From the September 2006 issue of Entrepreneur

If the mannequins in Patti Siciliano's Red Bank, New Jersey, variety store, Funk & Standard, look a bit too real--well, that's because they are. Merchants in the city's retail district sometimes use so-called "live mannequins" to attract customers, especially during the holiday season.

Siciliano, 34, says the models-turned-mannequins delight shoppers. "Any element that's going to put a smile on a person's face is going to influence them to come in and make purchases," she says. "If it's fun and it looks right, it's going to mean higher volume."

Visual display expert Mindy Miles Greenberg of M. Windows Visual and Display in Great Neck, New York, thinks live mannequins are a great idea for independent retailers trying to find ways to get attention in a market increasingly dominated by big-box retailers. "They create sort of a theatrical specialization that makes [customers] think there's something special going on," she says.

Though live mannequins can attract passersby, the window still has to look fab when the model departs, says Greenberg. She also suggests having the model move into a different position every 15 to 20 minutes and hand something to customers while doing so--a coupon or even a lollipop--to engage them even more. To find live mannequins, call local talent and modeling agencies.


Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Business Plans