7 Off-Shelf Visual Merchandising Displays that Drive Sales

Visual Merchandising Displays

Whether you are planning and executing merchandising strategies for a retailer, a supplier, a distributor, or a broker, off-shelf displays will be one of the most important sales drivers in your toolbelt. You may choose to use visual merchandising displays for many reasons: to support new product launches, promote seasonal items, showcase everyday low price items, latch on to local market trends, and more. 

This post explores the unique value of off-shelf displays, covers seven common off-shelf merchandising displays, and highlights how to get the most out of each.

What is an Off-Shelf Merchandise Display?

Off-shelf placement refers to any merchandising display executed at a retail location outside of your brand’s “normal” inline shelf placement. 

While inline placement helps to drive consistent, long-term sales with customers who are already familiar with your product, off-shelf merchandising is the best way to drive incremental sales with new customers or on new SKUs. 

Off-shelf displays help you engage with shoppers where they are not necessarily seeking your product specifically and give them the opportunity to try something new. 

Think of it as a billboard for your brand that can catch the eyes of new shoppers. Securing off-shelf merchandising placement helps you trial new products, take advantage of seasonality, build awareness for your brand as a whole, and drive incremental sales in strategic locations or during high-value times of the year.

Top 7 Visual Merchandising Display Types for FMCG

  1. End Cap
  2. Side Cap
  3. Case Stacks
  4. Pallet Drops
  5. Shippers
  6. POS Displays
  7. Dump Bins


End cap displays are found at the end of the aisle and are visible from the store's perimeter. They range from four feet to eight feet wide and are generally merchandised with high-value products. End caps may host sale items, seasonal products, or even high volume, everyday value items that simply require more holding power than inline sets can provide (think: cases of bottled water in the summer).

While retailers generally get the final say on which products go on an end cap, suppliers and distributors can and should make recommendations for visual merchandising execution based on their expertise for their products.

Tips for Merchandising End Caps

Keep a Limited SKU Count

Offering too many choices on an endcap will cause shoppers to be indecisive and move on from the display. For most items, include no more than four different SKUs to give shoppers a choice without overcomplicating things.

Merchandise SKUs Vertically

Let’s say you have four SKUs of condiments on an endcap – ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and barbecue sauce. If you devote an entire shelf to each condiment, at least one of your SKUs will be out of reach or out of sight for customers. However, if you merchandised SKUs vertically (also known as “striping”), every item has a presence on every shelf, and you’re more likely to pick up sales on multiple items.

Plan for Jumper Shelves

Jumper shelves help retailers increase overall basket size by merchandising complementary items together. For example, if you are building a tortilla chip display, plan for a jumper shelf in the middle of the endcap for a side of salsa.


As the name suggests, side cap displays live adjacent to — or on the side of — the end cap display. These visual merchandising displays are often only one to two feet wide, but they have the advantage of being seen by perimeter and aisle shoppers.

Items merchandised on side caps are often on sale but don’t hold the same weight as items on the end caps. Side cap displays give retailers an opportunity to build basket size and fulfill a blended margin strategy. So, while retailers and suppliers may have a smaller margin on value items merchandised on end caps, they might balance (or blend) their overall margin by using them to merchandise full-price items.

Tips for Merchandising Side Caps

Consider Pack Size

Side caps tend to have limited holding power — so to reduce out-of-stocks, consider only merchandising items with smaller pack sizes here. Think six-pack of soda on an end cap, individual bottle on a side cap.

Adjacencies Matter

An adjacency refers to any nearby display that is also visible to a shopper. For a side cap, this includes products on an end cap just around the corner or those inline down the aisle. Consider what other items your products are most relevant to when considering adjacency recommendations for your side cap display.

Limit SKU Count

Given the overall size of this display, it is best practice to limit SKU count to two unique items per side cap. While there is always an exception to the rule, fewer and more focused SKU counts will both drive impulse buys and be more likely to be executed consistently at the retailer.


Case stacks are exactly what they sound like — cases of your item cut open and stacked on top of each other.

Because case stack displays don’t require a fixture to be executed, they are generally simpler to coordinate logistically with retailers. They also give the supplier and the retailer the option of positioning items outside of the center of the store to drive incremental sales.

Tips for Merchandising Case Stacks

Consider Traffic Patterns

Side caps tend to have limited holding power — so to reduce out-of-stocks, consider only merchandising items with smaller pack sizes here. Think six-pack of soda on an end cap, individual bottle on a side cap.

Play with Seasonality

What goes best with pumpkins in the fall? Pumpkin Beer. Or Pumpkin-Flavored Soda. Or Pumpkin Spice for lattes. Hit seasonal trends hard for cross-sells when possible!

Go After Complementary Items

This is where cross-merchandising gets fun. Case stacks give you the option of putting your crackers right next to the main cheese display, or your guacamole mix right next to the avocados. What are the fresh items that are commonly purchased with your products?


Pallet drops are the simplest visual merchandising display to execute — in most cases, you can pull the pallet right off the truck, wheel it to the sales floor, and put a sign on it. Voila! Pallet drops tend to be best for high-volume items that are physically large and relevant to the season or current events.

In the summer, you might see a series of pallet drops that include cases of potato chips, 12-packs of soda, and charcoal for the grill. These are the must-have items for the season that are going to make it into the majority of carts that pass by.

Tips for Merchandising Pallet Drops

Consider the Weight of the Item

While pallet drop items tend to be physically large, you should avoid items that are too heavy here. If the pallet gets shopped to a level that is below the knee, you don’t want customers breaking their backs to try to lift it. So, a case of variety pack chips might work well, but cat litter would not.

Think About Your Exit Strategy

Pallet drops require a high level of inventory to be merchandised effectively. What happens if you don’t sell as much as you had hoped? Consider this when drafting your promotional calendar — it may be worth it to plan for a secondary promotion immediately following your pallet drop to help you sell through any remaining inventory that is left on hand.


A merchandising shipper is a temporary, branded visual merchandising display sent from the supplier or distributor to a retailer for use, often during a promotional period for the brand. Shippers give suppliers a branded way to execute off-shelf displays, without relying on the retailer to provide fixtures or shelf space.

Shippers are often custom-designed and fabricated to fit a supplier's products specifically and are most often made from substrates that can ship flat and be easily assembled by retailers or reps in the store.

Tips for Merchandising Shippers

Understand the Retailer's Guidelines

Sending merchandising shippers can be effective but expensive for brands. Before you make the investment, make sure you are clear on each retailers’ policies. Some retailers may not allow them in stores, while others will use them every chance they get. Make sure you come to a clear agreement with a retailer before sending them to stores; the last thing you want is for your displays to end up in the trash without even making it to the sales floor!


A Point-of-Sale (POS) display usually refers to a merchandising display that is at or near the checkout area of a store.

In a grocery store, you’ll often see everyday displays of magazines, candy bars, and gum here — but you will likely also see seasonal or promotional displays in this location as well. POS displays are great locations for seasonal impulse buys and everyday items that a customer may have forgotten to grab while shopping.

Tips for Merchandising POS Displays

Hone in on Messaging

There are few places in the store where you have a captive audience that is eager to read signs. However, the checkout line is one place where you have a good chance at getting your message across. Shoppers will likely glance at the magazine covers, their cell phones, or POS signage while they wait. This is your opportunity to tell your brand story! Yes, the messaging should be brief, but you have a better chance of being memorable here than in most locations in the store.

Perfect Your Positioning

Speaking of waiting in line, consider targeting the second person standing in line with the placement of your display. While the first person in line is getting their payment ready while their items are being scanned, the second person in line is loading up the conveyor belt with items from their cart. They have just read about your brand on your well-placed signage, and now they are in the process of lifting items and loading them onto the belt. A POS display makes it easy for them to load items from the display onto the belt.


Retail dump bins or baskets hold individual items that are quite literally ‘dumped’ into them. These merchandising displays are intentionally disorganized to create the impression that the items within are a great deal.

Shoppers sift through the dump bins to find different flavors of items — giving them the feeling that they are on a treasure hunt for the best deal or flavor.

Tips for Merchandising Dump Bins

Price in Multiples

If items are priced in multiples (like 5 for $5, 8 for $10), shoppers will likely sort through the dump bins to find multiple items.

Increase SKU Count

This is the place where it’s good to bump up your SKU count. If the items are priced in multiples, this is a great way to drive a trial of several flavors of your product. If a customer has already tried three flavors, they are much more likely to add a fourth or fifth using this type of merchandise display.

Remember, not every visual merchandising display type is right for every type of product. Consider the goals of your business to determine what type of display is right for you during your promotional planning process. 

Off-shelf merchandising is best executed when retailers, suppliers, and distributors work hand-in-hand to determine the best strategy given the products, the timelines, and the retail locations involved.

For more on how to plan for and negotiate for off-shelf placement, check out our articles on New Product Launches, Promo Planning, and POP Signage.


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