You are currently viewing VISUAL MERCHANDISING TOOLS: functionality, prototyping, and setting up

VISUAL MERCHANDISING TOOLS: functionality, prototyping, and setting up

Visual tools are fundamental elements for the realization of a correct internal display. But how and which ones to use?


Whether you are simply curious, the owner of a small shop, the manager of a large company or a novice Visual Merchandiser, my VM column will give you the basic tools (and even something more) to orient yourself in the world of Visual Merchandising.

Today we’ll talk about Visual Tools but, what falls within this definition?


Generally speaking, VT means everything that goes to support the display, i.e. all the objects designed and created specifically to improve the display and visibility of the product.

Hangers, mannequins, counter displays, hat displays, bag lifts, shoe lifts, bases, cubes etc… everything falls within this definition.

But how to orient yourself in the choice?

First of all, the choice of VT will depend essentially on the type of product you will have in store.

Each type of product can be displayed in different ways, the most classic example concerns clothing. Anyone knows that a shirt can be either folded, or well exposed on a hanger inside a hanger and we all know the huge difference that follows, or maybe not…

Ok, I’ll start from this cue to explain the importance of correctly displaying a garment, an accessory or any other product but, in order not to lose you on the street, I’ll try to outline the use of the most known and commonly used VTs.


Of wood, plastic, iron, fabric, more or less beautiful, more or less functional, we are all now practical with this tool, so much so that it has become an integral part of everyday use in our homes. I will not get lost in boring advice on the advantages of having a garment hanging on a hanger compared to a folded one, but I would like to draw your attention in choosing the right hanger. 

Yes, because every garment needs its hanger!

During my salesforce training this has always been one of the parts I was particularly fond of, because no matter how obvious, certain rules are magically not followed, but remember that the way you present your garments makes all the difference.

Some Rules:

Outerwear hanger:

If it’s called a coat hanger, is there a reason not to? You will have to use it only with this type of product:    t-shirts, shirts, sweaters, tops, jackets, coats, etc.. Although they do not fall into the outerwear category, women’s clothes will also be displayed with this type of hanger.

However, you should always keep in mind the difference between male and female hangers, because the size makes the difference and, besides, the use of the wrong hangers could damage the garments. 

Think of a beautiful man’s jacket displayed on a woman’s hanger, it will lack the right support and over time it will rest on the hanger taking its shape and leaving a visible mark on the shoulders because it is too short. You must prevent this from happening, you could penalize a sale or in any case change the perception of the customer in front of a garment exposed sloppily.  

To date, to avoid these problems and to avoid logistical and budget problems, several stores are equipping themselves with a single hanger size. In this case, it will be essential that the hangers are made to measure or at least take into account the size, because the collections of the brands are very different and the 48 for men or the 38 for women will not be the same for everyone, so it is essential to buy a hanger that takes into account the average size of the garments of your product.

Hanger with pliers:

Used exclusively for skirts, trousers or jacket/pantsuits.

The trousers will only be displayed in their full length by stapling them onto the belt and can be displayed open, as in the case of jeans, cargo or other casual/sportswear items, or closed, as in the case of classic trousers with a central stripe.

In the latter case, remember that the trousers should be exposed with a zip/front drawstring side, a fundamental detail, as I often get horrified when I see stapled trousers with the backside exposed to the customer.

The following photo will clarify what has just been described.


Never use the hanger with pliers to fold trousers at knee height! For this you will need to use the bar hanger listed below.


Hangers with bar:

These are used exclusively for folding trousers or for displaying jacket/pantsuits, with the trousers folded in half on the bar at knee height. Also in this case you must pay particular attention to the side of the trousers that you expose to the customer, it must correspond to the front of the trousers, the one with the zipper/drawstring.

I focused on the most used hangers but, depending on the type of product on display, you will have the possibility to choose hangers specifically designed for underwear, beachwear, scarves, etc.Generally all manufacturers of hangers and also shops that sell on the ready, will have the right range of hangers to meet any need.

From my point of view, I advise you to balance the amount of product displayed between folded and hung. You know that hanging garments are more visible and perform better, so make a considered choice of which product will be hung and which folded, opting perhaps to fold the basic product, continuous and hang the most particular, detailed or attractive. Do not forget that a certain rhythm of folding/hanging serves to give movement to the store and stimulate the customer’s attention, so, although the hanging garment perforates better, a store with only hanging garments would still be heavy and uninteresting.


There is a treatise to be written on mannequins, especially nowadays that competition between producers is fierce and the range of products endless. 

I could tell you that there are humanoid mannequins and busts, that you can choose between mannequins with and without the head, with interchangeable or customizable bibs, with the wig, makeup or without, but you can find out for yourself by consulting one of the many online catalogs of an X supplier. 

What I would suggest here is to keep in mind much more practical aspects when you find yourself having to choose the mannequins.

Let’s say that in addition to the appearance, which must be in line with the product and the look of your shop, the fit and price will be the decisive elements in the choice. 

I advise you not to underestimate other elements, however, such as:

  •  Weight and durability and therefore sturdiness: there are mannequins that if they fall once they chip immediately, so choose mannequins of good quality and with impact-resistant, durable materials and above all choose suppliers able to assist you in case of accidental damage. 

Some suppliers repair or replace damaged parts, others who provide repair and maintenance kits, others who leave you to your fate.

  • Attachments : Some models have arm and leg attachments that can put a strain on any Visual Merchandiser and make dressing dummies a nightmare, as well as pose a real risk to garments that can break if accidentally pinched. 
  •   Disposal: Disposal. 

Keep in mind that by now the direction of all business is ECO FRIENDLY, so it must take into account sustainability, not only because of an ethical issue but also because it is the customer himself who asks for it, it is precisely the end customer who rewards companies that make sustainable and environmentally aware choices. 

Don’t underestimate that these choices can be an excellent starting point to promote your business, to position yourself in the market and to communicate an added value to your customer, who is now increasingly sensitive, informed and attentive.

One ECO-FRIENDLY example above all: Bonaveri

A leading Italian company in the production of mannequins, it has always been attentive to a rapidly changing market and the needs that, as a result, evolve continuously. . 

Already in 2016 Bonaveri presented the first biodegradable mannequin in the world, an innovative product made with BPaint, a biodegradable bioplastic obtained from sugar cane and painted with BPlast, the first paint made exclusively from renewable natural materials 

Besides, the packaging has also been specially designed both to reduce the weight and therefore the energy consumption necessary for transport, and to optimize the size of the package, which has allowed for increased efficiency in the logistics process. All this has led to a 40% reduction in CO2 emissions, 37% in energy consumption and 56% in water consumption.

Bonaveri has taken a decisive step towards the future, differentiating itself and working in a very responsible manner concerning environmental sustainability and the exploitation of resources.


  • Fitting: the last piece of advice I feel like giving you is: take a fitting test. 

Once you have identified the model(s) you like, ask for a fitting test in the showroom, this small step will avoid any nasty surprises. 

Your 48 will probably differ from the 48 of the mannequin, because just as every collection has its fit, every mannequin has its own. Alternatively, pay due attention to the measurements. Each mannequin has its datasheet with detailed measurements, don’t underestimate them and use them to guide your choice!


This macro category includes the whole world of props supporting the display of small and medium-sized products; from bags/shoes to fixed risers, from belt displays to jewelry displays, from heads, hands and feet to bases, cubes and parallelepiped.

For each product category there is a line of tools that can be implemented in the product display. This category includes both bench and floor displays, both fixed and height-adjustable. Now, listing them all would not be of great help, because the usefulness or not of these props will depend on:

A)the type of product you have 

B)the characteristics of the exhibition space 

C)the quantity of product displayed

Let’s take the example of the bag lifts, widely used in any boutique. 

They are precious tools to enhance some models of bags that, without this support, would collapse on themselves and could not keep their shape, thus jeopardizing the sale of the same. 

It is clear that in this case the use of a bag lifter would turn the situation upside down and help this product to perform as it deserves. It would also be useless to use the same tool for the display of a top case whose shape, with or without support, would be identical. 

With this I want to tell you not to abuse these tools, because however much they may emphasize the product, if used without logic, they will overload the store.

Moreover, when you find yourself in front of the choice of visual tools models to choose, always keep in mind the mood of your store, the materials used in it, the type of product sold and the appeal you want to give. Everything will serve to direct you towards one material rather than another.

Another piece of advice I feel like giving you is to keep VT away from the highest shelves.

This will “save lives” or at least prevent them from suing you for damages. It is not uncommon for the customer to inadvertently pull the product and, with him, see our useful display on his beautiful face.

Finally, I wanted to remind you to keep in mind the size of the chosen tools; consider:

  1. Where they will be placed. 

For example, the size of the shelf where you want to display them and the heights between shelves. These elements may limit you in the use of some props, so take them into account.

  1. The size of the products to be displayed. 

You will need to choose the props that will allow any product to be displayed decently. Do not display a 30×20 bag on a 15×10 base just because it is the last one you have or have made a mistake when placing your order.



Well, after this overview of the most popular tools, I wanted to explain how a prototype project is born in the company.

Often, during my working experience and in particular, when I was working in Moschino, it happened to have to follow the prototype of the tools. 

But how does it work and what does it consist of?

Over time the boutiques are redesigned, the concept is distorted and new architects study the spaces to better respond to market trends, needs and expectations. 

Sometimes these upheavals follow the arrival of a new creative director; other times it is simply the time it takes to renew the look of the store. In any case, the Visual Merchandiser will have to follow the project together with the architects, to realize VT that are in harmony with the new concept.

First of all, the materials and colors used in the project will be the main elements of choice for the VTs too, after which the structure of the store itself, the dimensions, the geometries and the details will influence the prototype.

Let’s suppose that the architect on duty will have fun creating a huge wall of shelves, then the visual care will be taken to understand how to make the display of the product interesting and design, prototype and build all the supports that will help him in the practical display of the product; for example, bases and cubes to give movement to the display, shoe lifts to create different heights and make the display more interesting, etc. 

Remember that, unfortunately, architects often focus on design and little on the capacity and modularity of the structures, so an exchange of points of view during the design phase will be fundamental.

Once you understand the needs, you will proceed to request prototypes from different suppliers. Generally, as a good rule, at least 3 quotes are required and surely each company already has a trusted supplier. Despite this, it is good to have an opening on possible new contacts, to be sure to always get the best product, at the best price and the most advantageous conditions for us. 

There are, for example, suppliers who guarantee the storage of goods and you know how much logistics plays a fundamental role in this business. Others that guarantee you small custom production quantities and even here, let’s say you have to open a POP-UP store, you know how important it is to have a supplier that can meet your every need. 

In my direct experience I have been personally saved by my trusted hanger supplier. I had to open a Moschino first line store in the United Arab Emirates and I had sent the order for the hangers to my supplier even though there wasn’t the classic time bearing needed for production. Despite this, the order managed to be processed and delivered in the right time for the set-up, making the opening of the shop feasible.

Can you imagine an opening without hangers? 

There, now you see why it is essential to have suppliers who can save your life. 

Learn to hold on to them!

For me, trust is the main element in choosing suppliers, even before the price.

Of course, here I had to summarize the decision-making process, but keep in mind that prototypes of hangers or mannequins made ad hoc can take a lot of time, a lot of modifications and then be overturned in the process. 

This is a rather delicate phase but fundamental to the success of the overall project. 

Good Luck!

Se avrai bisogno di supporto, consigli o consulenza specifica, contattami.




Monica Minervini

Visual Merchandiser with 15years of experience. Global business vision, long experience in fashion, accessories and design, research, training courses and passion on service of who want to build a strong brand reputation.

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