Horizontal vs Vertical Merchandising — All You Need to Know

Visual merchandising is a must-do for all brick-and-mortar stores. In-store merchandising means organising your products to improve the shopping experience, attract customers and increase profit. It can even improve brand loyalty and boost traffic! With shelf arrangements playing a key role in successful merchandising, do you know what to do?


This article covers horizontal and vertical merchandising techniques — the two fundamental ones every shop owner should know. Understanding how they work and how to use them will allow you to improve your bottom line by boosting impulse buying and upselling.

Horizontal vs Vertical Merchandising

Horizontal merchandising explained

When using horizontal merchandising in your store, your products will be displayed from left to right in a horizontal line. This merchandising technique offers many advantages, but it also comes with its drawbacks. Let us look more closely at both.

The science behind horizontal merchandising

Our vision is binocular and skewed towards a horizontal plane, meaning we take in more objects when placed next to each other on the same level. Since the products placed between 1500mm and 1700 mm are in the prime position to be seen by adults, that’s the golden standard for horizontal merchandising techniques.

The benefits of horizontal shelf displays

  • It gives maximum visibility to the most profitable product — If you have a high-value line of products, horizontal merchandising allows you to place the entire collection at eye level.
  • It makes it easier to simultaneously target different audiences — Since you are displaying your products horizontally, you can target an adult audience up higher, while the lower shelves can be turned into irresistible displays for kids.
  • It entices the customers to walk along — Once you attract your customers’ attention with a top product at the front, you can guide them down the aisle or along the wall to finish seeing the range.

The drawbacks of using horizontal merchandising

  • It requires continuous movement — The customer will need to move from left to right to see the entire display. Turn this into an advantage by incorporating this movement when deciding on your store planogram.
  • It’s harder to upsell — Because you are displaying a product range horizontally, it’s more difficult to make the customer notice a more expensive product or add-on items at a different height.
  • It’s more difficult to make a product stand out — When mixed in with an entire collection or all the other products of the same type, it’s harder for your best seller to catch the eye of a customer. This drawback can be solved using some props.

Vertical merchandising made clear

On the other hand, with vertical merchandising, the products are organised in a straight vertical line that goes from top to bottom. You might immediately think of some advantages to this marketing technique, let’s see if we can reveal more!

The science behind vertical merchandising

Because of our natural tendency to look sideways instead of up and down, the higher and lower shelves in a store get a lot less attention. Vertical merchandising is a tried-and-true technique for broadening the customers’ focus to the entire display.

The benefits of vertical merchandising

  • It doesn’t requires movement — With a vertical display, customers can browse the entire range simply by looking up and down. That makes it easier to see the whole offering, compare prices and make a choice.
  • It’s easier to cross merchandise — With different collections and products at the same height, creating bundles and add-on suggestions is a breeze.
  • It allows for prime placement of best sellers — Display all the most popular products, from different brands or collections, in your customer’s line of sight and give them maximum visibility.
  • It encourages display combinations — There are many vertical merchandising ideas you can try. For example, you can go from light to heavy or cheaper to most expensive. Or you could play with colours and create a rainbow or any other visually-pleasing cascading display.

The drawbacks of vertical displays

  • The height of the displays — Some products end up outside the customer’s direct line of sight and might be missed.
  • Narrow product focus — Out of an entire collection, only 2 to 3 products are at eye level, while the rest will be higher or lower. That can be limiting if you have a high-profit collection, as it can’t all be displayed in front of their eyes.
  • Excessive representation of secondary products — Because of the demands of vertical merchandising, some SKUs that don’t need to be in a prime position might need to be placed there.

What is best, horizontal or vertical merchandising? Our answer

Well, a combination of both is the winning solution! While what you do should entirely depend on your store’s layout and product range, we have found that using horizontal and vertical merchandising ideas together yields the best results.

For example, try this to improve your displays and sell more with your gondola shelving. Place your best sellers at eye level and use vertical merchandising to widen your customer’s field of view. Then take advantage of all gondola displays’ flexibility by adding half shelves with complementary products. They will be noticed and picked up, resulting in higher units per transaction and average transaction value!

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