The Art and Science of Farmers Market Displays

By Mary Peabody
UVM Extension

You have a great product so why aren’t sales as good as you hoped? Having a great product is important but only if you can successfully attract customers to ‘try and buy’. So in this lesson we’ll go over some basic tips for arranging your space, display strategies that work and a few other tips that will let customers know you are open for business.

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Farm Stand Displays

Learn How to Create Farmers’ Market Displays that Really Sell

Effective Displays Yield Increased Sales

A good display is a great strategy for increasing sales. An eye-catching set-up is a magnet, drawing shoppers in to admire the visual art you have created. And getting shoppers to buy is a lot easier once you have them at your stand. A steady stream of traffic in and out of your sales area will attract other shoppers. People are naturally curious. If they see a cluster of people gathering at a particular spot they will want to know what is creating the interest.

Take a few moments to learn more and then put what you have learned to work with the lesson’s take-home suggestions.



Create a sense of abundance

Overflowing baskets of produce invite the customer in and makes them want to purchase. The challenge here is to make your display look like a work of art but one that invites touching. Keep your displays looking full and colorful but also make them user-friendly. Baskets make great displays because they are easy to select an item from without fearing that the whole thing will fall apart.

Baskets have the added benefit of being easy to keep looking full. If you don’t want to put out a whole basket of something just fill the basket partway with some straw or leaves or something seasonal and then place your produce on top. The basket still looks full but with a lot less produce. Keep your products restocked throughout the entire period that you are selling so everything looks fresh and enticing. Don’t give your late shoppers the impression that the best stuff has already been sold and they are stuck with the left-overs.

Tip: Keep a couple sturdy shopping bags around and pass them to shoppers who arrive at your stand with their hands full. People can’t shop if their hands are full!


Customer Friendly

Make your space customer-friendly

While abundance is important you want to avoid creating a space that is cluttered and over-crowded. Consider protection from the weather–imagine your space on a hot sunny day, a cold, rainy day and a windy day–and plan for protection from the elements. Arrange your display so that customers will have room to move around. Place the cash register strategically so that customers lining up to pay will not block new customers entering. Leave room for you and your employees to restock, freshen up displays and talk with customers without blocking others from getting to the displays. Make your displays easy to reach so customers won’t have to rely on you to help them.

If you have a narrow display space usually the best option is to create a linear set-up. Although this keeps the display between you and the customer it does maximize the display space while keeping the back side of the display clear for you to restock and move about.

If you have a larger space consider a U-shaped display. This draws the customer into your display and allows more display frontage for you. It also allows you to be out on ‘the floor’ of the display to help customers and answer questions.

Tip: Avoid putting too many items down on the ground. Research indicates that shoppers (women especially) don’t like having to bend over to reach an item.

Tip: With a U-shaped display, many vendors find it easier to take money and make change from a cash-apron rather than having a register. This works especially well if you don’t have enough staff to have someone dedicated to ringing up sales and if you are good at making change without using a calculater or register.


3-dimensional displays

Make the most of your space by maximizing all 3 dimensions – height, width and depth

Make your displays 3-dimensional. Use racks to display items that are light-weight or can easily be stacked. Use depth to your advantage. The average customer will be able to reach at least 2-3 feet into a display without feeling awkward or inconvenienced. Combine depth and height to make the most of small spaces. A display rack does not have to be expensive. Racks like this are relatively easy to make and will last a long time. The benefit of a display like this is that your display looks full and it allows you to show different sizes of product to give customers an idea of all their options.

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3-dimensional displays

Make the most of your space by maximizing all 3 dimensions – continued

While upright racks are very useful for displaying many different types of products you will want to make sure that you can anchor them well–especially if you are outside where the wind may be a problem. Don’t be afraid to let items overlap a bit as this helps to create that sense of abundance we talked of earlier but don’t overcrowd your items to the point that buyers won’t be able to see everything you have available.

Tip:When you get your display set up in a way that works well take some photos and sketch out the basic layout. Add a few written notes, bundle it into a binder or file folder and you, or anyone else, will be able to recreate that winning display easily.

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Label it

Make Buying Easy for Your Customers

Make sure your products are clearly marked. Provide cooking and serving ideas for unfamiliar items. Offer samples so customers can see and taste what they will be buying.

Many customers are reluctant to ask the cost of items so make sure that they will have the information without having to ask. Keep your products well-labeled and make sure that labels are attached so they don’t come loose. Make sure that your signs can be read easily from a distance of 3-5 feet. It is a really good investment to make some nice labels that are waterproof and rugged enough to stand up to a whole season. It’s a lot of work at the beginning but once they are made you’ll only have to remember to bring them with you. If you are selling a product that may be unfamiliar to your customers then offer some possible uses right on the label. Don’t be afraid to offer advice on how to prepare something or what other foods/beverages might pair well with the product. Whenever possible, include education as part of your display.

Tip: During the off-season select a few really great recipes that highlight your feature products. Copy them onto card stock that has your business name, logo, and contact information. Keep a stack of these next to your register and hand them to customers. Whenever they make the recipe they will think of you.

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Make Yourself Visible

Make yourself part of the display

Be present whenever customers are in the area and wear something that identifies you as the person staffing the area. Be open and welcoming. Take the time to package the purchase up appropriately– this can be as simple as offering to bag the product or it can involve some extra steps to ensure that the product arrives home in good shape. For example, a farmer that I buy flowers from always trims the stems, packs the stems in wet paper and then bundles the wrapped stems into a plastic bag. That way the flower stems stay moist but the plastic keeps my bag and my car dry on the way home. This lets the customer know that the product has value to you and that you care about more than making the sale.

Tip: Make sure your customers can tell the sellers from the buyers on a busy market day. Make sure you and all employees wear hats, shirts, or aprons with your logo. This has the added benefit of keeping your business name in front of the customer. Some vendors find that a particular ‘look’ works to help them stand out — maybe a funky hat or some eye-catching suspenders. Photos of your farm or your business are also a good idea.

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Using color

Let your products shine

Use background colors that enhance what you are selling. Avoid using colors that will clash with your product.

There has been lots of research done on the role of color and marketing and the evidence certainly points to a connection between color, emotion, and consumer behavior. The good news for you is that you don’t need a degree in color theory. What you need to know is that colors that come from nature are generally good colors and that makes your job easier. When you select colors for table covers, logos, packaging keep in mind that you want to emphasize your products. In general, for food products select colors in natural earth tones and avoid loud prints and bright shades. For craft products, let your product guide you.

Tip: Invite some people that you trust to review your display and give you honest feedback. Sometimes very simple changes can make big differences in how customers perceive you and your product(s).

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Quick and Easy

Have a “grab ‘n’ go” section

Especially if your market is an afternoon market you can expect some customers to stop by on their way home from work. While weekend markets often attract customers who want to spend time wandering from vendor to vendor, carefully selecting items and spending time learning about new products, you will find those same customers may have very different purchasing habits on a weekday afternoon. These customers may be in a hurry, tired, stressed out, and just not in the mood for a lengthy shop. Have some items packaged, priced and ready for quick sales. For example, a bag of washed salad greens, some pre-made bouquets, pre-cut vegetables, ready-made desserts and breads and cheeses all make it easy for customers to select, pay and be on their way in no time.

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Now It’s Your Turn

Plan Your Display

OK, you’ve reviewed some of our tips for having a workable, attention-getting display at your farm market. Now it’s time to get your display in shape for the coming season. Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Start by sketching out your display area. It will help if you do this on graph paper so you can create the design in scale.
  • Make a list of the items that you’ll be selling– keep in mind that if you sell fruits and vegetables you might have less at the beginning of the season and more during the middle and end of the season. Use this list to see how many baskets, boxes, and other containers you will need.
  • Make a list of what types of display material you have to work with — tables (length, width, height), baskets (how many, what size), banners, signs, table coverings, racks, stands, etc.
  • Make a list of equipment that you will need to have either in the sales area or nearby — scales, register or cash box, bags or other packaging material, water for misting your plants and veggies, etc.
  • Put together a small box with tape, scissors, markers, pens/pencils, paper, etc. for emergency repairs or last minute signs.
  • Repair broken table legs; clean or repaint the components of your display; wash banners, tarps and signs; find appropriate materials to partially fill baskets and boxes
  • Set up a mock display. This will give you a feel for how the display will look, how traffic will flow and where some changes might be in order. Opening day is not a great time to find out that your baskets don’t fit on the tables you have.
  • Consider spending some time making some nice, durable labels for your products and some recipes or other give-aways that have your business name on them.
  • Make up some information sheets that will provide answers to some common questions and have them laminated so that they will last the season.
  • Hire good employees and train them well. Every individual that works at your farm stand should be well-informed, pleasant, and customer-oriented.

There are many more actions you can take that will make your market experience both fun and profitable but these tips will help get your market display back in shape.