Retail Management

9 Best Budget-Friendly Merchandising Displays to Inspire Your Inner Artist

Published by in Retail Management

Every store needs an artist.

That’s not something you’re going to hear every day, or maybe even ever, but it’s true.

Your product doesn’t sell itself. You have to have great marketing to bring people to your store, great salespeople to explain the product and show how it’s useful, and you have to have a great merchandiser to set up the product attractively.

That merchandiser needs to be your store’s artist. A merchandiser needs to be creative and empathetic, just like any artist. They need to know that a good display is both eye-catching, and able to show off the use of the product.

Some stores have huge budgets and can create incredible works of art in their windows to attract passersby. For instance, this Hermés window display might just be one of the most amazing window displays you’ll ever see:

merchandising displays

via Traveling Around the World

But you don’t need a big budget to make creative visual merchandising displays. To inspire you, I’ve collected some of my favorite displays that you can create on a shoestring. I’ve even included pricing estimates! Use these displays to inspire your own.

1. String Your Cards

merchandising displays

via babble

This is such a good idea for a stationary store. Not only is it adorable, but it allows people to easily see the cards (or other paper products) that you offer, instead of having to dig through racks. Additionally, many people display the cards they receive at home on a refrigerator or their mantle, so it’s easy for a buyer to look at these cards and imagine the way they might look at their friend’s house. The best part about this display is the ease and price. All you need is some string and clothespins, vintage door optional. String cards across your windows, in a corner, or across your whole store.

Twine: $2.33

Clothespins: $3.74

Total: $6.07

2. Office Supplies aren’t just for offices.


via The Sister Sophisticate

I love this display using clipboards. It’s unexpected and whimsical, but it also displays the necklaces to their full advantage. Given that the clip of the clipboard is close to a neck size, it gives a customer a good idea of what the necklace might look like on their neck without any effort. Normally a customer must remove costume jewelry off a small hanger and pull it open with their fingers in order to tell what the necklace actually looks like. Given all that work, it’s very easy for a customer to just glance at the necklace rack and walk by, without ever looking at your necklaces.

Clipboard: $0.52 (each)

Burlap: $1.51 (For 1 yard)

Total for eight clipboard displays: $7.18

3. Don’t put glass in the recycling bin.

via something created everyday

via something created everyday

Here’s another clever display for jewelry or knickknacks (you could fill the bottles with small knickknacks, rather than hanging things on them). Used glass bottles can be very pretty. Before you toss them in your recycling bin, consider collecting them and putting them to work in your store.

My favorite part of this display is how portable it is. You can easily pick these bottles up and move them anywhere in your store. You could also disperse the bottles throughout the store. Another fun touch with glass bottles is filling them with Christmas lights. The bottles will be beautiful and the jewelry hanging on them will sparkle. You could also stuff the bottles with colored tissue paper.

Glass bottles (if you don’t want to drink anything): $2.99 (each)

Christmas lights: $8.96

Assorted tissue paper: $20.30

Total for eight bottle displays: $32.95-$44.22

4. Make Unexpected Mannequins

via Lisa Mende Design

via Lisa Mende Design


via Hative

I’m a big fan of both these displays. Full disclosure: The scarf skirt is actually a display used in the corporate retailer I worked for, during the time I worked there.

What’s special about these is that displaying these items (Christmas greenery and neck scarves) in such an unexpected manner helps customers start to think more creatively about how to use the items. From personal experience, women are often at a loss with what to do with neck scarves, and frequently know only one tie. Displaying scarves like this always got my customers thinking about different ways they could tie it and asking me for suggestions. I imagine the same stands for the Christmas greenery. When customers engage with your product creatively, they are more likely to buy it, because they’re really trying to think about how the product will fit into their lives.

Bust form mannequin: $69

Twine: $2.33

Burlap: $4.53 (for 3 yards of fabric)

Total: $75.86

If you already own mannequins, which is likely if you’re a clothing retailer, your total comes down to $6.86 if you choose to go twine and burlap route. For a scarf skirt, your total could even be $0. As you can see in the photo, we just used a blouse and necklace that were both for sale on the top.

5. Turn old books into new displays.


via The Office Stylist

This display is a clever way to make cheap costume jewelry look expensive and classy. It’s also a perfect size to place at the top of a regular jewelry display. Small displays like this are inexpensive and simple ways to spice up your same old same old without much effort. And antique books, by the way, can easily be got for free. Many libraries give away their oldest books for free, and I have a ton of old books my husband rescued from trash bins that I would be more than happy to send you. (Seriously, leave a comment if you want old books.)

Antique books (if you, for whatever reason, can’t find them for free): $14

Total: $0-$14

6. Tier up with ladders.

via homedit

via homedit


Ladders are a phenomenal way to make tiered displays or interesting shelving. The two photos above give you an idea of how ladders can be used to make shelves or simple tiered displays. You can display almost anything on a ladder, and they’ll add a level of whimsy to any product.

The prices on ladders will typically be more expensive, especially if you’re looking for antique-esque ladders, but here are some ladders under $60 that I’ve dug up for you:

Freestanding vintage wooden five step ladder: $49.95

Freestanding vintage wooden two step ladder: $58

Leaning wooden five step ladder: $44.95

Leaning vintage wooden four step ladder: $44.95

7. Don’t unwind your twine.


via Lushome

Like the books, this another perfect small display. This twine is perfect for things that can’t easily be hung, like broaches, earrings, and other pins. You could place this at the top of an average display, or bring it up to the counter to encourage impulse buys at the register.

Twine: $8

Pretty holder: $12.99

Total: $20.99

Please note: You’re going to need to get creative with your holder here. There are all manner of objects and styles you could stand your twine on. Heck, you could even stand your twine by itself. Just don’t be afraid to try something completely different than the picture, or the item I found.

8. Have a bake sale.

via Seasonal Wisdom

via Seasonal Wisdom

This display presents the perfect way to repurpose old kitchenware. This display specifically uses old cake tins, but you could easily take old pots, pans, bowls and maybe even silverware to spice up displays. This particular store has painted the cake-tins and glued some type of holders between them, but depending on your store’s vibe, you could leave the items unpainted and unconnected. Don’t be afraid to do something really different.

Cake tins: $3.99 (for a brand new, 6” pan – use your own for free, or Goodwill’s for cheaper)

Crystal candle holders to put between the tins: $7.80 (or shop Goodwill for cheaper items to glue between the tins)

White primer spray paint for aluminum: $6.99

Assorted colored acrylic paints: $3.62

Assorted paint brushes: $13.97

Super glue: $3.42

Total: $47.77 (For a three tiered display)

Please note: I’m not the most crafty person. Those could be the completely wrong paints and glue to get. These are just estimates.

9. Shutter your business.

via Tipsted

via Tipsted

Old shutters are totally useless for one’s house, but what about one’s store? Bringing in old shutters to hang small accessories or even whole outfits is a great idea! It provides a vintage backdrop to your clothes, without taking away too much focus from your items. Plus, the setup is so easy! Just prop them up and starting putting your product on it! This is the ideal solution for those of us who aren’t very crafty.

Vintage shutters: $35

Bonus: The Vignette Display

via Boutique Window

via Boutique Window

This full vignette display is simply breathtaking. It’s certainly more complex than anything else I featured above but it’s very well worth it. Given that this display is set up much like a woman’s bedroom, it helps customers really visualize what their life could be like with these items, and as we discussed above, that’s a great way to encourage purchases. To find out how to replicate this display, check out this fabulous blog post by Boutique Window.

What are your favorite budget-friendly merchandising display ideas?

There are tons of ways to do retail merchandising displays, on or off a budget. What tips do you recommend? Have you tried any of these? Share pictures and comments with me below!

Looking for Retail Management Systems software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Retail Management Systems software solutions.

About the Author

Cara Wood

Cara Wood

Cara Wood is a marketing associate at Capterra and a graduate of Mary Washington! When she's not hard at work at Capterra, she can be found horse-back riding, reading and just generally having a good time at life.


Comment by Taylor.H on

I think its always a good idea to be daring and bold with your window and shop displays. At the end of the day, the whole point of a window display is to catch the attention of passers buy and tempt them to come inside the store. The Hermes store is an excellent example of how to keep a classy, sophisticated look that isn’t boring, and in my opinion, the window displays in a lot of upmarket stores, or stores trying to achieve that look are in fact pretty boring.

Comment by Jenny from Carus Jewellery on

Hi Cara, love your book the display. Give a real old world feel 🙂


Comment by Cara Wood on

Jack, thanks for the feedback! Yes, the way that the clothes are laid out is hugely impactful on purchase decisions. The stores that I’ve worked for had whole teams devoted just to layout, and we changed the layout of the store once a week. Good luck with your endeavour!


Comment by Jack Palmer on

I like the idea of using the mannequin in a way that helps customers will start thinking creatively in how they will use the product. My wife is thinking of opening a clothing store so we’ve been doing a lot of research about it. I never realized how much the display of the store could have an impact on consumers. I find it all really fascinating. Thanks for sharing!


Comment by Cara Wood on

Thanks so much for your feedback James! I really appreciate it. I’d love to see some pictures of what you’re able to do in your store! Please share at some point with me. 🙂

Comment by James Chandler on

I love the creativity used on this site. Many of the items i.e. glass bottles, old shutters and yarn are items that most people wouldn’t associate with eye-catching displays. Congratulations on your creativity. I’ll see how we might be able to incorporate some of these designs into our offering.

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