A look behind the displays

By George Farrell

Published Nov. 28 2017

Christmas is the time of year when every retail business goes all-out with their product displays. It might seem at times that stores go over the top in their attempts to get you to part with your hard-earned dollars but there’s method to the madness and displays are often the product of hours of planning.

As an example take The Boutique the gift shop located in the Rails End Gallery. The B outique has a six-member committee called the Boutique Improvement Committee (BIC) whose mission it is to keep the boutique fresh through the use of merchandising display and marketing while also enhancing the role of the relationship between the purchaser and the gallery.

The committee was formed just last year and 2017 is the first year that The Boutique which is separate from the gallery space has expanded to the gallery. “It’s the first Christmas Boutique and is a promotional concept meant to increase sales for the benefit of local artists and the gallery” said curator Laurie Jones. The Boutique accepts arts and crafts products on consignment with 30 per cent of each sale going to the gallery.

“The BIC decided to find out how other galleries and museums run their shops” said Rails End administrative assistant and BIC member Michelle St. Pierre “and we found out that they had committees whose members attended gift shows. Then after the shows they met to talk about displays and product selection that would suit their markets.”

“Most gallery and museum gift shops are volunteer-driven” Jones said. “Ours is a staff-supported committee with volunteers and we look to establish The Boutique as a growing income stream which is part of our fundraising efforts.”

In addition to staffers Jones and St. Pierre the committee consists of Maija Stone Janet Trull Jacquie Clarkson and Marguerite Easby.

The Boutique has seen an improvement in sales so I asked Jones and St. Pierre what they attributed that to. “It’s due to what we’ve learned” said St. Pierre. Jones concurred. “It’s little things like putting product in threes and fives for instance which is more pleasing; and colour blocking (blocks of items of the same colour) and having displays on different elevations. Lighting is also important to direct people’s eyes through your space.”

“Some people don’t like to turn an item over to see the price” said St. Pierre. “So we’ve learned to put price tags where people can easily see them. And we’ve learned so much from Toby Fergenbaum who has worked diligently in revamping the merchandise displays. She’s a volunteer who since the summer comes in every week to help out.”

So what can visitors expect to see in the Christmas Boutique? Well there are new and exclusive items like decorative beeswax candles from Ron Lofthouse; a new line of glass fridge magnets from Artech Glassblowing Studios a line of washable cashmere baby-wear courtesy of Eva Rutherford; linen tea towels by Sparrow Avenue; wrought iron towel racks coat hangers and candle holders by father and son team Jim and Ben Carter; leather handbags and jewelry from Karen Gunna; colourful infinity scarves from Oscardo some which feature designs by Indigenous artists like Norval Morrisseau; up-cycled mittens by Faye Wright; plus a variety of handmade ornaments and Christmas cards.

The Boutique and the Christmas Boutique are both open until Dec. 23 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and on Sunday from 12 noon to 3 p.m. On Dec. 9 from noon until 4.p.m. The Boutique will be having an open house where you can peruse the wonderful displays while indulging in mulled cider and shortbread.

So if you’re looking for that special unusual gift for Christmas and want to help out an artist at the same time maybe what the BIC committee has learned about displaying their wares might prompt you to purchase.