Top 10 tips - Visual merchandising for your market stall

I have finally come up with my top 10 list of what makes an eye catching display!

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk in Hobart by Roz Wren, who trained for 2 years in retail display and exhibition design, and worked as a window dresser in London's Jaeger and Selfridges.   Although the information was specifically tailored for those who have shop windows to 'dress', I went along anyway, as I figured there would be something of benefit for those of us who have trestle tables at markets, after all the main aim in executing a display is that it entices people over for a second look!

I have combined her advice with some of my somewhat limited knowledge from fashion and design days, and my passion for display to bring you I hope, a helpful post!

I  like to think of a market stall as a type of window to your merchandise, and as such deserves some thought and effort.  The big difference I guess is that your display is your merchandise, and not just a select few pieces that you have bought from your shop to put in a window....and this requires extra thought and care as to what goes on your table.   Not only that, your display is constantly changing as people purchase items, leaving gaps, and your stock keeps moving as people like to touch.  That's to be expected, after all, who wants a display that just sits there all day looking pretty?  We want people to come and buy, naturally!  However, I think if you can start with a theme, and some basic design principles, even when stock is becoming depleted from your stall (yeh!), it will still look cohesive, and might only need a couple of tweaks, now and again.  But, please, don't stand there fiddling too much! 

So, let's ask ourselves, why is display important?
It creates interest and excitement in your stall! 
The character and atmosphere of your table can set the tone, and make your business individual.
A well executed display creates a favourable impression.  
Every display gives a message.

So here are my top 10 ideas for a great craft market display!

1) planning
okay it sounds obvious, but the more thought and effort you put in beforehand, the better the result.  Give yourself time to practise at home, doing a mock up of your table.  You may think of something fantastic, and it's too late once you're at the market setting up.   At least, draw up a rough plan of where you want to place items.  You need to think like an interior designer, or a florist, and gather ye all manner of materials.

1)  keep it cohesive
All the elements of your table, both product and props, should have some relevance to each other.  If you need a lot of small containers for holding merchandise, make sure that they are the same.  At least in colour or texture, or in keeping with the style of your product.   Any props used should enhance your merchandise, it shouldn't overwhelm it.  Tell your story.

2)  simplicity
Less is more, keep things uncluttered, (unless messy is the look you are striving for!) and use a neutral tablecloth...a tablecloth that is 'busy' just distracts from your product.   A black tablecloth will instensify the colours of your merchandise, a white tablecloth keeps things fresh.   
I find this is the point I personally struggle with the most, you want all your stock on the table, so people have choice, but sometimes this backlashes!  If you have duplicates, keep them under the table, replenishing once stock sells.  Maybe stacking some items, instead of having them all over the table.  You need to experiment with what works for you, it's really going to depend on what you have for sale.

3) colour
Colour in your display is the first thing you probably notice as a customer, details come later.  Sometimes it's hard to just pick 3 main colours, because your stock is varied.  But, you could place different items of the same colour for a dramatic effect.  Experiment with different props to create different moods.
Remember the colour circle;
complimentary colours - blue/orange, purple/yellow, red/green, black/white.  These are stimulating and bold.
variations or tones of the same colour - harmonious and restful.
colours either side of a primary colour - red/orange. red/purple can be discordant but can create startling effects.
Warm colours advance, cool colours recede.
What effect are you trying to achieve?
The colour of your props and tablecloth are to be considered.

4) composition
This is the arrangement of forms within a space, and is the factor which brings the product you're selling and any props into a united whole.   A composition must consider all the space on the table, both positive and negative.  The grouping of elements should lead the eye around the whole area.   Generally negative spaces are undesirable in the centre of the display.

5) grouping
Here are 2 failsafe methods of groupings!
three dimensional triangles;
both symmetrical and asymmetrical (this just means you can draw an imaginery triangle around any given group)
The best form to adopt is higher at the back, lower at the front.  A tight arrangement of product creates unity and minimises negative space in the centre of a group.
A focal point is where the eye is drawn first, it's the centre of the display or individual group, and it's the brightest spot that everything radiates from.  The three dimensional triangle needs a focal point.
this is a useful method of grouping multiples, and odd numbers work best, 3's, 5's.  Repetition displays don't have a focal point.

6) texture and pattern
Combining textures provides contrast and interest to your display, and is one of the most important aspects of visual information available.  The distance of the viewer from a surface alters the visual effect of texture...although a surface close up appears very rough, from a distance is will appear smoother.  Texture also reflects light in different ways.  Think about the texture of a prop and it's perceived feel, and how that can work into your display.  Think about your tablecloth, and the texture/feel you are trying to create.

8) animation
If you can at all include movement into your display, it will create interest.
some ideas are:   flags flapping, a mirror, a goldfish in a bowl (!), a light flickering, like a candle (check with your market organisers-there are insurance issues to consider)...these are just a few ideas I've thought of,  I'm sure there are lots of other inventive ways. The main challenge is space,  but if you have some room on your table, consider how this can be done. 

9) graphics
Make sure any tags, and labels are in an easy to read font, or neat handwriting (not scruffy), keep it simple.
Don't make your customers work too hard trying to find out what your prices are, unless you have a very special product, and are trying to create an exclusive feel.    Remember, customers don't always want to ask what the price is, and sometimes they will simply just walk away.

10) for every rule, there is an exception.
Don't be afraid to experiment, try new ways of displaying, and most importantly, have fun with it, it will show.  Use a sense of humour.

I have scoured, Flickr for the best pictures on craft market displays I could find, I wanted to show what could be done with mere table space alone! And as these photos will attest, there is a bounty of ways to display your wares, and I really hope this post gives you some inspiration.   Simply by observing how other dress and display their merchandise, you can learn so much.  So, keep your eyes peeled, and have fun.

 great display, you can see tissue holders at a glance, prop in keeping with product, quirky.
image from here

sympathetic use of containers and odd numbers grouping
image from here

romantic and enticing, love the texture variance between the wood and the organza - hard with soft
you can also see glass, and pottery...but it all works.
image from here

plain tablecloth, lets the product tell the story
image from here

props work well with product
image from here

harmonious use of colour
image from here

tiered, groups of threes.
image from here

what do you think about the props? 
image from here

jewellery stands out, odd grouping
image from here

Cohesive 'clutter' that just works!  So gorgeous, I want to touch everything!
monotone, except for that much needed pop of orange
image from here

simple, organic, earthy, clean
so much here i like
image from here

tiered, good composition
image from here

great use of triangles, and colour groupings, base cloth works well with product.
image from here

Wow, colour grouping really works, but I love the fruit in the front bowls, it gives a contrast colour bang, and although this display would still be good without them, maybe not as exciting?
image from here

although not a trestle, I had to include this, what a wonderful display on so many levels.
image from here


  1. Thanks for posting all these fabulous photos. I love the Apron one - great idea! And wonderful tips too. Bye!

  2. Very thoughtful and helpful advice, I would like to have a market stall next year, so lots of ideas here! Thank you Luisa.

  3. Oh yes, Luisa, there is so much to take in here that I need to save this one as a favourite and use it for reference later. I don't have a stall at the moment, but have organised them in the past. Thus I mainly looked at your article from the shopper's point of view, and found so many of your points so true.

    Yesterday I bought some knitted slippers from an elderly lady on a stall, and she commented that she had so much more choice at home, but hadn't brought the whole range. I can see that your suggestion of more stock under the table would have been worth it for her. I also note that the good brocante sellers use the ideas of triangles, repetition, odd numbers and texture, in ways that I hadn't noticed before. So, off to save this as a favourite - thanks!

  4. Oh Luisa that's no good! I enjoyed your post very much! The co - operative I'm involved with had Ros Wren into the shop a couple of weeks ago and her advice and assistance was incredibly helpful and it was also at a time when all the members really needed a lift. I really loved all the market stall shots, I've been thinking about what I might do with mine when I return after christmas. Don't feel lonely, if it's any consolation I only have 10 followers ( which I'm very grateful for!) and whats more, one of the ten is me, how desperate is that!! I haven't worked out how to get rid of me yet, lol. xo

  5. Thanks everyone...I feel the blog love now!
    I'm glad you kind folks found it helpful, that is why I did it!

  6. Thanks for all the time you put into this very informative post. I loved it !

  7. Very timely helpful hints for my first stall in a few weeks.
    Thank you so much.

  8. Thanks for this post Lu - I'm so glad I found it - I am thinking of applying for a market stall at some point in the near future and have been thinking about merchandising it. Have bookmarked this post so I can come back to it!

  9. thanks Luisa! what a great post.
    mine is a food stall & you have encouraged me to go away & think of what changes I may need to make.

  10. This is almost enough to inspire me to get back into the market scene! But the take home message is - prepare and plan!

  11. This is fantastic, I have a market coming up shortly (I do very few) and your blog has inspired me to replan my stall.

    x ange.

  12. A wonderful and very useful post. I am looking for ways to display my spoon pendants that would be a little different but not messy.. I am not too happy with the boards I have them on at the moment.

  13. What a great post! We are thinking about attending markets and this was so so helpful! Thank You!!!

  14. Great tips, I hope I can implement them successfully when i do a market sometime in the future

  15. This post was so inspiring and exactly
    what I needed - I am such a visual display novice
    The photos were a great illustration of
    rules to stick too. Loved it so much I want more...could you do a part 2, a master class or in my case a "remidial"?

  16. What a fabulous post!! I have been trying to find useful tips and pics of effective market setups and you have so many of both!! Thanks!!
    Now to put it into practice...

  17. Hi Luisa, Love your blog and I am at mum's showing her what you do. We love all your pictures and receipes, keep up the good work. Will talk to you soon. love Diana xx

  18. Thanks so much for this! It has been really helpful. Is that your garden in your header? It's lovely.

  19. This is a really great post! Thanks so much for sharing!

  20. Thanks, that's a great post. I am doing a market stall for Christmas and the tips you have given are simple but will make a big difference!

  21. It's a great post.
    I love the wooden jewellery displat stands.
    thanks for using one of my photos - I just adored the brightly colourd ceramics too.

  22. Thank you for all the great tips! I want to send my daughter to the markets with her shoes she is making and I think she needs an awesome display stand to go with it to be eye catching. Your tips for groupings will be so helpful.

  23. Great ideas. Have seen some very poor attempts at recent markets and fairs!

  24. Very helpful & I recognise a couple of the stalls too and have bought from one of them :)

  25. Some great advice here! I really like the idea of colour co ordinating. But it might take some time! I have lots of bits, so like to group them together. I also use two old suitcases to store and display some items.. which works really well!.

    Hope you don't mind, but I shared your Blog link on my Facebook page.

  26. Any ideas for a photographer to hang their work from a 3m x 3m gazebo?

  27. I loved everything you posted such a great idea you had to help... Just came in hand as I will be at the stall markets in two more weeks
    Tks :)


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