Christmas gifts on display in the foreground, twinkling lights in background

Unpacking the Christmas lights: how to maximise your sales with visual merchandising

By Rebecca Goulter, National Retail Association

Welcome to October! For retailers Australia-wide, it’s high time to start planning how your store will smash it out of the park visually with its Christmas display.

For many consumers, the visual merchandising of department stores like Myer and David Jones is an institution. Myer’s Christmas Windows in Melbourne famously attract an estimated 1.4 million visitors per year and take 12,000 hours of work and 40 artisans to complete.

Now, not all retailers are able to put that amount of time, effort and expense into crafting a magical Christmas wonderland. However, the NRA Training team (experts at visual merchandising), have some useful tips to get you started.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Visual merchandising encompasses all of the elements that grab a customer’s attention and entices them to purchase from your store. It’s not just how your store looks – from music, lighting, signage, layout, customer service and displays, it’s multifaceted and can be overwhelming for a novice.

It’s easy to think that you can just throw some fairy lights on the POS and play a Christmas album, but that’s really doing yourself a disservice.

Put your creative thinking to work

Brainstorm with the team about other displays that they have seen that resonated with them. Build on ideas together, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this practical?
  • Is this within budget?
  • Do I have the time and resources for this?
  • What is the story of the display?

Going back to our earlier example of the Myer Christmas Windows, they spend an inordinate amount of time putting together a narrative to delight onlookers. Not to mention it’s a closely guarded secret until November. The way they utilise their display is to fulfil two goals – to be a spectacle that encourages onlookers to visit, and to tell a story.

So, be strategic with your displays. Write up a planogram, or draw an aerial view of how the store or display will look. Once it’s on paper, it’s easier to visualise whether it’s attractive and feasible.

Consider colour

Colour is a key component of visual merchandising and it can directly influence customer’s buying decisions. One of the most important roles of colour in visual merchandising is to attract the attention of the customer to a business or specific product.

Christmas is traditionally awash with red and green marketing material – synonymous with red baubles on a Christmas tree. However, if your store uses red sales tags to mark specials, decorating the rest of the store the same colour might detract from your sales.

There are some great articles on colour psychology that can assist you with creating an eye-catching display that looks and feels good. is an excellent starting point.

Is it safe?

A store coated with fake snow might look like a Winter Wonderland, but presents a serious trip hazard.  Here are a few tips on how to reduce the likelihood for accidents to occur in your store.

  • If you’re using items that contribute to slips and falls, minimise risk by putting them in areas with no foot traffic (ie window displays or on counters)
  • Tape down electrical cables for all your extra fairy lights
  • Keep your emergency exits totally free from blockage
  • Ensure your Christmas tree is stable – kids love to look with their hands, but in a busy story the hustle and bustle could knock over your pride and joy.
Sounds and smells

Are you counting down to bust out the Mariah Carey Christmas album? Maybe think twice – recent studies have indicated that Christmas tunes on repeat are bad news for concentration and mental health.

Instead, aim for a balance between the sights, sounds and smells. Introduce a little cinnamon candle or scent diffuser to amp up the festive feeling if you’re taking a break from carols.

And, if you’re wanting your customers to loiter and browse, slower tempo music might be your friend. Marketing Professor Eric Spangenberg, who has studied the effect of holiday music in retail settings, found that the faster the music, the more customers rush.

There’s a whole lot more to visual merchandising than what’s been covered in this article.  The NRA Training Team deliver half day workshops to organisations which can include a store visit to provide practical tips and ideas to help put learning into practice.   To find out more visit and see what programs are on offer, or contact our Director of Training, Yvonne Williams at