Window displays and visual merchandising doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. Major chains and global brands need to be consistent and invest in cookie cutter visuals for their displays. However, if you run a boutique or smaller niche outlet, you have more freedom of expression.

A mannequin wearing your boutique fare may not be very interesting standing alone in your storefront window. You will need to use your imagination to make grab attention if you’re on a budget. Here’s some food for thought. If you’re in a boutique, then you’re selling interesting and unique items, right? So it stands to muster that if you use something really unique in your visual display, then it will lend itself to being a hip and fashionable choice. After all, you’re the one setting the trends here.

Some stores have successfully used recycled and reused items to create stunning displays that didn’t cost them a dime. One store used an old oil drum cut up into a giant sheet of stars to create the background for their new summer line display. They painted multi-colored stripes on an old curtain and hung it behind the stars, adding depth and texture to their window mannequin display. It didn’t cost but a few bucks to the welder the cut out the stars, but the display ended up being pretty effective.

They dressed the mannequins in clothing that had lots of prints, plaids, paisleys, and spots. Sounds just awful against that striped and starred background, but when they added in some banana tree leaves and piles of pots and pans around the bottom, the mismatched assortment helped to communicate the unique nature of the clothing that was offered inside the store. People just couldn’t pass that window without wondering what in the world it meant!

Creating a little intrigue can go a long way. You can bring the theme of the window display into your store if you want. For example, take the store that we just mentioned. They could have the welder put together some structures made out of old pots and pans to put on top of their garment racks. They could take it a step further and fashion the pots and pans into chairs or even a tall column to display in the middle of the store. They could use pots and pans to display accessories, socks or tank tops.

It doesn’t really matter what you use. It could be petticoats, water bottles, CD’s, or old TV’s. You can decorate or paint reusable or recycled items to make them into works of art. You could even take various items, like softballs, flower pots, and computer keyboards, and turn them into a mannequin that displays your clothing.

The point is that you run a boutique. You can do whatever you want. The more “out there” your designs, the more attention you’re going to get. You can top each garment rack in your store with a mannequin’s head, a leg, or a giant stuffed bird. Use your imagination. If you get interesting enough, you may start to see people getting their pictures made next to your oddly intriguing visuals, and then just imagine how far the word could spread! Talk about effective marketing on a budget!

About the Author: John Garvey is on the staff of Only Garment Racks, a leading online source of garment racks including clothing racks. Find a high quality garment rack or clothing rack at