Co-Operative Displaying

Reprinted from China, Glass, and Lamps, January 1931
by Mark A. Nye
Issue No. 264 - April 1995

Editor's Note: As a follow-up to Mark Nye's two-part series on What Retails, this month we focus on how the better stores began to learn that how they displayed elegant glassware had a marked effect on how well they sold. In this reprint from China, Glass and Lamps, The Cambridge Glass Company takes center stage.

There is a wise old Chinese proverb which informs us that "A picture is worth ten thousand words." And that is just a more stately way of saying that we all want to be shown. Any teacher, or, for that matter, just about anyone who has ever tried to explain something, has suddenly recognized the futility of words and has said "Wait! I'll show you." Perhaps it's a throwback to our cavemen ancestors who carved pictures on the walls of their dwellings to represent their ideas.

If this were not universally true, no salesman would need to bother about carrying samples. Nor would it be necessary for a store to keep a large stock of varied merchandise always on hand. The china salesman could say to the department store buyer: "We have some nice new patterns that I am sure you would like. One of them is sort of a rose design with gold scrolls and another is a scenic showing a country landscape with a house and a lot of trees and sky." Certainly he would say it. But how much china would he be able to sell unless he could bring forth a piece of the ware to illustrate his point materially.

The value of illustration, or what might almost be called the showmanship of the store, has been appreciated by successful merchants for many years, of course. A dress is taken from the rack and placed upon a model and its desirability is immediately and greatly increased. Furniture suitable for the living room is arranged in homelike group in one corner of the department and each individual piece takes on an added charm.

To be correct in every detail and consequently to be most effective, the majority of these displays demand cooperation among the various departments of a store. This is the case in china and glassware departments. The dining room table is brought from the furniture department and "the linens" contributes the cloth and napery most appropriate to the china and glassware which is to be displayed. The jewelry department is called upon for the silver to be used on the table and occasionally the gift section is asked to lend a vase or other decorative piece to add a finishing touch.

In the same way, tables are set up in the linen department so that the customer may see how the various types of cloths look in actual use, and sometimes the dining tables in the furniture department are "set" with the proper china, glass, silver and linen. There is no doubt that such displays are highly effective as sales promoters, not only in the sections in which they are placed but in the other departments represented as well.

A similar policy in co-operative display is being adopted in some of the china and glassware showrooms in New York. Many of these showrooms have, of course, for a long time, displayed their new wares on formally arranged dining tables and found like the stores, that is a most advantageous method. In the majority of these case, however, a tablecloth or two has been bought and used for all of the settings, and rarely have such other table appointments as the silver and napkins been present.

The showrooms which have, of late, been co-operating with the allied trades in the matter of display have found it to be an arrangement to their great mutual advantage. As example, the Cambridge Glass Co., realizing how important is the proper setting and how interdependent are tableware and table linens, has recently been working hand in hand with Leacock & Co., importers of linens. As a result of their mutual efforts, the showrooms of both concerns contain a number of tables set with just the linen and glassware best adapted to bring out all of the beauty of each.

The great popularity of gay color makes it imperative that care should be exercised in the choice of table appointments so that there will be no painful conflict of tints. Tableware should, of course, either match exactly the cloth on which it rests or, even better, form a felicitous contrast to it. And in both the Cambridge and the Leacock showrooms, the buyer is shown exactly how the different colors and patterns of linen appear combined with the various tints and designs of glassware.

Both the tables illustrated are among those set up in the Leacock showrooms, and they indicate in what great detail those co-operative displays are being worked out. Cambridge's lovely gold krystol was the color selected for the formal dinner table, which it will be seen, is complete even to the mints in the candy dishes. The cloth is of natural linen with a wide strip of lace through the center, and it will be noticed that the embroidered diamond-shaped motifs at the plate line have been placed at intervals just great enough to give a comfortable amount of space to each place. The pale gold of the glassware and the color of the linen supplement each other perfectly, and the result is a particularly beautiful table setting.

As further evidence of the widespread possibilities of this co-operative displaying, all of the table details were lent by concerns who realize its value. The silver, for example, is from the Gorham Co., while the center floral decoration was loaned by the Decorative Plant Co., with the candles from the Will & Baumer Co.

The other table illustrated is a less formal one, with a most distinctive luncheon cloth of a deep gold color, the triangle decoration in the corner being done in black and white. On this cloth, Cambridge's amber glass shows even richer tones against a white background, and it reciprocates the favor by setting off the lines to a highly saleable degree.

A happy contrast in colors is afforded by another setting, in which willow blue glass is shown on a peach linen cloth, while an absolute match in shades is offered on another table, which displays peach glass tableware on a line luncheon cloth of identical hue. Then, the vogue for black and white is illustrated by the use of white linen decorated with fanciful black figures on which ebony and crystal tableware is set to form a smart unit. All-ebony glassware is used with a black and white linen cloth which has a slight touch of green in its decoration, offsetting any tendency toward the over-somber. Some different combinations of colors have been worked out in the Cambridge showrooms, although they, too have been displaying a table set for dinner with gold krystol glassware on a natural-colored line cloth. This particular cloth is made up of a great many small squares, hemstitched together, and edged with a wide band of the linen. Three-light gold krystol candelabra holding yellow candles, a bowl of flowers and tall-stemmed compotes decorate the table, and here, also is shown the new shape in Cambridge's swan individual nut containers. The wings of this familiar piece have been lifted and spread slightly so that they can hold a place-card, and the dish can thus do double duty.

A luncheon table is set with willow blue glassware on a natural color embroidered linen cloth. The decagon plate was selected for use here, and as a center decoration is a brand-new Cambridge piece, a large, well-modeled figure of a turkey with tail outspread. This turkey can be used purely as an ornament for the center of the table or as a container for candies or cookies, and it is made in amber, peach, crystal, emerald and gold krystol as well as the blue.

Another luncheon table displayed is covered with a green line cloth decorated in the corners with right-angled strips of black, pink and lavender linen. And as a contrast, this table has been set with peach glassware.

This perfection of detail in wholesale displays has proved, already, to be a mute but convincing promoter of sales. The buyer is charmed, consciously or unconsciously, by the attractively arranged tables, and he also acquires ideas for table settings in his own department, using perhaps color contrasts which he had thought impossible until their smartness was revealed in the showrooms.

The preceding first appeared in the January 1931 issue of China, Glass and Lamps. Unfortunately, the illustrations did not photocopy well enough for reproduction here. The Gold Krystol dinnerware was from the 3400 line and with it was 3120 stemware.