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  • Writer's pictureLinda 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, adult man, young man, junior, teen, xl size, 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 and store image/brand, 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 as a visual merchandising expert, 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?

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’s 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 but your mannequin will look like it’s at a cocktail party.

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.

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