This is a continuation of our series that we started yesterday on how signage can have a big impact on retail sales.

Yesterday’s blog post highlighted tips on how signage is not just for identifying products, but is a powerful branding tool.

Here are 5 more tips from visual merchandiser Linda Cahan  author of the book Feng Shui for Retailers” .

Note: The photos in this post illustrate different examples of signage for retail store windows, specifically windows that also have mannequins in them. (What do you expect from a vendor who sells mannequins for a living?)

They are  from our Pinterest boards which we recommend you follow for visual merchandising tips and inspiration.

6 I love chalkboards! They are functional, retro, easy to work with and as attractive as your handwriting.


Some ideas for chalkboards are:

Find pieces of slate and prop them up single wood plate holders. Use chalk to write on the natural slate pieces. Use all different sizes and shapes throughout the store.

If you have a column or several columns, paint them with Benjamin Moore Chalkboard paint. It goes on easily and dries to a perfect finish that looks and acts like a real chalkboard. Finish the edges with ½ round wood molding or with lattice strips painted to work with your décor.

Create little chalkboards out of cut up pieces of Masonite board. It’s easy to cut, rigid and can stand upright with wood sign holders from Ace Designs (www.acedesigns.com) or you have wood bases made locally by a carpenter. Pick out one type of wood and one stain for continuity.

Pistils Nursery in Portland, Oregon uses a huge chalkboard behind their wrap desk to keep their customers informed about what’s new, specials and what to expect in the coming weeks. It’s easy to change and the employees add some fun illustrations to draw attention to the specials.


7 For a rustic look, use 11/2” thick slices of logs with/without the bark. Have a ¼” line be routed down the middle to hold pieces of slate upright. The wood slices can either be naturally round or, cut down both sides so just the ends are natural and rounded to take up less space.

Wood signs are a symbol of quality and tradition. The sign doesn’t need to be fancy to work. Words can be stenciled to the front or, if you are creating more permanent signs, vinyl letters can be cut and adhered by your local sign company. Paint has a more handcrafted look and may work better for your image.

Imagine an upright piece of wood on a simple flat wood base. Nailed to the front and back are clipboard clips with a sheet of paper on each side. The paper is either handwritten with a broad stroked heavy marker or printed in a fun font on a good quality paper (or newsprint) from your computer. Check out “clipboard clips” on Google – there are tons of sources.


8 Erasable markers are easy to use and work exceptionally well on ceramic surfaces. Consider using lots of mix and match white plates on plate stands as signs. You can easily write on the face of each place and use them as sign holders. Just wipe off the message when it’s time for change.

Erasable markers will also work on tin. Tin is a rustic material that can look great but the edges can be very sharp.

If you choose to use tin consider putting it into a wood slotted sign holder or, curving it into a cylinder and using small bolts to hold the two sides together.


You can then write on the cylinder surface but the only sharp edges will be on the top and bottom you may even put a potted plant on top – perhaps make it so the clay pot fits neatly into the cylinder so just the rim emerges. Now you have fun, flowered sign holders that can be changed out seasonally.

Add hearts popping out for Valentines Day, butterflies, flowers, you name it – for each upcoming holiday.


9 Cardstock and oversized hole punched tags can look elegant, retro or just fun depending on their color, shape, holder and the typeface or handwriting used.

There are some great clip holders on the market now that are called “alligator clips” and they work well for card stock. Google “place card holders” and you’ll find a huge selection of more decorative holders usually used for event planners.

Of course, if you have friends who enjoy garage and tag sales ask them to keep their eyes open for old place card holders.

10 The more innovative and interesting your signs, the more appealing your merchandise!


While changing out your sign program can feel overwhelming – you don’t need to do it all at once. Start with a section of your store and see how it works. If you like it, commit to another section. You may even define separate areas through different styles of signage. If you do this, make sure there is one element that stays the same to tie in throughout the departments!

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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