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Key Insights from Salone del Mobile 2023 on Immersive Brand Experiences and Visual Merchandising

Guest Article | Juliet Borshoff - Creative Director, Design Merchants

We are also delighted to have a very close friend of the RX family Juliet Borshoff from Design Merchants join us with her sight from a recent retail safari to Europe. Juliet and Juanita spent weeks travelling the world on a retail study tour years ago and have remained firm friends, peers and passionate retail advocates. We have often talked around the development of practical solutions to help SME retailers punch above their weight and this month we also excited to introduce her VM Bootcamp which is a must attend for those want to excel at visual merchandising.

Thank you so much for sharing your highlights from Milan Design Week and Salone del Mobile - definitely food for thought.


In April I had the exciting opportunity to travel to Italy beginning with Milan Design Week and Salone del Mobile. With an array of events and activations spread throughout the city I was in awe of the scale and creativity seen throughout. The major drawcard for me however was Salone del Mobile, the world’s largest furniture fair, and its accompanying biennial lighting event, Euroluce. These were held at the Fiero Milano exhibition centre, stretching across eight enormous pavilions.

The Salone del Mobile stand designs were a masterclass in immersive brand experiences and cutting-edge visual merchandising.

Here are my key observations and takeaways:

Sustainability should be front and centre

Brands were required to follow the sustainability guidelines from the Salone del Mobile for all trade fair installations. These were brought to the forefront of not only the trade booth designs but also in the products themselves. There were many brands that shared their sustainability credentials through both effective and meaningful visual merchandising design and displays.

An exceptional example of this was the Saviola trade booth. An interactive and monolithic activation constructed using recycled pieces of wooden furniture. This was then contrasted with the smooth contemporary wooden panelled entrances and calm green space within where the customer could interact and learn more about the product. This was the perfect physical design manifestation of the brands’ circular economy ethos.

Saviola @ Salone del Mobile / Photo by Juliet Borshoff

The Caimi exhibition booth was also a standout in showcasing both the sustainability of their fabrics as well as the wellness aspect of creating calm spaces. Simple but effective display techniques demonstrated the sustainability of their product in a visually compelling way.

Caimi @ Salone del Mobile / Photo Juliet Borshoff

Using brand activations to drive customers in store

In some cases, the trade fair exhibition experiences served as a catalyst for driving customers to physical store locations while maintaining an exciting brand journey. By seamlessly continuing the brand experience, retailers successfully converted the Salone del Mobile interest into foot traffic in their permanent store location.

Foscarini was an innovative example of this approach. They had a very cool exhibition stand at Euroluce incorporating plywood, angular shapes, and block colour housing their designs. While in their Milan store there was an eye-catching grass installation covering the outside of the building and ground floor, lighting nestled within. This showcased the potential for awe inspiring impressions, social media buzz and brand and product visibility through a clever visual strategy.

Foscarini @ Euroluce / Photo by Juliet Borshoff

(IM)POSSIBLE NATURES Installation in the Foscarini Milan store / Photo by Juliet Borshoff

Creating Unexpected Delights

The event featured a remarkable array of unexpected, whimsical, and captivating displays that were truly amazing. By pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box, these presentations went the extra mile to create a surprising experience that left a lasting impression.

A notable highlight was the concept presented by Flou, featuring indoor furniture creatively styled in an oasis of real grass and trees. The addition of atmospheric, moody lighting further enhanced the display, delivering an unexpected twist that truly captured the viewer’s attention.

These unique installations not only enhanced product presentations but also created share-worthy moments that amplified brand exposure on social media.

Flou @ Salone del Mobile / Photos by Juliet Borshoff

Nurturing spaces for customers

Nurturing spaces within many of the exhibition stands provided an exclusive and memorable experience. Mini cafes or bars, special zones for serious customers, and behind-the-curtain settings added an element of exclusivity, while QR codes allowed easy bookings. These bespoke spaces showcased personalised service and made customers feel valued.

Tom Dixon @ Euroluce / Photo by Juliet Borshoff

In a rapidly evolving retail landscape, the importance of visual merchandising and creating exceptional store experiences cannot be understated. Customers expect more than mediocrity; they seek immersive encounters and unique perspectives when visiting physical stores.

Salone del Mobile provided invaluable insights into this, reminding us of the enduring allure and potential of physical retail spaces in the digital age. Proving that by embracing change, maintaining high standards, and exceeding customer expectations, retailers can stand out in an increasingly competitive market.


Juliet Borshoff is Creative Director of visual merchandising & design agency Design Merchants. Design Merchants specialise in consulting, training, and design services, helping businesses create exceptional visual merchandising experiences that take them to the next level.

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