Merchandise Presentation for Agricultural Businesses

Elements that draw attention to displays and categories of merchandise increase the chance that consumers will shop more of the store and notice items they might not otherwise expect.
Merchandise Presentation for Agricultural Businesses - Articles


As consumers enter your retail outlet, walk down aisles and through various sections they will be seeking goods that meet their needs and wants. Many consumers may only walk through a portion of your retail space or may not notice all that you stock and sell. Though a majority of U.S. consumers are familiar with the uniform layout of goods sold in grocery stores and supermarkets, merchandise placement varies greatly among most smaller agricultural retailers. Concepts commonly used within the retail industry, including elements that draw attention to displays and categories of merchandise, increase the chance that consumers will shop more of the store and notice items they might not otherwise expect. (For more information on how to design the floor plan that creates a please atmosphere for consumers, consult the Value-Added Marketing fact sheet entitled: Layout and Design for Retail Agricultural Businesses.)

The Transition Zone

Within a store there are many 'zones' to be aware of that are universal in retail design. After a consumer passes through the front doors of a retail outlet they enter a space called the 'transition' or 'decompression' zone. This area is the first 10 to 15 feet, or six to 10 feet in smaller stores, of the store. Here, consumers adjust to the interior environment by: removing coats or changing their eyeglasses, preparing children for the shopping trip, organizing lists, or grabbing carts.

It is strongly suggested that merchandise is kept to a minimum within this area for two reasons:

  • It is likely that the customer will not notice items placed here because their attention will be on making adjustments.
  • Ample space is needed for consumer adjustments and goods placed here would be in the way or could get damaged.

The Prime Selling Zone

Just past the transition zone is the prime selling zone, which is the fi rst one-third of the retail space. The space on the right hand side of this zone should be used to display key items of interest and items that correspond to an upcoming holiday or non-holiday occasion. Displays in this area should be changed frequently. A good rule to follow is that they should be changed at intervals that correspond with the frequency at which more loyal customers visit. For example, if loyal or frequent customers visit an average of every two to three weeks, displays should be changed based on this schedule. At a minimum, this area should be changed once a month. Most agricultural retailers offer some selection of edible and non-edible goods that correspond to holiday and non-holiday celebrations or events. As product is rotated, remove associated merchandise from this area and incorporate it in with goods displayed in the remainder of the retail outlet. Then introduce merchandise appropriate for the next holiday into this prime selling zone. Use of color becomes even more important past the prime selling area. Accent colors, signage, and visual displays should be used to draw customers down aisles and encourage them to walk throughout the remainder of the sales floor.

Anchor Goods

Another strategy to encourage consumers to walk throughout the retail space is to identify the goods that attract the most consumer attention and are purchased frequently. These goods are referred to as 'anchor goods.' After anchor goods are identified, they should be dispersed throughout the retail outlet, just as milk and bread are placed in the back, corners, or sides of the grocery store. 'Anchor goods' may change throughout the seasons, so it is necessary to analyze sales and use this data to decide what six to 12 goods are 'anchor goods' and how to best place and manage them within the retail space.

Cross Merchandising

Often more than one item needs to be purchased to complete a garden or prepare a table for a celebration. Hence, if customers purchase all that is needed to create a final product in one location it provides one-stop shopping for the customer and increases sales for the retailer. One way to encourage customers to purchase all that is needed to recreate a display is to cross merchandise goods and place them together within one space. For example, sales associates who work in a winery tasting room could encourage consumers to purchase picnic accessories. By placing a bottle of one of their more popular varieties on a prominent surface and surrounding it with a corkscrew, picnic basket and accessories, blanket, wine glasses, and insulated cooler for the wine bottle, the retailer has created a scene that requires much more than a bottle of wine.

In some instances cross merchandising can occur between stores. For example, if a small specialty food store is designing a display to focus attention on food items and accessories appropriate for birthdays, weddings, or other occasions where a cake may be the centerpiece, it is quite possible that they would incorporate items from a local bakery. In addition to building a cross merchandising display, it would be appropriate to include a list of items needed to recreate the exhibit. In addition, include a list of items available from other local merchants and their contact information. Asking these retailers to do the same for your business can certainly help to increase your customer base and sales.

The Importance of Height

There are some general rules when displaying goods in a retail outlet. Goods placed at eye level will garner more attention while goods placed below waist level will often be overlooked. Using benches, shelves, and other display materials is important so that items are moved from the floor to waist level or higher. Not only does moving items from the floor to a table top make the item more noticeable but this approach also prevents customers, especially those who might have physical limitations, from bending over to pick up items.

Similarly, goods placed too high can be an annoyance for consumers and a liability for the retailer should items fall. Though it is reasonable for retailers to use this space to store excess goods or to display products, it is necessary to have additional quantities nearby so that customers can see and select from them rather than reach above their head. If necessary, small signs can be placed around these elevated displays indicating where customers can find the items for purchase.

Merchandising Niche Goods

There may also be situations when retailers offer merchandise that are considered niche goods or are not normally stocked and sold in the outlet. There are several reasons that retailers might want to offer niche goods since they can increase retail sales per customer. As consumers make selections from traditional stock they may also find a need or want for items not normally included in the assortment. Niche goods can also encourage impulse purchase as consumers might not otherwise expect to find the item at a particular retailer and they either become intrigued with it or find that it complements another good they selected.

Examples of niche goods that agricultural retailers offer vary. In order to attract consumers on a frequent basis, florists and garden centers have sold goods that need to be replenished on a regular basis such as dog food and birding supplies. Attention has been given to the brand offered with selection made based primarily on quality and brand recognition.

  • Others have studied trends and offered coffee sold in their coffee bars and cafes.
  • Florists sell flowers and a niche good that could work within this primary product line could be chocolates with a floral theme, either the look of flowers or chocolates with a hint of a floral flavor.
  • Retailers who primarily sell cheese might also consider offering cheese plates and knives, as well as napkins and other items that correspond to some extent to the primary product line.

In some instances it will be necessary to develop a vignette or place goods on furniture or fixtures that correspond with the use of the good. For example, garden centers or florists that sell specialty jams, jellies, or other unique items may want to plan a display area that looks like a kitchen. This display then helps convey the use of the product to those walking through the store. Specialty food stores may wish to design a display area that looks like a bath or spa to stock the lotions, bath gels, and related goods that they offer. If the retailer feels that niche goods are meeting resistance, they should provide opportunities for consumers to sample the good prior to the purchase.

Being Strategic

Providing shoppers with an area where they can sit and rest is necessary; however, do surround the seating area with goods for sale and make sure that these items are in easy view. If seating is traditionally sold in the retail outlet, be sure to use this as seating throughout the space. Some larger agricultural retailers may have a café on the premises, if so then the seating area should be decorated with accessories and merchandise sold in the store.


"Using benches, shelves, and other display materials is important so that items are moved from the floor to waist level or higher."

Though the Internet is becoming a resource for on-line shoppers, many consumers still prefer to purchase from an actual retail store. Certain consumer segments truly desire a retail experience that is much more that just a store with shelving and goods for sale. Elements and strategies described in this fact sheet should be considered, implemented, and resulting sales should be analyzed. Minor changes may still need to be made in order to increase sales further. Keep the following in mind when considering additions or subtractions to your product line: If retailing is a play, then the outlet is the stage and goods stocked are the props. As with any production it is necessary to consider all elements and ensure that they correspond with the overall theme and are presented in the best way. The final effect should communicate to the audience, the customer, that the effort was well executed.


Bell, J. and K. Ternus. 2003. Silent selling: Best practices and effective strategies in visual merchandising. Fairchild Publications, Inc. New York.

Temple, A. 2003. You sell what? Floral Management 20(1):20-23, 26-27.

White, B. 2004. Situational displays. Lawn & Garden Retailer 3(6):82.