What is visual merchandising?

Here's how it impacts your buying behavior.

It's 6am and I just clocked in to start changing the floorplan according to the Spring Corporate Mandate. My coworker and I have to prep the new collection before 10am when the store will open and social media content will be posted for the masses. We are missing a few of the main items that will debut on Instagram and it's already 9am. Should I just quit now before my district manager calls at 9:59am on the whereabouts of the sales floor pictures?


Now I have to redesign the layout while maintaining the corporate mandate, planning ahead for the potential display when those items do arrive, and cut the workload in half in 20 minutes. What happened next? We got it done before the first customer walked in mentioning the e-mail blast the company sent out.

As a visual merchandiser, it's hard for my close friends to describe it. Do I just style clothes or build things?

The what, who, when, why, and how of the most important career in the retail industry is here... right below this sentence...

Who is this visual merchandising person?

According to RMS, they combine marketing, creative, and merchandising to present the store's inventory in a positive way. The act of visual merchandising aims to use anything from floor plans and lighting to technology and other elements to attract customer attention to the retail space and generate more sales.

One of the companies that had major changes implemented last year was Target. Now everything looks organized, with a color story, and a major increase in cross-selling by adding different departments into a section. Why am I buying a 23X Me by the dog food? I don't know but I want it.

Do visual merchandisers just work at clothing stores?

Absolutely not, they can manage shelving, point-of-sale displays, and posters so even your local grocery store has hired a visual merchandising team.

Trader Joe's is great at this, every store is drawn to depict the area they are located in so my local New Orleans branch has a lake and beads over the wine aisle. Companies can create positions or hire independent visual merchandising contractors for these projects. I actually made the rookie mistake to interview for one of these contractors later to find out it was for a statewide pharmacy merchandising project and not the Saks 5th Avenue I had in my mind.

Why is it important?

Intelligence Node made a great point about merchandising in today's retail structure. Effective visuals are important for an omnichannel retail, the brand identity must be clearly presented online and in-stores to allure customers into buying under 8 seconds. Visual messages can be easily retained by consumers so making their desires quickly accessible is essential for revenue.

My first taste at visual merchandising was a luxury outlet store, I finally got promoted to the job that connected to my creative abilities. Come to find out that most Mondays I spent 3-4hrs a day analyzing numbers, 3hrs verifying and accepting inventory, with the last 2hrs learning about new products. What happened to all the styling sessions I had in mind! The goal is to allure the customer while honoring the brand's message, market research and analysis are a priority in the position. About 10% of my job as a visual merchandising manager was actually putting on displays.

Not all jobs are the same, it depends on payroll and clienteling. Working in an outlet the goal was to move product, now working for an actual retail luxury store the vibe is different. Focus on display and marketing are key for selling, there's a lot more room for creative growth when it comes to product placement. I'm a minimalist at heart who loves the numbers, others love designing floor layout so visual merchandising is a pretty fluid career for the person who loves deadlines.

How do customers affect visual merchandising?

The next buy is available at your fingertips with stores having less traffic and working harder on converting those who step into their doors.

You might've noticed a shift in major retailers going from a multitude of clothing to creating an experience for the customer. An Instagrammable area means that a 15-year-old will tag the company on social media at no cost for the marketing team while the parent gets a head-to-toe look within a few steps. Both customers walk out with a memorable experience whether the spent money or not, and that's how YOU influenced the merchandising.

What is your favorite visually impactful store you visited recently?

Comment below on your experience and make sure to follow me on Instagram for more visual merchandising posts.



Recent Posts

See All