What is a VM?
VM stands for Visual Merchandiser. These are the team members within a retail store that tend to work early hours or gruelling night shifts basically tearing apart the shop interior, putting clothes onto runner rails and then putting the stock back out onto the floor once again in an even more exciting and innovative way than before.
A VM will begin their shift by analysing sales and best seller reports to define what is working well for their store. This role is heavily based on customer shopping patterns and the psychology of a shopper's behaviour. For example, a store in Stratford will have a customer base of a bargain hunter; someone who loves the sales and has petulant for a promotional offer or a budget range. Therefore a VM will arrange their store layout to custom this desire. For example, sale will remain at the front of the store for a longer period of time and a cheaper product range such as basic jersey and t-shirts will remain in a key sight line. A store in Oxford Circus will arrange their store to suit the fashion-savvy customer; the ones that need the hottest trend of not just today but tomorrow right now. All new stock will be at the front of the store and stock on mannequins within the windows will be changed daily - sometimes twice in one day - to adjust to their customers needs.
|Visual Merchandiser's discussing ideas for the shop floor|
After analysing the reports, a VM will continue their shift by conducting a floor plan that is both commercial (reacts to the needs of the customer and consumer trends) and that suits the personality of the store too. Stock will be removed from all walls, floor fixtures and shelves and put onto runner rails or into tote boxes in preparation of the floor move. When the VM's put the stock back out again (maybe mixing up the colour palettes to create a new trend, maybe pulling together certain product departments e.g. denim and jersey) we call this Merchandising. You will often here VM's saying "We are having to re-merchandise the floor" which means moving around the layout of fixtures and stock positioning to react to consumer needs.
Visual Merchandisers will also play around with fixture placement. Never assume when you enter a retail store that the table at the front with that brand new handbag on it or the gondola with the new SS14 collection has not been put their purposefully. Again, these decisions all go back to the analysis of the sales and best selling reports. It is also the Visual Merchandiser's responsibility to ensure that throughout the day all stock is replenished on the floor which means ensuring the adequate sizes are available to the customer and that the store remains shoppable at all times; after all having too much stock on a rail is deemed as nuisance, not enough stock is missing valuable sales opportunities.
A VM's role is physical as they place heavy fixtures, remove glass shelves and move mannequins from one side of the store to another. The role is also heavily influenced by figures and targets so an analytical mind is a necessity. Although maybe not as creative as other roles in retail, a VM has alot of influence over their store and the final decisions made normally fall on that of a VM who can see how creative decisions will impact on what, at the end of the day, can be seen as their business.
What skills should I have if I want to become a VM?
- Analytical and numerical skills will help you to analyse store reports and make commercial decisions
- Trend awareness will help you to always remain one step ahead of any other retail competition
- A visual eye will enable you to conduct successful floor moves and keep your store looking fab
- An interest in the psychology of the customer
Where can I pursue a career as a VM?
- All Arcadia brands
- Victoria Secret
- French Connection
What is a Display Assistant?
A Display Assistant can also be defined as a Visual/Installation/Creative Assistant as well as Store Stylist. These team members are highly creative when it comes to styling and display. They have the ability to take any product (aesthetically pleasing or otherwise) and turn it into something beautiful. Their shifts vary depending on the time of the year. Christmas is consumed with long hours and long weeks. Installations occur during long night shifts and window installations are a combination of the two. A Display Assistant needs to be passionate about fashion, trends, exhibitions and art. They need to have the ability to take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere.
|A Display Assistant prepares to install a large graphic within a window|
A DA's day will begin by conducting a thorough walk through of the store's displays from the windows right through to the interiors. They will check everything is still intact and that the styling aspects are adjusted and perfected where necessary. Their day's will be spent redressing store mannequins, installing and dressing window displays or designing new ideas for the upcoming seasons. Store-based DA's will be planning one season ahead of the current whereas Head Office teams will be working much further in advance.
A Display Assistant may sound like one of the best jobs in the world, but be warned that it is not as easy nor fun as it may seem. A DA will spend many hours of the day up high ladders to reach impossible (and often borderline dangerous) places, using power tools to install tricky displays and using alot of physical strength to move awkward mannequins, heavy installations and props. The work is tiresome but rewarding.
|Unveiling the windows at Harrods|
What skills should I have if I want to become a DA?
- A creative mindset in terms of styling, installation and dressing
- The ability to take criticism positively
- Experience with power tools and physical fitness and strength
Where can I pursue a career as a DA?
- Urban Outfitters
- Harvey Nichols
- River Island
- Marks and Spencer
Happy Window Shopping
Image one selected from www.deavenue.co.uk
Image two selected from www.talkphotography.co.uk
Image three selected from www.harrods.com