I make my living selling and renting used mannequins so I have a very biased viewpoint regarding the significance of mannequins in a retail environment. But don’t take my word for it, check out this article below written  retail design expert Linda Cahan – www.LindaCahan.com.

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:

1) store image

2) the price point of the merchandise

3) 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. From the mall I saw that they had a beautiful store, expensive architecture, decent fixtures and cheap missy mannequins. Although the window display could have been more interesting, it was no reason to lose 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 – upscale. Mass confusion. The mannequins were drawing in the wrong people. The solution – either re-size the merchandise, or replace the mannequins to attract a younger but upscale customer.

Eddie Bauer does not use slutty looking mannequins nor does Saks Fifth Avenue use cheap mannequins. The look of your mannequins tells your customers what you are 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 your needs then you’re throwing your money down the tubes. Even 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. Granted, we’ve probably all gotten some action at cocktail parties, but that’s not where you’re going for your store image.

Also consider the finish or skin tone of the mannequin. 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 made in the US or Europe are more costly than those imported from Asia but the quality is usually far superior.

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13 years ago

Wow, Judi! I had no idea…this was SUPER informative and I’m glad you posted it. I think if I was a retailer, I would be picky about what image I presented in my display window – always keeping in mind my target audience and what attracts them.

The next time I go shopping, I’ll pay special attention to the mannequin displays in, say, Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy, Nordstrom, Eddie Bauer, etc.

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