Denise Mackowiak, a Naturally Chicago member, is Vice President of Operations at Custom Merchandising Services (CMS), a family-owned-and-operated Chicagoland in-store demo agency based in Bloomingdale, Illinois. In this informative contributed piece, Denise explains why in-store demos should be part of your marketing and consumer outreach plan.


In-store demos are an essential marketing component for emerging brands, and strong demo budgets will yield high results. Ongoing historical data show the average sales lift is 35 percent, with some events exceeding 300 percent. Furthermore, sales growth continues with an average lift of 20-25 percent for up to four weeks after the demos.

Offering demos at introductory meetings with retailers will strengthen retailer relationships. Executing demos with shoppers — by taking your products from the shelf and putting them directly in front of the consumer at point of purchase — is risk free and provides the human connection to grow your brand and increase sales.

Be sure to add bright, concise table signs and coupons to your demos to further attract customers. In today’s retail environment, Brand Ambassadors are not just handing out samples, they are educating customers, providing food pairings and recipe ideas. Boutique local agencies such as ours are going that extra mile to continue to evolve in-store demos.


At Custom Merchandising Services, we specialize in building Brand Ambassador teams for our clients to help tell their stories and message through in-store demos, acting as a true extension of their brand. Brand Ambassadors are educated on the products, often meeting with the owner of the brand to learn the features and share the passion.

Social media is also incorporated into demo programs, inviting customers to visit the store during a scheduled demo.

Many of the entrepreneurs engaged in Naturally Chicago are early-stage, which syncs with our focus at CMS on emerging brands. The Worthy Company, a contestant in the Naturally Chicago Pitch Slam at the 2019 Good Food Financing & Innovation Conference, is one of these.

The Worthy Company’s Blendie Bowls brand is a new food concept that combines fruits, veggies, legumes and chia. We have helped the company’s owners put their best foot forward through in-store demos.

“Denise and the entire team at Custom Merchandising Services are hands down the best in the business! They are extremely detail oriented when in comes to organizing the demos by securing dates, ensuring adequate inventory, alerting store teams, and follow-up reporting,” said Sarah Renahan, The Worthy Company CEO & Co-Founder.

She continued, “Further, they take the time to understand our brand and our products, and convey with enthusiasm all the benefits to customers during the actual demo.  I know when I book CMS, our demos will be organized and successful and our sales will reflect it.”

Frönen, a 2019 graduate of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator, is another satisfied client. “CMS has been a joy to work with!” said Jessica Gartenstein, a co-founder of Frönen, which produces clean label, non-dairy alternatives to ice cream. “They are so well organized and do a fantastic job at every demo. We could not ask for a better partner to help us share our brand in-store!”

Even with the growth in e-commerce and home delivery options, new studies show that younger consumers in “Generation Z” still like brick & mortar stores.  They are looking for new shopping experiences, and today’s in-store demos go beyond simply handing out a sample.

For more information or to discuss how we can help with your in-store demos, please contact me at