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Winter 2010 Kill Dead Space

When all you’ve got is a small cart to sell your goods, making use of every square inch—beautifully and with impact—is a must. See how our expert visual merchandiser addresses the problem of “dead space.”

What defines dead space in a cart? The answer can vary depending on whom you ask. Specialty leasing agents give two interpretations.

The first is that dead space is any area on a cart that is not utilized to display or stock merchandise—and by extension—to increase profits.

The second interpretation, rephrased as “white space,” applies to open area or air space for the eye to rest. It’s especially needed when a cart is over-merchandised.

Interestingly enough, in discussions with specialty leasing agents, it became increasingly apparent that there is a change in mall management’s view of how a cart should look. The old train of thought was to leave open areas on the RMU and not block the visibility of the inline tenants. That idea has changed; currently the bed of the RMU can be fully merchandised.


This RMU sells a product with a twist—the soaps are in the shapes of fruit. To drive that point home, a fruit stand was the inspiration for the RMU’s visual presentation.
Wooden fruit bins—each holding a specific fruit—filled the RMU.

The wooden bins were painted a shade of green—a color chosen to complement the fruit.

To add another texture and color to the RMU, fruit-picking baskets were added to hold larger soaps.

Once the arrangement was completed, two problems became apparent. First, there was dead space above the fruit bins. Second, because the fruit soaps looked so realistic, it wasn’t clear that it was soap—not fruit—that was being sold at this RMU.


The modified “After” arrangement addresses the dead space above the fruit bin with a sign promoting the handmade soaps. Signs for the various fruit bins and additional ones explaining that the product being sold was soap—not fruit—were added. Pre-made baskets were used to fill in other dead space.

Alex Laird

Alex Laird is a visual merchandiser and creative retail consultant with extensive experience assisting retailers design innovative retail displays

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