Power walls

by Natalie Tan

Have you ever visited stores that fire up your shopping mood while others leave you cold regardless of their merchandise appeal? What is in these stores that drives customers to buy?

As an avid proponent of store atmospherics, the power of an effectively merchandised store to bring in increased sales never ceases to amaze me. Appealing displays, well-lit focal points and enticing scents that propel me to their space pique my interest. However, what really excites me are the “cold” stores where the power of an effective retail environment remains untapped. My mind races to examine possible layouts that will yield the most customer penetration. My fingers begin to itch to rearrange the merchandise presentation and visual displays that will maximize both silent and active multiple selling.

Effective atmospherics communicate a store’s identity and use every opportunity to promote its products through visuals, such as focal displays and attractive presentations, that not only beg to be touched but also take into account human physiological needs and tendencies. It also engages the customers’ supporting sensitivities (i.e., the sense of hearing, touch, smell and taste).

According to the Dictionary of Retailing and Merchandising, atmospherics refer to “external factors from the environment designed to establish a specific mood, image to stimulate sales. This includes the store’s layout, architecture, colours and other sensory inputs."

Successful stores are easy to shop. This means a well-organized merchandise category layout that follows logical sequencing and adjacency plans. Store atmospherics bring fun and excitement in the shop and, more importantly, makes the job of selling and delivering exceptional service much easier.

Power Walls

One of the challenges of a selling space is when customers fail to shop certain sections of the store. The shape of the store, where columns and corners are located, the depth of the space and other factors often create spaces less visited by shoppers. While there are several ways to address this, one of the strategies we use is to create a power wall.

Power walls are effective tools retailers can use to attract customers into their store or propel them towards any challenged areas.

Any wall can become a power wall. When a single theme or dominant story is displayed, this results in a compelling merchandise presentation that captures customers. Most stores designate walls adjacent to the entrance as power walls because it allows them to effectively convey their primary story. Back walls also make a great power wall to entice customers further inside the store. In essence, creating a destination in the selling space provides shoppers with a reason to visit an otherwise challenged area.

A variety of merchandise type may be used to build power walls. Fashion retailers usually display a core category, such as denim jeans. This conveys the store’s image, intended customer and the store’s prominent merchandise story. A bookshop may use this wall to display the top 10 bestsellers or new releases. Large format value retailers and home/hardware stores display seasonal merchandise, such as lawn and garden products during the summer and festive accessories during the holiday season.

There are endless applications for power walls. The key for retailers is to tap into this “power” to increase capture and conversion (sales).


A power wall of Whiskeys and Brandies is wonderfully merchandised, creating an eye catching display that makes this wall irresistible to shoppers. The appeal of an interactive experience (allowing customers to ‘try’ a sip before they buy) as evidenced by the casks begs shoppers to visit this wall.

An anime store creates a powerful display of all their plush toys and makes a compelling statement that shoppers will not miss.



This store’s core merchandise can hardly be missed with a luxe display of men’s shirts. Coupled with material finishes that convey prestige, one can scarcely miss the message of exclusivity.

This is a sight most customers are familiar with. The denim jeans power wall is not only attractive and eye-catching, it conveys the retailer’s message of product dominance. Customers immediately know that this store carries a wide selection of styles, sizes and colours.

Natalie Tan from Retail Excellence has over 25 years in specialty retailing, offering her expertise to malls, retail shops and airport operators. She teaches Merchandising and Display Strategies at the BCIT School of Business and has served as a member of Retail BC's Board of Directors, as well as on the board of the BC Shopping Centres Association.

She is the author of "Ready, Set, Sell", an easy-to-implement guide to small business owners and a book currently used by her students. Natalie has been featured in several publications and is often called by the CBC for her expert perspective on current retail issues. 

Effective Retail Strategies Designed to Move Your Merchandise
In this regular column, we explore retail strategies that are not only easy to implement but also aim to sell the merchandise. This will provide you with opportunities to view your own store in a different light and discover new ways to present your merchandise. Ultimately, our goal is to increase your sales. So let us know when you have applied one of the strategies featured here and yielded desirable results in your store — we’d love to hear success stories.