot from the television show “Parks and Recreation” as an example of something that sets it apart.

There may be a scenic overlook nearby that is well-known to locals and tourists as the place to go for picnics. You can use this scene in your store to identify your place as being a part of the community. Framed photos of significant people in the history of your town or city can also be part of your localization décor.

Photo blowups can be printed in wallpaper form for reasonable rates. You could (ideally) find a local print company with a large format digital printer
that can do all of the work for you at a reasonable cost.

Work locally with a wallpaper hanger as well, and position this photo blowup in a clearly seen focal area. Add warm LED wide spotlights or floodlights on tracks 3 feet up (if possible) from the top of the focal area, and 3 to 4 feet out from the face of the wall or from the face of the fixture. Don’t even bother with less expensive incandescent lights. You will pay for the LEDs within a year or two, with lower bulb replacement costs as well as lower electric bills. Make sure that whatever you add to a wall or window is large enough to be seen. Go big or go home!


Most towns and cities have major events that bring people together. Rather than just taping a poster to your window at the request of someone who stopped

by with a stack of them, see how you
can participate in the event in a more connected way. If the event is near your showroom and during good weather, consider having a DJ play dance music in the showroom or on the lot.

Offer (limited) beer and wine and a grill with hotdogs or burgers. You can limit the beverage intake with tickets for drinks — no ticket, no drink, and two is the limit. Weather permitting, this could be a lot of fun on semi-cool days and nights. Invite all your customers, friends and family. Invite the local press. Give them two tickets as well!

Signs and good marketing are vital for this to work, and every sign should have your name and logo on the top or top left to remind people who is sponsoring the fun. Stick to simplicity with the signs. Bigger is better here. Make sure to use clear fonts and good contrast along with your identifying store color(s). The same goes for your invitations, email blasts and website notices.


Chances are good that you are asked for either money or a donation of a product at least three times a week for local charitable or fundraising organizations. It’s not likely that you’re going to be giving away propane, but you probably have items in your accessories area or smaller equipment that would be decent donations. There are several ways to deal with these endless requests.

One idea is to pick five local organizations a year to which you will donate product. You can let the other organizations know that you will put them on your list for the following years. Each year, you will pick five organizations out of a hat and those will receive contributions. Consider not including the most recent year’s recipients to be fair to the others.

Look at your products and see what will work for people who aren’t your everyday customers. First-aid kits are a great giveaway for anyone. You can plan ahead by ordering a bunch just for these organizations, plus for your store. Make sure they are good quality — don’t skimp. If your donation is being held up in front of hundreds of potential customers and it looks like something from a discount store, that’s the impression all those people will have of your dealership.


If possible, buy all your store supplies locally. Contract with local service people, work with local contractors and get your printing done locally.

Let customers know on your website (yes, they are looking at it) and in your advertisements that you source as much as possible from your local area. If you can do this, you have genuine bragging rights. Put a “Made Locally” sticker on each of these items.


If you have see-through windows into your showroom, think about adding a local image to your window display. Once again, a photo blowup can be printed

on inexpensive vinyl or fabric and hung from the ceiling. Consider making the photo double-sided so it enhances the inside of your showroom or store area as well.

Have one or two flexible mannequins wearing clothing and safety equipment working on a job, standing in front
of the photo blowup. Google “foam flexible adult mannequins” or check out Etsy. If there is a school in your area that has fashion marketing or

visual merchandising students, ask their department director if you could work with one or two of them to style your mannequins for the window, and possibly create a “local” window display for you as extra credit or as part of an assignment.

Go local, even when you have more than one or two stores or are a regional marketer. Customize the shopping experience in each of your locations with local images. Do so not only to do more business but also to support and be a part of your chosen community.

Linda Cahan is the president of Portland-based Cahan & Co., a consulting firm that works with retailers of all sizes
and categories to improve their bottom line through creative, affordable and appropriate visual merchandising, store design and renovations.


By Linda Cahan

It’s that time again! Gearing up for what will hopefully be your best holiday season always takes a lot of thought and a huge layout of hard-earned cash.

Planning your inventory is always tricky and now we’re going to add another element to your buying experience - Props.

Props are things that make your merchandise look fabulous. Usually when people think of props they think of fabulous, expensive things that are fun, elegant or exciting. These exist but don’t necessarily enhance your products. Buying or making props does not have be torture – it can be fun. Maybe not for the whole family, but definitely an enjoyable experience.

Props are used to draw positive attention to your window or interior displays. They can be as inexpensive as shopping bags stuffed with colored tissue paper or as costly as a full sized fiberglass horse festooned with colored, wired ribbons.

You can usually get away with props closer to the stuffed bag variety. But, if you happen to have a fiberglass horse . . .  

If not, start looking at your inventory. What do you have that will enhance another item in your stock?  If you carry giftware, put some bright napkins in glasses, pitchers or on plates. To make this simple idea work, coordinate your colors to attract attention and multiple sales. If you have fancy wastepaper baskets, perhaps putting a bunch of them together at odd angles and then having colorful balls of yarn spilling out of them will draw attention. Make sure the colors of the yarn work with the colors of the baskets.

If you carry any ready-to-wear,  the most obvious props are accessories. The visual team at Saks Fifth Avenue has a rule for mannequins: always remove one accessory from what you think is the finished product. Less is more!

Other great props for clothing can come from your stockroom shelves.

AX Exchange (Armani) hung hundreds of their boxes from packing string in their Fifth Avenue windows. While hanging hundreds of boxes may not work with your store image or size, the concept of using your boxes in a creative manner is affordable and potentially easy.  It also works equally well for many types of merchandise. Consider creating an evergreen style pyramid of boxes with gifts or accessories placed carefully on exposed corners.

Another stockroom idea involves a rolling rack. Spray paint an old rack bright, shiny red. At a variety of heights, hang all sorts of colored balls on the rack using different colors and widths of ribbon. Off center, on a great hanger, place a fabulous garment with accessories. If you want to stay away from a Christmas theme, use a combination of Christmas, Hanukkah and Kawanza ornaments in the same way. If you don’t have a fabulous garment, hang whatever you sell that hangs well – or hang a bunch. A large quantity of displayed merchandise says “we believe in this product so much that we bought a ton of it!” If you believe in it, so will your customer. Let's hope.

Moving out of the stockroom and into the realm of friends, think about everyone you know. Is anyone an artist who likes to paint large or sculpt public ready pieces? Using real artwork in windows is a win-win for both the artist and your store. People respond well to art in windows and interiors. Fine art shows taste and style. Of course dogs playing poker on velvet may show another side of taste and style, but if your merchandise runs towards the kitsch, poker playing dogs may be just the thing.

When you display art with merchandise the idea is to highlight both equally well. Training your spot lights on your merchandise is vital. But, keeping the art in the dark is damaging to the display. Try using halogen spots on your merchandise and softer, incandescent spots on the art. The intensity of the light will be different yet each piece will be well lit.


Naturally, when you borrow art you will need a “thank you” card in the window identifying the artist, where the artist may be reached and how much the piece costs. Of course, you can sell the art for a profit by agreeing with the artist beforehand on price and markup.


Displaying art with merchandise often requires an easel. Those $12.50 easels that are raw wood are a realllllly bad idea for a display of any merchandise over $10. The quality of the easel must reflect the quality of your merchandise. If you can’t get hold of a great easel, cover the entire raw wood easel with a piece of fabric covered gatorboard. Make sure the fabric is solid colored, works with both the art and you merchandise, and is stretched so tight, it looks like paint. If the back of this window is open to the inside of your store, this idea won’t work. But, if you have a formal window or a fixture is covering the easel back, this illusion may work perfectly.

If the art reflects the holiday season, so much the better! Saturday Evening Post covers painted by Norman Rockwell may have some great holiday themes. They may be in the public domain by now. If so, perhaps you can scan a few and have them blown up and mounted on fomecore to create a backdrop in your window. They can also be propped up on mini-easels or cardboard easels can be attached to the backs of lightweight posters.

Sculptures can be both wonderful or scary. Try to avoid the scary. The best type of sculpture to use in your store window as a prop is something that is more realistic as opposed to abstract. Most people relate best to realism. Of course there is always room for abstract – but it’s best in art galleries.

Place sculpture so that it doesn’t hide your merchandise. An off-center arrangement works best for this combination. The lighting should be similar to lighting art and merchandise.

If you want to buy props there are many display houses that will be very happy to have you as a customer. When you are in the market for ready-made props look for pieces that will have a long life. Anything paintable will be flexible over time. If you have a wood figurine that compliments your merchandise it will work both in your window and in the store. After a period of time, the wood look may get old and you can paint the statue in a gloss or faux stone finish. Years later, someone with unearth the statue in the recesses of your basement, strip the paint off,  and wonder how anyone could put paint over such nice wood. Now that’s a life span! 


Large Styrofoam balls that can be covered in fabric, bits of colored paper or painted with latex also have a long life span. If they can be hung, even better. Sometimes you can find great props at Michaels, Franks or other large floral and craft supply houses. 

A repetition of props can create an interesting and easy to read window.

The small fake evergreens that can be found at discount floral shops are usually fairly reasonable for a 12”high tree. Line up seven of them, hide little twinkle lights in their branches and put some of your better pieces in front, in between or off center and you have a good seasonal window. Use the same little trees in a semi-circle to highlight a great piece or create a snake-like effect with a long row of trees with merchandise placed in the “crook” of each turn.


Instead of trees you can use colored bottles,  small bags with cutouts and lights inside or any other inexpensive prop that can work in repetition – and be self standing.


When you make, find or buy a prop always remember that the prop is there to enhance your merchandise. Don’t make it the center of attention. Unless, of course, you’re willing to sell your props. As for that … why not?! If someone wants to buy your props, mark them up double and sell the suckers. You’re in retail; you’re there to sell. Have fun with it and don’t get possessive. You can always buy more. Unless you’re using some piece that belongs to Aunt Harriet and she may be a bit annoyed that you sold her heirloom piece.

So, on second thought, sell with intelligence and have a great holiday sales season.  And if at all possible try to have a good time with friends and family.

If you relax at home, you’ll be more pleasant to your customers the next day.

Good luck.





Linda Cahan • Cahan & Company • •


Our visual impressions are instant and lasting. Eighty percent of our memories of a shopping experience is based on what we saw. Of course, what we experienced – good, bad or meh, matters as well. But, the visuals stick with us unless the experience was awful thanks to a negative sales person.


The purpose of this article is to inspire or re-inspire you to make some simple changes to your retail environment, so your sales improve, and you develop loyal and satisfied customers.


Clear the Clutter: Interior clutter is an insidious killer of sales. Those piles of boxes from UPS belong in the stockroom along with the RTV’s, holds and the “we’ll fix this one of these days” box of goods. As the Nike commercial says – “JUST DO IT.” Allot one day per week to deal with clutter. Make it a priority on that day. It will amaze (and maybe even delight) you how different the store feels once the clutter is reduced. Ideally, the clutter should be eliminated completely. It drains energy from your store and eventually from your sales.

Clutter also includes merchandise that you can’t seem to find a place for, so you stick it wherever it seems to fit. When merchandise doesn’t make sense on a shelf or in a display it becomes inappropriate visual clutter and confuses the overall display. One of the basic rules of merchandising a wall or fixture is that the hot merchandise goes at eye level, the displays go above eye level and you fall apart way below eye level. Falling apart means it’s a great place to shelve broken assortments, “one only” items and larger pieces that feel top heavy on a higher shelf.

One tip for those “one only” items: If it’s a really interesting or great piece -use it as the centerpiece for a display. Rather than hiding “one onlies” – promote them by giving them their own little show.


People notice window displays: Very simply, they are a form of street art and entertainment. When a person walks or drives by a store and the windows are bright and graphic, heads will swivel, and they will pay attention. Whether they stop and shop at that moment depends on many variables. If they notice your windows they will remember your store when they have the time, money, inclination or need to shop for swimsuits and related products. If your windows change (at the very minimum – monthly), they will continue to look your way to see what’s new. They will come to see your store as a part of their daily lives. The more often you change your windows, the more often people will look in your direction and note your existence. Once your store is part of their routine, they will shop you when the need or desire arrives.

You can’t make people buy your products through window displays or any form of advertising. You encourage them to think about what your products represent; fun, sun, health, vacations, exercise, and fashion.

Window display is a very immediate form of advertising and ads exist to inspire people to come in and buy.

Also, if you light your windows, your store will show up during the day and glow at dusk and in the evening. Unlit windows are like dead eyes.By the way, lights go on the glass window wall – not centered above the display area. You want to light the of your display – not the top.

Hints for creating effective window displays:

• More stuff equals less Money.

The more you jam into a window, the less expensive the merchandise looks. The perception is that lots of merchandise equals low prices. While getting a lot into a window may make sense, if your price points are higher, you’ll potentially turn off the people who can afford your lines. Of course, if you’re discounting, a busy window may work well for you.

• Color sells!

The three things people notice most in a window (or interior) display are color, angles and movement. Colors that people notice from the street tend to be warm: reds, pinks, yellows, oranges and lime green. Colors that make people feel relaxed are those that recede: browns, tan, beige, gray, blues, soft or dark greens and darker shades of purple.

If you have a dark see-through into your store (when you look at your store from the street the interior looks almost black) – you need large graphic pieces in light and bright colors to attract attention. If your see-through is bright and light, you can get away with darker or more recessive colors in the windows.

• Use angles to create movement.

Angles lead the eye from place to place. Visual energy moves quickly down an angle and makes a window display look and feel more exciting. Whenever you use angles, make sure the primary angle leads the customer to your front door!

Too many angles can cause visual confusion. A triangular form made up of props, forms and merchandise in a window generally looks great and creates angles and a focal area without looking disorganized.

• Repetitive images are memorable.

Our minds are a little like computers, we can take in just so much information before we have to stop and process what we’ve seen. The simple geometry of lining up forms is (almost) always effective. It may not be very exciting but the color combining, color spotting of accessories and the use of props can make this simple concept look fabulous.

• Make it easy to do great displays.

Hang a grid in your window perpendicular to the floor. Have it installed professionally so you can hang from it almost anything. Once your grid is installed you can start getting creative and have some fun with props. Grid is available from many display companies.

• Pick a theme and stick with it.

Once you decide on your window theme, don’t stick new arrivals in the window. If you have new arrivals that you are excited about, either create a new arrivals area in the front of the store in a prime focal area or, do a new window display. Don’t pollute your existing display.

• Mannequins or forms?

An entire article can be written on this topic alone. Be aware that the perception is that a cheap “body” equals your store’s quality and the quality of the merchandise.

Don’t mix forms and mannequins, flat and three-dimensional, realistic or minimalistic. Choose one style of mannequin or form for your windows and stick with it. Consistency looks more professional and attractive. You don’t want people thinking you basically just stuck whatever you had hanging around in the window to fill it up.

Focus on Focal Walls: Walk into your store and look around. The first five areas you see are your focal points. Those focal walls tell your customers whether to walk further into your store or not. They are there to pull people through the aisles towards the walls. How do you make this happen? Color: Separate out a section of wall that’s most visible and paint it a different color. A warm color will make it pop. Warm colors are all shades of: yellow, orange, red, pink and brown. If you just want it to blend in with the rest of the store but look slightly different, paint it a few shades darker or lighter than your existing wall color. A focal wall is a great place to create a good display. Choose a product you want to highlight and then build a display concept around that product.

Add Fixture/Merchandise Angles: The minute you angle products and fixtures, your shop becomes more dynamic and interesting. This doesn’t mean you have to angle everything. If you choose a specific product line to angle, that will set it apart from the others. If you angle a few fixtures (strategically) they will change how people walk through your store.

Move it, move it, move it: Have you ever noticed that when you move things around on the selling floor, people start looking at whatever you’re moving? It can be aggravating at times. Here you are, dragging product from one end of the store to the other, and the pretty displays are being ignored while customers follow the messy fixture across the floor.

When you move something or change it, it gets energized. That may sound weird but it’s true. Experiment after you finish this article. Move the merchandise on one shelf (cleaning as you go.) See if the sales improve in that area over the next two days.


Light it up! This can get a little expensive. Let’s start with what’s free first. If you have spotlights, make sure they are lighting up merchandise or a sign. I often see spotlights that have shifted position over time shining on the floor, ceiling or some random blank spot. Refocus all your lights. It’s free, fairly easy and can instantly make the store look brighter. If you have all fluorescents and the store seems dim, it may be time to change them out. Fluorescents start fading from the first week they’re installed. So, if you’ve had them up without changing them for a long time, it’s possible you’re getting half the light you started with. When you can afford it, switch to LED’s. I could write an entire article about the benefits of LED lights but switch now and you’ll save a ton of money over time - along with the planet. A win-win! If you want to make the store look more exciting, shine some lights on each focal area as well as each focal wall. Just by highlighting specific areas, the rest of the store will appear more interesting and exciting.

Inspire Employees to Consistently Create Great Displays:

There is a combination pharmacy/gift shop in a small town in central Oregon in the USA called Sisters Drug & Gift Shop. It’s a very large store for a small town and it carries a wide variety of gifts, decorative accessories, and housewares plus the pharmacy. Each person who works on the selling floor is responsible for his or her specific area. They have competitions each month to see whose display sells more. The competition is fierce – and friendly. Once the monthly figures are posted, the employee who has sold the most through her/his display is honored. Not only do they learn from each other’s creativity, they are constantly inspired to come up with new, interesting ways to merchandise and display the goods. It’s a thought….

Challenges are just opportunities to discover creative solutions. If you hire intelligently, train your staff well, maintain the store on a daily basis and inspire everyone with positive reinforcement, challenges translate into success.

Bring Feng Shui principles into your store layout. I wrote a book “Feng Shui for Retailers” in 2005. It simplifies the complicated concepts that genuinely help people create successful, healthy and prosperous environments. A few ideas: Get rid of anything that blocks your entrance including overhanging branches, garbage cans, boxes, umbrella stands, bunched up entry mats, overwhelmingly tall/large/or wide fixtures in the front or low hanging flags. Remove sharp corners in tight spaces. Light up dark areas. Add warmly toned lights to your checkout counter and consultation desks to make the transactions friendlier and more positive. Anyone of these ideas will make a quick difference in your store.

What you Focus on, grows: Tempting as it is, don’t list the problems or things that go wrong during the day. Focus on what is going right and deal with what isn’t working quickly. Take responsibility for your choice and actions and correct mistakes and misstatements as quickly as possible. Don’t allow these to grow into mountains. The sooner you deal with something that makes you feel guilty or anxious, the better. Guilt turns into anger over time and anxiety/stress can cause illness.

Find at least 10 things to be grateful for every day. During the day, be aware of what even small nice things that happen and give thanks for then before you go to sleep. This isn’t a religious “thanks” unless you want it to be – it’s basic appreciation. If you can’t think of anything to be grateful for and you happen to be in your warm bed with a roof over your head and you’re not starving - you have some major things to be grateful for!




Design or Renovate? Tips from Start to Finish

Linda Cahan


Whether you are designing a new store or refreshing an old one, it pays to know what the trends are in retail design. Seven major trends were discussed by members of the Retail Design Institute at Global Shop, the show for store designers and visual merchandisers. These trends are:

  1. Bright, saturated color either throughout the store, in focal areas or on fixtures.

  2. An immersive environment: think Anthropologie or Bass Pro Shops. Each store creates its own distinct ambience and environment.

  3. Go local: honor what makes your city or town special.

  4. Bio-Mimicry: Bringing natural elements into the store or adding them into the overall design.

  5. Add texture throughout the store through wood, fabrics, metals and stone.

  6. Have an impact wall that defines your image and brand.

  7. Repurposing materials: If you’ve seen All Saints, you’ve seen their use of sewing machines as a repetitive image in their windows. The reuse of materials is a huge trend in retail and it will be around for a long time.

  8. I’m adding this one: Fantasy and romance décor elements are making a comeback.

In order to create a successful store design or renovation you need to figure out your image and brand without trying to replicate a successful competitor. Remember that space equals cost so if you have higher end merchandise, plan on more space between items while less expensive pieces can be housed closer together.


Find a few elements you love that you feel will help set your store apart and don’t cut them out of your budget!  Create a Wish List of everything you want for the “new” store as well as a Dream Board with photos of favorite designs, fixtures, colors and materials. Ideally, this should be 3-D and not online.


Working on a tight budget? Use paint and color as an instant facelift. The two most expensive things you can do are changing your flooring and your lighting. But, if you switch to LED lights, you will end up saving from $900 to over $4700 a year in replacement bulb costs and electric bills, depending on the size of your store. You won’t save any money installing a new flooring material but if your existing flooring is awful, the perceptual change can increase sales up to 36%.


Make sure you plan in aisles that are at least 3’ wide. If you really want slatwall, buy it un-laminated so you can paint and repaint it as desired. Don’t go up to the ceiling with the slatwall – it isn’t a decorative element. Try to create wall breaks every 4’ – 6’ to keep the store looking interesting. Wall breaks also allow you to do category merchandising instead of having everything run together so that nothing stands out.


Don’t forget the very important OPEN sign and make sure it’s large enough for people to see from across the street. Good window lighting is also a very worthwhile expense. You’ll glow at night while your neighbors disappear.


Get all your permits in early and order any lighting and fixtures much earlier than you think you need to. You may be surprised how long it takes to receive them. But, if you order from CB2 or Ikea, your biggest challenge will be putting them together.


A basic facelift can increase your sales from 20% up to 48% while a new store has unlimited potential. Good luck!



By Linda Cahan


Oh, they can be so ugly.

A good realistic mannequin is a wonderful thing. It tells your customer exactly who the merchandise is geared for: missy, junior, teen, women’s, petite, funky, virginal, slutty, gay, straight, - you name it.


When the mannequin fits the store image, the price point of the merchandise and has the correct form and face for the merchandise, you have a winning combination that equals most forms of advertising.

When these three rules are ignored, confusion results in a lack of sales.


Several years ago I was asked by a mall manager to look at a store that was complaining of poor sales and blaming it on the mall.

Standing outside in the mall, I saw that the store looked beautiful with expensive architecture and decent fixtures. But, they also had cheap looking missy mannequins.

Although the window display could have been more interesting, it was not the reason for lost sales.

Then I went into the store. All the merchandise was sized for juniors but was in the $250 to $700 price point. The mannequins said missy, the sizes: junior, and the prices were upscale. This created annoying confusion for the customers. The mannequins were drawing in the wrong people. The solution was to either re-size the merchandise, or replace the mannequins to attract a younger but more upscale customer.


When you buy mannequins ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is the image of my store?

  2. Who is my customer and what does she/he look like?

  3. What do he/she want to look like?

  4. What is the general price point of my merchandise?

  5. What type of merchandise will the mannequins be wearing?

  6. What can I afford to spend on mannequins?

  7. Where are they going to go and how many do I need?


Saks Fifth Avenue uses expensive mannequins that reflect their customer base. The look of your mannequins tells your customers what you (your clothing selection) are all about.


It is so easy to make mistakes when shopping for mannequins. Most mistakes come in the form of “great deals.”

If the mannequins that you’ve found do not fit in to the answers of questions 1-7, then you’re throwing your money down the tube.

Even if they’re free. Perhaps, especially if they’re free.

The wrong mannequin is possibly worse than none at all.


I’ve seen fabulous mannequins in windows that are wearing elegant evening clothing – only they are meant to be wearing sweats and holding a piece of sports equipment. There is no way tailored slacks will fit on them and dresses look equally odd. Some mannequins are meant for action poses and can wear only sports clothing. They cannot be switched into business or eveningwear without looking foolish.


On the other hand, if you only carry sports-oriented clothing and you get a great deal on an elegant, ladylike mannequin – think twice before buying. Your clothes imply action and your mannequin will look like it’s at a cocktail party.


When you order a mannequin from a mannequin house, they will ask you what finish or skin tone you want on the body. Think this through carefully. Too tan looks dirty over time while too pale may be inappropriate for your customer base. If you have a good racial customer mix, don’t hesitate to consider and buy mannequins that have a mixed look with a slightly darker skin tone. They are usually the most interesting and powerful faces in the line and appeal to everyone.


Mannequins come in many price points. Checking out, as well as will help you to shop around for the mannequins that fit your needs.


Mannequins made in the US or Europe are more costly than those imported from Asia but the quality can be far superior.


Mannequins break easily. It’s vital that whomever is dressing them understands how to take off the arms, hands and legs (if necessary).

Also, during the dressing process, these appendages should be kept out of harms’ way. Once they are stepped on, they are never quite the same.


Mannequin wigs could be an entire article on their own. A few quick basics:

  1. They need to be cleaned from time to time.

  2. Don’t let amateur hairstylists loose on them.

  3. Buy simple styles that survive fads – pageboys, short cuts, Chinese chops.

  4. Don’t ruin them with tons of hairspray or gels. These are made from acrylic, not real hair.

  5. Buy colors that appeal to you. Don’t worry about them matching the merchandise.

  6. Store them carefully in the bags they came in or in ziplock bags.


A big trend is headless mannequins. I’m not a fan. Especially when someone decides to put a hat on top of the neck. It looks like a mushroom head. The concept of headless mannequins is that customers won’t look at a mannequins’ face and decide the store isn’t for them. If that was always an issue, fashion ads in magazines wouldn’t be showing beautiful faces concerned that someone may be turned off or offended.


There are many mannequin alternatives called forms. They will be discussed in a future article.


 Linda Cahan


You may all know the language of flowers. Red roses represent committed love, pink is romantic love, yellow means goodbye and white is for purity. Just as there is a language for flowers, there is also a language for colors. Learning to speak and use this language will strengthen your store image, sales and artistic endeavors.


Colors influence our lives every moment of the day. We describe our feelings with color:  “I’m blue; I’m seeing red; She’s green with envy; You’re just yellow!” We dress each morning using color to express our moods. A little glum, black, blue, gray or brown work well. Happy and upbeat usually shows up in warm, bright colors. Mellow, soft and comfortable comes across with pastel shades. White looks pure, clear and clean. Black says “back off buster, I’m powerful, protected …. and I want to look thinner!”


Every color impacts us emotionally, psychologically, physically and spiritually.  It doesn’t matter what we feel or think about that color, the impact remains the same. Each color carries a different energy and touches different parts of our bodies. Ancient color theories correspond directly with modern color studies that correlate colors with emotional and physical responses.


Color is also the prime visual stimulant that gets people to stop and look. When you are designing a window display or creating areas in your store that you want people to be drawn to – intelligent, creative color choices will  make it happen.


Red is the single most exciting color, stimulating all the senses. Red the primary color for attracting customers and for influencing sales. Red is the color of life force energy, the color of passion, hunger, excitement and power. Red makes food seem more aromatic and makes people hungry. They are stimulated to eat more and eat more quickly – which is why you see it so often in Chinese restaurants. In fashion, red attracts attention, announces strong energy and can indicate  sexuality.

Red carries it’s own energy. It has a strong vibration that, in large doses, can be very irritating. People exposed to a lot of red for any length of time may be prone to headaches, irritability, anger outbursts and violence. It’s been said that 5 minutes in a red room feels like 25 minutes.

In flowers, red is passion and love. It is also so bright that small amounts of red will lead the customer’s eyes from place to place. Red is excellent for color spotting to create good visual flow in a space or a display.

Red is most often the color used for sale signs because it attracts attention, stimulates desire and provokes action. It is a great color – in small doses!


Yellow is the first color that the retina of the eye sees and it says “stop and think” loud and clear. It is an excellent color to indicate affordability as well as a terrific color spot to lead the eye through a composition. Yellow is the color of curiosity, receiving of information and it encourages people to be more aware and alert. Think about yellow caution lights and street warning signs – all are yellow because people see yellow immediately and think about what it means. Yellow feels happy and warm and creates serotonin in our brains.

Yellow is a wonderful window display color, encouraging people to look at the display and think about walking into the store. Inside the store, yellow brightens the overall energy of a space. Like red, in small doses, yellow sells product by making it look appealing, friendly and affordable. As a wall color yellow can be overwhelming unless it is toned down by white or softened to a yellow ochre.


Orange is considered to be the least favorite personal color in the world. Interestingly, it's highly preferred by trend setters and creative people. It's warm, friendly and encourages conversations, laughter and the letting go of inhibitions..

In a store, orange toned down to terracotta takes on a warm, welcoming glow. It is an ideal color for walls or floors. If you want people to buy more and be more receptive at the wrap desk, add terracotta elements to the counter top merchandise displays.

Orange is considered to be the “common denominator” color – the one color that says affordable to the most people.


Green is the cool fresh color that represents nature, the outdoors and "clean." Some tones of green are soothing, healing and calming and encourage gentle behavior. The reverse of red, it’s said that 25 minutes in a green room feels like 5 minutes. Green is one of the two most popular colors in the world. Perhaps because without trees, we wouldn't be able to breathe.

Green is a recessive color. Instead of shouting, it moves into the background. Greens don’t pop with energy unless a lot of yellow is added to make lime green. Dark greens indicate wealth while light greens often come across as  inexpensive unless they are more muted, sophisticated tones like Celadon and gray-greens.     

Emerald green is a wonderful wall color as it represents nature and all other colors look great against it – just as they look with leaves.


Pink is the color of love. It opens the heart, lowers blood pressure and encourages people to eat, drink and be merry without getting into arguments. It has many of the same properties of red but as it’s toned down (by white) it becomes stimulating but not annoying.

In retail, pink makes people feel good, happy and relaxed. It encourages sales and people will stay and shop longer in a pink environment. Pink stimulates desire, hunger, romance, addictions and love.

The lighter the pink, the more openhearted and relaxing the environment. The darker the pink, the more vibrant and energizing. Fights may start in a hot pink room but not as quickly as in a red one.


Blue is considered to be the  other most popular color in the world. It represents air and water - the other two things we need to live. Blue is the color of communication and has different meanings with each major shade change. Bright blues encourage talking and interaction. Combine it with terracotta and you have a very friendly environment. Light blue can lower the body’s temperature. It’s a wonderful color for small areas. Light blue expands space and is great for low ceilings. It also encourages flights of fantasy and imagination. This makes it awful for a classroom or office walls.

If you are prone to feeling blue, don’t paint any walls in your life that color. It will bring you down! Too much blue is difficult to live with because it has zero heart energy. It’s more heady. If you love having blue in your environment, balance the blues with oranges, reds, pinks or yellows.

Navy blue is the color of authority. It is rarely used in retail as it isn’t a “selling” color but it's a great accent wall color.


Throughout history, purple and lavender were considered to be spiritual, religious colors. Today, purple and lavender are used frequently by almost everyone. Colors in the purple family represent individuality, uniqueness and sophistication. Purple is the combination of blue and red. That brings in the properties of life force energy with communication. It’s a powerful mix! Lighter purples and lavenders are terrific backdrops for many types of retail categories. They are true colors from nature.


Brown is the color of the earth. It is grounded (no pun intended) and trustworthy. While navy blue is ideal for a lawyer as it says "I'm the authority", brown feels honest and is a great color for a therapist. As a wall color in a store, it can be interesting as long as there are bright accents to punctuate the dullness. Brown is seen most often – and best, in the form of wood.

Wood exemplifies traditional values, quality and long lasting strength.

In most retail and home uses the perception is that light toned wood is used for less expensive merchandise. The darker the wood, the more expensive the merchandise. Look at The Gap and Ralph Lauren. Light wood versus dark wood. Where this fairly simple theory falls apart is with exotic white-bleached woods, which are often found in very expensive shops. But the difference between bleached pine and some Amazonian wonder is pretty easy to identify.


White is the color (or non-color) of purity, cleanliness and protection. It is a wonderful basic canvas for other colors and requires merchandise with a strong contrast. White gets dirty easily and must be repainted (usually) yearly. Dirty walls make merchandise look cheap and used.

If you have poor lighting in your store white walls will reflect what little light you have better than any other color. Of course poor lighting can kill sales.

White ceilings are a necessity for low lights, and if you paint your ceilings any darker color, make sure you add extra lights to compensate for the light absorption.

Remember that white added to any of the colors mentioned will create a pastel and the properties of each color will be inherent in the pastel but greatly toned down.


Black is the color of protection and power. It’s not exactly warm and fuzzy. It is virtually a uniform for many people in big cities. Feeling protected by black may also be part of the psychology behind why it’s so popular in crowded cities.

In an urban environment, black can be depressing and dreary - or very sophisticated. When it is used on walls, floor or ceilings, extra light must be planned to avoid the store looking too dim.


In the world of neutrals there are grays, beiges and off whites. They are very safe – and boring. Of the three, beige or taupe is the best choice as it’s warm and an excellent neutral. If you feel the need to use any of these for your stores, please get brave and add a colorful focal wall.

Gray is dull. When it's used on floors in the form of stone, carpet, tile, cement or stained wood, it can look perfect. If used on the walls, gray is an excellent accent color but like black, may be too dark for the entire store.
Where gray really depresses a shopping experience is in the use of pale gray fixtures or slatwall.


Don’t be afraid to use your imagination! Whatever colors you see combined in nature will work equally well in your store. Nature doesn’t make mistakes.

Use color to your advantage. Speak its language and it will speak back to you in the form of customer appreciation and more sales!

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