Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Visual Merchandising Tips

by Mike Plotnick, Staples® Contributing Writer

From the very first time humans saw their reflections in a puddle and thought it was magic, we’ve recognized the power that mirror images provide.

Though today’s commercially produced glass mirrors possess no magical powers, they do serve as dynamic visual merchandising and store design tools. Used effectively, floor and wall mirrors can reflect light, merchandise and people to enliven and energize a retail environment.

Here are some visual merchandising tips for leveraging the benefits of store mirrors to increase sales potential, improve security and enhance the customer experience.

Size and Placement

From a design standpoint, retail mirrors dramatically enhance the store environment while focusing customers’ attention.

“Customers can get sensory overload walking through a space, and mirrors let you highlight what you want them to see — whether it’s clothing, chandeliers or artwork,” says Lisa Shapot, co-owner of The Think Tank, a design consultancy based in Garnerville, NY. “Mirrors tend to draw customers to one part of your space.”

The size and placement of mirrors is also a primary consideration in the art and science of feng shui, which aims to harmonize human existence with the surrounding environment.

“In feng shui, mirrors should never be hung directly in line with a doorway or entrance, but rather, at a 45-degree angle,” says DeAnna Radaj, an interior design consultant from Charlotte, NC. “They also should be large enough to fully reflect whatever it is you want more of.” An added bonus: Placing mirrors close to cash registers symbolically doubles the number of customers, making the establishment appear busier and more successful.

Expand, Correct & Decorate

Mirrors enhance a store’s décor and contribute to its aesthetic appeal. “[They] can serve as decorative art, depending on how they’re framed, the design and the color,” Shapot says. And retailers can reinforce marketing efforts by framing mirrors in the same color as the store brand.

Reflective pieces also contribute to a more open, light-filled environment. “Mirrors can remove the boundaries of the space so you no longer have a sense of where a wall stops,” explains Heather Higgins, president of Higgins Design Studio in New York. A less constrained environment contributes to a more pleasant shopping experience, she says.

Mirrors are also handy for conceals, design limitations and unsightly structural elements. “Mirrors on columns work very well, as long as there are corner protectors from the floor up to 3 feet high,” says Linda Cahan, owner of Cahan and Company, a retail visual merchandising and design consulting firm in West Linn, OR. Large full-length mirrors on the back stockroom door “add pop to the area and reflect light back onto the merchandise.”

Discourage Shoplifting

But perhaps the most significant benefit of retail mirrors is security. This is achieved with decorative or functional store mirrors or specially designed security mirrors.

According to Margaret King, PhD, director of the Center for Cultural Studies & Analysis, a Philadelphia-based think tank, mirrors contribute to the perception that there are eyes around the store. Customers may see their own reflection or believe they are looking at two-way mirrors, triggering the notion that they are being watched.

“Mirroring breaks down the privacy ethic, like the ceiling mirrors used in gambling casinos,” King says. “You are extra aware of being watched — even by yourself — and of viewing others as they’re reflected. It's a general perception upgrade.”

Changing the way you look at mirrors can help you upgrade visual merchandising and store design, ring up additional sales and beef up security. In the words of Shapot, they are “multipurpose design tools.”

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