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What Visual Merchandisers Really Do

September 19, 2011 IADT General, IADT San Antonio, Career Tips & Resources, Fashion Design and Merchandising, Retail Merchandise Management 0 Comments

Jennife Burrell, Retail Merchandise Management program chair at IADT-San Antonio, shares some insights on the world of visual merchandising.

Visual merchandisers do much more than simply dress mannequins. They’re often the masterminds behind the intriguing window displays, elaborate holiday decorations and in-store displays in department stores, boutiques and other retail establishments.

According to Steve Hemsley’s Promotion and Incentives, research has shown that the majority of consumers make their purchase decisions while they are in the store. As a result, retailers often devote a large amount of time, effort and money every year on props and promotional display material. It is the job of the visual merchandiser to bring the displays to life, make an impact on the consumer, draw shoppers into the store and set the overall mood.

Visual merchandisers often work with merchandise managers to re-arrange fixtures and move merchandise on the sales floor in an effort to boost sales. This is often referred to as “floor set.” For example, if sales records show that a specific brand or item is not selling as planned, the decision might be to move that merchandise from a wall unit to a freestanding fixture.

Moving merchandise around the store helps to keep the inventory appearing fresh. Customers may not have noticed the rack of T-shirts hanging on the back wall, but when the shirts are moved to front of the store and folded on a table, it becomes hard for shoppers not to notice them.

There is also more to dressing mannequins than putting outfits on them. It is the job of the visual merchandiser to create a story with color, texture and accessories. Many consumers often reference the visual displays and mannequin styling when deciding which items to purchase. It is not uncommon to have consumers purchase the entire outfit off of a mannequin. And if the visual merchandiser has added belts and accessories from other areas of the store to the display, sales of those items can also increase. A belt hanging on a fixture in the accessories department may go unnoticed by shoppers, but when put on display with some fashion-forward slacks and a trendy top, the item can be eye-catching!

In order to create effective displays, visual merchandisers must be familiar with merchandise collections as well as color theory.  Merchandise vendor representatives often meet with the visual merchandising team in order to inform them of upcoming collections and offer merchandising advice.

At the corporate level, visual merchandisers may be responsible for selecting the fixtures, carpet and furniture for stores. Corporate visual merchandisers also work to devise planograms, a form of merchandise diagram, to send to stores throughout the chain. The local visual team then interprets the planograms and arranges merchandise in accordance with the planogram. This process tends to create a sense of uniformity amongst various store locations. Additionally, both corporate visual merchandisers sometimes work with buyers to research trends and decide which of the stores’ merchandise to promote at a given time.

And there’s even more - get out your paint brush and power tools!

Depending on the store, visual merchandisers might also be responsible for painting walls inside display windows and assembling fixtures and props. Other tasks may include moving furniture in addition to moving fixtures, creating floral arrangements, hanging chandeliers, putting up Christmas trees, applying vinyl decals, laying rugs and climbing 12-foot ladders.

Visual merchandising can be physically demanding at times; however, the excitement and opportunity to utilize creativity in the workplace are well worth the effort.


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