Posted: 11/08/2020

Clever use of space and merchandising will help make the most of a Christmas with coronavirus

Clever use of space and merchandising will help make the most of a Christmas with coronavirus
Rich Ford, Strategy director, Sherlock Studio

Rich Ford, strategy director of retail design consultancy Sherlock Studio explains how you can keep enticing your customers into that festive spend despite COVID.

Store space

If we still have distancing in place at Christmas, reducing clutter has got to be a good thing to ensure good flow of people through your store. It’s a good idea to allow space for people even if distancing isn’t still in place, as consumers will likely still be wary of being in confined spaces with others; I suspect there will be a legacy of anxiety from COVID. 

More so than ever before it’s about displaying things well and creating a bit of theatre. You need to get creative with how you merchandise – definitely this year the old adage of quality over quantity is more relevant than ever. 

Another thing to come out of COVID is our reliance on online or mail order. Independents can use this to their advantage by ramping up their boxes and hampers online. Hopefully, that will be a behaviour that will be carried on after COVID. Make it work for the customer, though.

Increased footfall 

Having movable units in your store can be very useful even in ‘normal’ times, but one lesson we have learned from COVID is that those retailers who could quickly change up their store were most prepared. Being able to move units around with ease not only allows you to refresh the look of your store regularly, but also respond to new distancing rules simply. Where we don’t know what’s coming in terms of second waves or ‘pulses’ it’s a good idea to be as flexible as you can.

Operating a pre-order, or a click-and-collect system with allocated pick-up times, pushing people towards home deliveries will continue to be the best ways to have greater control over the numbers of people in your store. However, make sure you aren’t losing the impulse element of Christmas shopping. 

If you have a pick-up point for click-and-collect orders which guides your customers past some key displays, or if using an online platform like Shopify, make sure you set up related or recommended products in your store.


In-store communications will be key to driving impulse and cross-merchandising this Christmas. Where it is likely we will lose the ability for sampling – even if we don’t encounter a second wave or have distancing, people will likely still be nervous – you’ll need to find some way of enticing your customers into those extra sales. 

Having hand-written signs (for the personal touch) suggesting biscuits and chutneys for a certain cheese, your top ten pairings, or telling your customers detailed tasting notes on your best picks will be crucial, and the best we can do in lieu of that sensory selling point. 

Whatever has gone on this year, the predictions are that Christmas is going to be a celebratory time, this year more than normal. Some people’s income may have been affected, but everyone is going to want to come together and be with friends and family in a way that they couldn’t earlier in the year. People will be looking for extra special things to give themselves and their loved ones a treat. 

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