Follow five salon owners as they shop for merchandising inspiration.

RETAIL THERAPY-it's a little guilty pleasure that so many of us share. And, while a purchase may offer a bit of relief for what ails us, too often the long-term impact is a bigger dent in the credit card.

As the leader and cheerleader for your salon and spa though, your shopping adventures can serve a higher purpose. You can shop for retail ideas and inspiration-and that's just what five SALON TODAY readers did when we sent them window shopping.

THE MISSION: Through our Facebook pages, we invited five salon owners and managers to take us along as they window shopped at boutique stores they know frequently put together clever, creative and beautiful merchandising displays. We asked them to photograph the displays that were most inspiring, urged them to analyze the displays and asked them how they could transform these ideas into displays for their own salons/spas.

THE AGENTS: Bonnie Conte, salon director of Avalon Salon and Day Spa in Deer Park, Illinois; Linda Beach, owner of South Carolina Massage and Esthetics Institutes in Bluffton, West Colombia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Susan Skelton, retail director of Rocco Altobelli Salons and Spas in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Kim Baker, owner of Bijou Salon in Skaneateles, New York; and Kimberly Pine, brand manager of Ruby Room in Chicago, Illinois.

G. Whiz in Deer Park Town Center; Deer Park, IL
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Owner: Jan Cunningham
Window Shopper: Bonnie Conte
Focus of the store: Women's accessories and unique gifts
Eye-catchers: "The colorful display all on one wall and how everything was perfectly coordinated to match," says Conte. "Secondly, the ‘Marie Osmond' sign drew me in…I didn't realize she had her own line of women's handbags and jewelry."
What "hooked" her to linger: "The ‘hook' was the number of matching items that worked beautifully together, from the handbags to the wallets, coin purses and jewelry!"


After Conte was finished browsing around G. Whiz, she concluded the displays she encountered would be excellent examples of retailing in her own salon. One of her ideas was to create a "wall" of color. "We could make bigger sections of our retail products," she says. "Since the bottles are not as colorful as the prints shown here, we could spark it up by purchasing a print fabric with the same colors as the packaging of our bottles (brown, gold and orange)."

She believes the loose draping of fabric under the products will help draw the eye over the display. "I also liked the way they mixed up the handbags with the jewelry," she says. "We might use this concept by adding small baskets with combs and other men's favorites like the Blue Oil or Lip Savers in a featured men's display area."

Olivia's Past Boutique; Long Grove, IL
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Owner: Lynne Jankovec
Window Shopper: Bonnie Conte
Focus of the store: Upscale women's clothing and accessories. Features trendy vintage-inspired apparel, jewelry, shoes and accessories.
Eye-catchers: "The blocks of color and attention to detail. Everything that was used in these displays was carefully thought out and each item used was available for sale."
What "hooked" her to linger: The branding that started outside the store. "The quirky vintage bike, the overflowing flowers, the four outfits hanging at the door, including shoes…made me want to go in and do further investigating."

After visiting Olivia's Past Boutique, Conte believes she can transfer the look by creating little "vignettes" of product that would include a start-to-finish concept. "Maybe I could start selling caddies to house all of my products in! What I really love about this boutique's marketing is that every little attention to detail has been made to show off their unique brand," says Conte. From the displays outside to the vintage-patterned tissue the owner wraps her clothing in were selling points to Conte. "I will take a closer look at the ‘branding' we do in our salon displays…this will set us apart from other salons," she says.

Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Judith McGann and Friends; St. Louis Park, MN
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Owner: Judith McGann
Window Shopper: Susan Skelton
Focus of the store: An eclectic shop that sells women's clothing and gifts. Eye-catchers and what "hooked" her: This store incorporated several non-related categories drawn together cohesively. "I was drawn to it by the uniformity of the book stacks, positioned in a triangle in the display area," says Skelton. "The stack of books in the lower left and lower right hand sides of the triangle helped my eyes travel from one side of the display to the other capturing the shirts and socks in the middle."

Skelton believes that she could create a similar display in her own salon, on a nesting table display.

Anthropologie; Chicago, IL
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Window Shopper:
Kimberly Pine
Focus of the store: Higher-end home goods and women's clothing/accessories
Eye-catchers: "Everything is organized, visually balanced, appealing and systematic."
What "hooked" her to linger: The colored wall. "Your eye follows throughout the space easily. The item placement allows for a customer to be exposed to items from all departments at once (jewelry, home goods, clothing), and props create interest and also communicate the brand's distinctive image," says Pine.

Using the concept of shopping all areas at once, Pine would like to create set-ups where items from multiple areas are displayed together in a way that would create a "package" for her customers. "Use props to create a story and visual interest. This is especially effective if the salon is street level with a large front window," she says. "It also further strengthens your brand identity and distinctiveness." Pine believes this display is clean and streamlined. "Creating both styles of displays creates dimension in your space and shopability," she says. "It keeps the customer moving through the space."

The Greenery; Hilton Head Island, SC

Lisa Kiggans
Window Shopper: Linda Beach
Focus of the store: Antiques and garden collectibles
Eye-catchers: "Even if you were just stopping by for a few flowering plants or herbs for your garden, the beautiful Southern-style home in the middle of this garden center would beckon you to explore," says Beach. "It is filled with unique displays and surprising finds. The rooms display a variety of antiques which serve as backdrops for the myriad of small treasures placed on top, around and inside each piece."
What "hooked" her to linger: According to Beach, each cabinet, drawer and cubby holds items for sale that are grouped together by a common theme. "Not only is the display pleasing to the eye, it allows the shopper to ‘discover' its hidden gems."

After spending some time evaluating this display, Beach thinks it would be a good idea for a salon/spa owner to scour the local flea markets or garage sales in their area, and pick up a couple antiques to use as displays.

"Choose pieces that have cabinets, cubbies, or drawers which will hold retail items," she says. "Sideboards and wardrobes would be good investments. Tuck some items into drawers with just a corner peeking out to invite discovery." Beach advises to place a displayed price tag on the antique so you can change your displays from time to time.

Ann Taylor; Minneapolis, MN
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Window Shopper:
Susan Skelton
Focus of the store: Women's clothing store.
Eye-catcher and what "hooked" her: "I was attracted to this display because it was a unique way to feature one item," she says. "The open book page with the hand written information felt like a personal invitation to view the items."

Skelton says that she could see using this display idea to feature a new skincare product in her salon. "The product tester could be placed on the book page using a calligraphy pen. We could write the features and benefits," she says. "We might also use the book to invite clients to comment on the new item."

Scents of Hilton Head; Hilton Head Island, SC

Julie Lewis, Michael Watson, Mardy Burleson
Window Shopper: Linda Beach
Focus of the store: Carries a dizzying array of fine fragrances for both the body and the home.
Eye-catchers: "The first thing that hits you when you enter Scents is…well, the scents! It smells divine and draws you in to explore," says Beach. "The shelves are stocked from floor to ceiling with beautiful candles, sumptuous body lotions and fragrant soaps."
What "hooked" her to linger: The free samples in the store. "A favorite display of mine allows shoppers to choose from a dozen jars of scented bags and fill shimmery bags with their favorite mix," she says. "Shakers filled with coffee beans allow the shopper to refresh the nose and continue shopping."

Salon and spa owners should encourage shoppers to experience the products for sale. "Make sure to include a sanitary way to dispense the item to prevent cross-contamination," says Beach. This display should be full, neatly organized and re-arranged on a regular basis to keep the regulars interested. Beach says she will consider offering complementary gift-wrap as an added incentive to her customers to buy one for themselves and one as a gift.

Paris Flea; Skaneateles, NY
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Kathy Kitchner
Window Shopper: Kim Baker
Focus: Home furnishings, antiques, new treasures, with a dash of jewelry.
Eye-catchers: "The use of nontraditional objects for decorating; "Look at the ladder and how instead of a shelving unit, they stacked keepsakes that have so much personality on each rung, it's really brilliant, I want everything in this corner!"
What "hooked" her to linger: Like a museum, you cannot stop looking and searching for what they have displayed, so many little nooks and crannies, yet everything is placed intentionally."

Incorporating outside-the-box thinking, Baker is planning a display for necklaces and incorporate branches and vases into her retail look.

Skaneateles 300; Skaneateles, NY

Geraldine Lantier
Window Shopper: Kim Baker
Focus: Accessories and clothing
Eye-catcher: "This store's display is the view from the stop light at the corner. The simplicity of it makes me want to visit the store, just because I know it will be relaxing and easy on the eyes."
What "hooked" her to linger: "While there are outfits and they look fantastic, there are also sunglasses, belts, shoes and jewelry. The simple display can help you focus sharply on what you want for a great put-together outfit!"

Baker says that she could use this idea at her salon in some of the smaller areas. "Simplicity is really key in some displays, especially when the bustle of summer is over and people want a bit of peace and sanity, keeping it simple appeals to many!"

Art Effect Ltd.; Chicago, IL
Window Shopping, Merchandising Inspiration

Home, gifts, women's clothing and accessories
Window Shopper: Kimberly Pine
Eye-catchers: "The store is playful, bright, witty, and interesting with a variety of products," says Pine.
What "hooked" her to stay: "The merchandise sits in the center of room. It's displayed around a table, but at multiple heights. Also, the display included a variety of products, which creates curiosity and interest."

Pine says that she would like to create a theme and use a variety of products, props and signage to create the same visual interest. "Themes can be anything from seasonal and holiday to style (voluminous hair, products, tools, accessories, images, etc.)," she says. "Merchandising at different heights and a 360° set-up (when possible) is key to building an effective display."

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