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Visual merchandising is often termed in retail chains as the “Silent Salesperson”. The non-verbal communication method which every brand uses to attract new clients, retain old ones and the whole cycle goes on-and-on. Every brand has its own VM team or they hire from a third party VM agency to plan and do the visual display for both interior and exterior of the retail store.
In this article, we will specifically look at the scope and career opportunities in Visual Merchandising, limited the base within the fashion industry and we will also look at certain basic knowledge and attributes that are required of a person who wants to build his career in Visual Merchandising.
Visual merchandising is the art of presenting the brand, its products and services to the audience. The branding philosophy, store theme or collection theme is decided, based on which a Visual Merchandiser designs the window, signages, fixtures, and other props to display the products and also provide the necessary information to the target audience. They also should coordinate with the vendors and suppliers of raw materials which are used in making of the display items inside of the store.
So, there is an aspect of costing as well. How much money is spent on each item and what cost-cutting is done to reduce the operational expense.
Once, the vendor is finalised, cost is agreed, and design is also ready, the brand’s Manager will give the green flag to take this action plan forward for the stores.
A brand can have multiple outlets in lets say India, and its the work of the Visual Merchandiser and Regional Manager to coordinate and make sure that all the store’s VM is similar or at least conveys the same message.
Different stores in different locations may have a distinct layout, square feet, etc. So, that is also a constraint which has to be taken into consideration while planning the visual display.
After all this is completed, then the necessary manforce is allotted to the stores and the work starts early in the day before the store officially opens and customers start to come.
Then generally the VM starts to go on visits to each store and check the displays, click pictures for reference and share it on the group chat, or mail to check with all the store staff to follow the same.
Another aim of visual merchandising is to make sure that the inventories on the shelf are fast moving and it's not stagnant.
Required skill set
DESIGN KNOWLEDGE/ARTISTIC CREATIVITY:
The first and the foremost skill set required is the basic knowledge on fashion and textile details. How different fabrics drape, how the combination works with other garments should be well practised. Also, a basic understanding of colour theory is always useful. A creative person will go a long way in the field of visual merchandising. And the good thing about creativity is, it can also be developed.
The ability to predict what will be the dominant colour or trend in the coming season will make a brand one step ahead of its competitors. A visual merchandiser will always start planning for the next season, around 5 to 6 months prior.
For example: Spring Summer 2023 is going on right now. But a VM would have already started to doodle, predict and craft ideas for the Autumn Winter 2023 also.
The ultimate goal of Visual merchandising is explained the following step by step process;
Return on Investment(ROI) is an important factor for any business enterprise, be it small, medium or a large enterprise. So, whatever window display or VM is being done, it has to communicate to the audience and generate revenue by invoking a purchase action.
Studies also show that visual merchandising contributes to the impulse or unplanned purchases of the customers, because of the displays, lighting, and product placement which allows the customers to interact with the product and then make the purchase action as well.
Every VM pays close attention to the store layout also. When someone enters the store where their emphasis falls straight to will be the place where high-value products or most attractive products are displayed. Sometimes, the store layout is designed in such a way that it makes the customers take a certain route which leads them to a specific section of the store or to a specific product like a new launch or best selling product.
There are brand case studies that statistically show the importance of Visual merchandising, Point of Sales.
These are the business awareness that a visual merchandiser should possess to effectively be the best in the commercial aspect of the industry.
SOFTWARE SKILLS AND COMMUNICATION SKILLS:
To design the window or interior planogram of the store, software skills are also required to work efficiently. Communicating your plan to the superiors and getting the approval is also a very big task. Effective communication and confidence will lead you to build trust among your peers and make sure that your work also speaks for yourself.
Understanding about a brand’s product will help in coming up with ideas for their visual display as well. Products have their own story of their own. Where is it made, what kind of work has gone into the making and so on. So, we have to understand more about the product if you want to sell the product effectively.
Scope and Career opportunities of VM in fashion industry
The scope of visual merchandising is not just limited to the fashion industry. Every industry, one way or another. Galleries or museums, events and ceremonies, formal official business parties and other conferences, birthday parties, fashion and accessories brands, wedding planners, Hotels, etc make use of visual merchandising in their own way. The old school general rule of thumb which works in every field is that you work under a visual merchandiser as an intern or join a Visual merchandising agency to get enough exposure and knowledge, then start your own business. You can have a small team to work with, get a contact of a good vendor for all materials and you can establish your business like a third-party agency which the brands hire for doing VM for them on a regular basis.
The retail industry is expanding rapidly and the current idea of globalisation also helps fields such as visual merchandising to become more popular. This is such a unique and an interesting job, it encompasses many things into one, but at the same time it doesn't fit into the standard 9 to 5 job profiles and responsibilities.
Some of the other job profiles which comes under the umbrella of Visual Merchandising are:
Retailers, shop floor managerscan also be a path because the understanding of merchandise leads us to develop the necessary assortment planning for the brand. The assortment should be in such a way that is easily accessible for the customers and the inventory that is there is properly utilised. This can be a very good opportunity for people who are interested in setting up the shop floor, handling clients and understanding the brand in a deep way.
One can also pursue to become a store manager of a brand by getting experience in all the store operations which includes working on SOP’s for the brand, inventory management, setting shop floor for display,
There are many colleges which are more design oriented. A visual merchandising student can easily find internship or employment opportunities in malls, stand alone stores, Exclusive Brand Outlets (EBO) and also in Multi Brand Outlets(MBO).
Fashion houses, like designer stores, pay extensive attention to the visual appeal of the store, so that will also provide very big scope for Visual merchandising enthusiasts.
Once you start networking with people in retail, you will get to learn and understand many things and get more opportunities as well. Retail chain is a very big and a never ending chain which pans across several industries. You will never know from where you might get a wonderful opportunity. So develop your communication skills and start to network with people within and also outside your industry.
Visual merchandising is also evolving at a very rapid pace. Augmented Reality (AR) is changing the way that brands used to advertise their products. Metaverse is also a big paradigm shift that is happening, where the normal modes of display and presentation are taken to the next level.
As a visual merchandising aspirant, one has to be open to learn various things. Latest trends in the industry, what the brands have done in the past, understanding both past and the future will be able to make you commit yourself to a wise and a modest choice for the present.
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