We regularly feature guest blog post from Visual Merchandisers around the world. This one is from Allison Levy in Vermont, she write a column for the SnowSportsIndustries of America, visit their site here. 

Waste. Rubbish. Junk. Don’t worry this isn’t another article on the high art of dumpster diving (although some scavenging may be required on your part.) In honor of Earth Day which marks its 41st anniversary this Friday, April 22nd, we challenge you to look beyond the trash and see the discarded for the trees. Great merchandising ideas lurk behind and within receptacles full of someone else’s unwanted stuff each and every day.

All you need is some ingenuity, something to haul it in, and a passion for innovative design. Here’s how to get started. For the sake of timing, let’s focus on spring deliveries. You may be executing big floor changes anyway so why not use this opportunity to highlight bright colors and new styles with some home spun creativity. Begin with a game plan for a specific display. This could be shoes, packs, (a hiking story? a sportswear color story incorporating footwear and accessories?)

Maybe there is a specific event you’re store is hosting, say a race or community event. Start by sketching out the space, including additional props and materials you may need, where product will go and signage appropriate for the display. This
may require a tape measure and definitely a pencil and eraser. Recruit one of your staff or a friend with a flair for displays to help you out.

Together use this as your road map to execute your incredibly brilliant installation. Allow a full day to focus on completing the project. Most importantly, however, is to have fun. Below are some ideas that are wide open to interpretation presented to inspire and unleash the DIY/trash loving warrior within!


If I had a hammer……… 

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Anthropologie NYC – How easy is this? Take scrap pieces of wood, paint and nail together to create an interesting collection of shapes and colors.
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Anthropologie Denver – Another idea is to paint one side of the wood and hang them from the ceiling with colorful yarn

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Anthropologie NYC – Furniture bargains can be found at yard sales, The Salvation Army or
discarded on a street corner. Disassemble, paint and decide how you want to arrange them.
What do chair parts have to do with my store you ask? Nothing, but you’ve created an eye
catching display. That could mean new customers.

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Carhartt Store, Murray, UT – Old ladders make great use of floor space and provide a different way to display items like pants, sweaters and belts.

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Burton Booth SIA – Wooden pallets are generally easy to find. Big box stores like Home Depot
or grocery store chains may have these at their back delivery bays. See if they are willing to part
with a few. Also local breweries that ship their product may be a good source. They can be
used in window displays or stacked on the floor to create an interesting platform for product

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Another way to use wood pallets – instant shelving.

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Carhartt Store, Murray, UT – This is a great use of an old hardware store nail bin. Used here to display hats and accessories.
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Anthropologie Denver – Same concept except these bins have been painted and hold cabinet hardware such as doorknobs.

Things to consider when turning trash into display treasure:
• Only use clean items. Be sure to remove rusty nails, etc. Wear and tear is great – splinters not so much.
• The displays you create can be repainted and reused each season. This can save you some money in the long run. On the other hand, some displays are one hit wonders and that’s ok too!
• If your store has a website, post your creations on line. Give yourself some credit for finding new ways to use old items.
• Create a Visual Merchandising/Display calendar for the year. Make note of holidays, specials, sales, back to school promotions, etc. This helps to keep the merchandising momentum moving forward and on track.
• Create a Merchandising supplies line item for your yearly budget. That way you can buy paint, glue guns and other essential craft supplies that will come in handy and are already accounted for.
• Plan field trips with your staff. It’s essential to get out of your retail bubble and see what’s going on in the world besides specialty and big box outdoor. It helps get the creative juices flowing when you are stuck for ideas. Hit up hardware and grocery stores. Go to J.Crew, the Gap and Old Navy. My motto is “never let the competition get in your blind spot. Always keep them in the rearview mirror.”

Links and Resources
• www.designspongeonline.com – This is one of my favorite sites. You can sign up for a newsletter. It has fantastic DIY projects, before and after’s, links to cool design ideas from small companies. You could spend hours at this site. I do!
• www.readymade.com – Thrifty, urban design on a dime ideas that even come with a shopping list of materials you will need plus skill level required getting crafty on a budget.
• www.factorydirectcraft.com – Factory Direct is a good source for inexpensive craft supplies.
• www.dornob.com – This design site is fun so check it out. Lots of great ideas on how to repurpose everything from old street signs to creating living room furniture out of old shopping carts. www.growfurniture.com – While their website is currently under construction, this Jackson, WY based company specializes in shelving systems made from reclaimed and sustainable wood. Contact Ned Hutchinson at ned@growfurniture.com for images, pricing and custom inquiries.
• Want to take a stab at making your own cardboard furniture and accessories? Check out www.instructables.com for step by step instructions, including videos on how to create a masterpiece of out recycled cardboard.

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