What is Cross Merchandising? Does it make a difference?

Cross Merchandising, designed to make customer and retailer happy.

You head to the fashion store, needing that new shirt you saw last week. You know, the plain white one with the little rose blooming at the top corner.

There it is, you head to the rack, check the size. Success!

Five minutes later you exit, the store’s brand inscribed on the heavy duty plastic bag with which you were supplied. Inside the bag sits your new shirt. It is going to look brilliant. But that isn’t all you have in your goodie bag. You needed a new handbag to go with your shirt. Nothing you had quite fit with the design of your purchase, and now you have one because you saw just the perfect one right next to the rack you were standing.

What is Cross Merchandising?

Cross merchandising, the clever trick that catches us all by placing together separate items to complement each other. It is both helpful and perhaps a touch deceitful, encouraging customers to part with their cash for something that they do not necessarily need. But maybe they want?

You know the sort of thing where the chocolate bars are placed just at the checkout counter? Conveniently stationed to reward you for the 50-minute trawl around the supermarket and the anticipated half an hour queuing to pay while the dear old thing in front of you produces thirty different coupons and a bag full of loose change.

Or maybe it was something to bribe another twenty minutes of quiet from the kids while you drive the rest of the way home from the gas station where you just filled up the car.

What techniques are employed?

The Management Study Guide offers good advice with regards to effective cross-merchandising. It suggests such opposites as mobile phone covers to be displayed next to the actual cell phone. Or, ties and cufflinks near dress shirts.

Shoe accessories (laces, polish, etc.) next to shoes. Nothing too ground-breakingly complicated, but the site goes further to maximize the effect of this retail technique.

It is, it tells us, necessary that displays are arranged carefully, as otherwise, the store area can look cluttered, which is a big turn-off for customers.

It advises that retailers make use of visual aids to maximize the effect of the cross merchandising, for example using store mannequins to display accessories.

It's convenient that stores are now effectively using planograms to illustrate the best possible layouts for their store employees to follow. Read here about conducting retail audits to judge planogram execution.

Benefits for the Customer

Customers want their shopping to be simple, to be enjoyable and to help them gain inspiration. Cross merchandising can achieve all of these.


You are looking for a gift for a male friend or relative. He wants a new tie. You have an idea of what to get him, but once you are there, it doesn’t quite seem enough. However, nearby are an extensive collection of well-displayed cufflinks. By being close by, you can physically compare the two items to see which look great together.


A part of the joy of shopping is the dream fulfillment element. You don’t always buy everything you want (unless you are either highly indulged, or extremely wealthy or, most probably, both) but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to dream.
This harmless activity is more easily done because everything you need is there in front of you. And who knows, next time you might even reach for the credit card.


The last thing shoppers want to do is to traipse around store after store seeking the items they need. Having everything in one place helps. You have bought your new sunglasses; now you don’t want to search around for a case.
The new electronics are in your basket. How easy is it to forget the batteries? You are far more likely to remember them if they are there in front of you.

Benefits for the retailer

These advantages to the retailer, according to the small business site www.smallbusiness.chron.com, are manifold.

Before the store even begins selling it is drawing additional potential customers through the door. The satisfaction of these clients is high because their experience is, simple, fun and inspirational. All three of these combine with the intended result of more products being purchased.

A win-win situation for all.

Other factors to take into consideration

Smarta offers marketing advice to sellers. One of the key points that they make is that the additional item should be cheaper than the primary. They also warn about the dangers of pushiness.

Customers want to see something that will be of genuine benefit to them and will feel, according to the site, disengaged if they feel that they are being taken for a ride.

Some of the strongest exponents of effective cross merchandising are on-line airlines. Here, such extras as car hire, hotels and insurances are conveniently displayed, making it easy for the customer to get their entire needs met in one place.

Finally, give consideration to external factors. These can include everything from time of year (large turkey roasting tins next to the cranberry sauce), though prices – a five-hundred-dollar suit next to a polyester tie might be a mistake - and even the weather. For example, ear muffs and gloves as winter sets into your area.

Listen Outward to Your Customer

Successful cross merchandising involves listening to customers. An empathetic manager will have a good grasp on what her customers want. They will know the things that they are failing to supply, as well as those items that fly off the shelf or stay there, like a dead fly.

Clever merchandising might move on those bright orange bathing caps you bought in a rush of sun-induced confusion last summer. Who knows, put them out with the ‘back to school’ setups and you might even start a trend?

And finally…

Another field that lends itself well to cross merchandising is within household decorations.

For example, that lovely new picture that you have bought, wouldn’t it look wonderfully hung above a small table? Or, conversely, the brilliant minimalist white wall covering which you have a plan to paint, would be set off superbly by a print with a highlight of bright red.

There’s a lot to be said for cross merchandising, even if it is a bit brazen at times because it helps both the consumer as well as the supplier.

Take a look the next time you go to the store to find all sort of cross-selling in stores big and small.