The right signage can have a powerful impact on retail sales, yet it is an overlooked tool small retailers.

All too often the only signage retailers use (other than their hours of operation) is one that says: SALE.

Big Mistake.

Here are  tips from visual merchandiser Linda Cahan  author of the book Feng Shui for Retailers” on how to create  the right signage for your store to increase sales.

The photos in this post illustrate different examples of signage for store windows.They are  from our Pinterest boards which we recommend you follow for visual merchandising tips and inspiration.

Of course – since we sell mannequins – we like window displays with signage AND mannequins. But this blog post is about signage in general – whether in the window, by the cash register, on the wall or on a tabletop.

1 A good, creative sign program can define or redefine a store. Think about the signs you see in your favorite department store. They are most likely generic and informative.

They rarely tell you anything about the sensibility or taste level of the store unless there is something wrong with them such as; the sign holders are scratched, broken, bent, dirty or cheap looking and the signs themselves are ugly, torn, old, or faded.

Large store chains can’t afford to create whimsical or inventive sign programs. They need to be able to roll out new signs daily by the thousands. Most independent retailers are dealing with smaller areas –even if they own or run several stores. You have the ability to invent an image through creative signage and still respond to your merchandise signage needs quickly and affordably.


2 The quality of a sign directly influences the perception of  the value of the merchandise.

When the sign holder is made of natural elements, the merchandise looks and feels better and more interesting.

White plastic sign holders look cheap and immediately bring down the perceived value of the merchandise they are trying to promote. Wood brings up the value as does real glass, tile, stone, slate and some metals.

Imagine you are looking at two identical round tables. Both are filled with ceramic roosters and chickens. On one tabletop stands a generic plexi sign holder with a computer generated sign saying “Ceramic roosters and chickens. $25.99.”

On the other table with identical merchandise and display stands a small chalkboard with a red painted wood frame. In legible handwriting in yellow and white chalk you see “Bring us home to roost! We’re $25.99 a head and don’t eat a lot.”


Mentally compare this to the dull sign on the other table. The merchandise with the fun chalk sign seems more interesting and appealing. The store as a whole is enhanced by this more personal message.

In my 40 years in visual merchandising and display I have spoken hundreds of times on the importance of not hand writing signs.

Now, just to make myself crazy I’m suggesting that you consider handwritten signs in some places just to “mix it up” a bit. Of course, if you decide to do some handwritten signs they need to be legible, no bubble letters, spelled correctly and all written by the same person (who can spell) in the same style for consistency throughout the store.


3 Some fun ideas to affordably upgrade the signage in your store include dimensional letters, chalkboards, wood signs, tin signs, ceramic mugs or plates, die cut or hand cut cardstock and oversized hole-punched tags.


Dimensional letters can be costly but, if you choose to be open to chance, you may find that sign companies have seconds or extras of letters in different fonts, colors, sizes and depths. With luck you’ll be able to create words from these various letters and attach them to your walls. The words can reflect your merchandise or, can define your image.

If you find dimensional letters and hate the variety of colors consider painting them the same color as the wall they’re going on. Tone on tone looks sculptural and interesting.

If you like the look of all one color but dislike tone-on-tone you can paint them with a pearlescent finish or a metallic paint – both are very current, sophisticated and a trend in the design field.

5 If you purchase Styrofoam letters (they are less expensive than wood, metal or gatorboard) they first need to be primed before color is added.


Prime them with white acrylic/latex paint and let them dry thoroughly. Now you can use any type of paint on top of the primer without fear of eating away the Styrofoam.

Adhering dimensional letters to a wall is challenging. Use chalk as a line on the wall – that way you can erase it easily.

Don’t be afraid to have some fun with the letters. Perfection is not necessary! If there are some nicks or scratches on the surfaces of the letters, let it go – once they are painted it’s unlikely that a customer will notice. Also, many types of dimensional letters can be lightly spackled before they’re painted if imperfections don’t work with your vision.

For more examples of creative signage in window displays, check out our part 2 of this series.

Linda Cahan is an internationally recognized expert in visual merchandising with over 30 years of marketplace experience.

Linda’s breadth of experience is in all segments of retail, working with independents and retail corporations.



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gary harrington
gary harrington
9 years ago

Great read I have been in the acrylic end of retail for many years.

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