Monday, 17 February 2014

What's the difference between a Visual Merchandiser and a Display Assistant?

It has been a year and a half since my last post on Diary of a VM and I have become overwhelmed with the amount of emails I still receive on a daily basis about the wonderful world of VM and Display. One of the most popular questions I get asked is what the difference is between VM and Display. To a retail novice, the roles may seem similar but in fact that is very far from the truth.

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
- H&M
- Victoria Secret
- Warehouse
- Debenhams
- Gap
- Oasis
- French Connection
- Monsoon

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
- Harrods
- Harvey Nichols
- Anthropologie
- River Island
- Topshop/Topman
- Next
- Forever21
- Marks and Spencer

Happy Window Shopping

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Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Harvey Nichols gets Au Natural...

It seems I wasn't the only one vowing to recycle more this New Year as part of one of my resolutions.

Mannequins embrace in the ethereal window...

Harvey Nichols launched their pre-Spring window scheme last week and using recycled materials sent out a clear message that the department store is all about re-using materials and keeping it simple yet effective this season.

Trees spiral through the window spaces encasing the department store on the corner of Knightsbridge; entwining their branches through the mannequins and in and around beauty products.

The tree branches display the beauty product in a creative
and ornate way...

Mannequins lean and sit on the tree branches...

Almost envisaging what the tree will one day become, disbanded cardboard boxes are laid flat on the floors and against the walls to create an enclosed space that connotes the re-used, recycled and relaunched ethical window displays.

Cool 90's styling accessorised with visors and bandanas...

Muted styling in neutral tones echoes the au natural scheme; Burberry, Acne and Kenzo feature heavily on the mannequins whilst key fashion pieces for the new season such as high tops, the statement necklace and snapbacks give a sporty twist.

Vinyl is used to display the store directory on the glass to
aid the customer in their shopping experience...

Even the hair and make-up has been styled to fit in with the
natural and 90's theme...

Seemingly seeing an 'upcycled' reign of 90's fashion coming back around for SS13, Harvey Nichols continue their recycling theme from prop through to product.

Happy Window Shopping

Monday, 14 January 2013

Painting the High Street in Black and White...

What's black, white and shopped all over? The British high street! This weekend, most of the fashion shops went 'half and half' in terms of shop floor layout with the ratio of 50% to sale or reduced stock and the remaining 50% to brand-spanking new SS13 stock!

As all of the VM's (and the majority of customers themselves!) rejoiced at the sight of newness in their stores and within their windows, I set out on the streets of London to see what the brands where up to. Black and white was a clear trend in Oxford Circus, some brands added pops of neon whilst others experimented with aztec or animal prints.

Which store has your favourite transitional monochrome look?

Oasis opt for chic Parisian stripes within their window whilst still
advertising their sale in store...
Warehouse show you how to outfit build in black and white...
A mannequin block in monochrome is styled using stripes,
aztec and spots at H&M...
Another H&M window experiments with textures such as PVC, faux leather and knitwear...
River Island throw in a few slogan tees and knits
with a pop of zesty orange to make them stand out
from the rest of the high street...
Happy Window Shopping

Monday, 7 January 2013

Selfridges: It's all so quiet...Ssshhh...

After the hustle and bustle on London's legendary high street on Oxford Circus this Christmas, Selfridges have explored the unknown within their post-sale window displays: the act of being silent. That's right. Forget the bright Marmite lights that have lit Oxford Street since November, or the thousand-strong shoppers that roamed the stores in search of gifts for loved ones; 2013 is all about being minimal and, well, quiet.

A neutral back drop and an array of quirky and interesting props decorate the minimal windows in one of London's leading department stores. Pushing the creative boundaries as usual, shoppers still stopped in their tracks to marvel at the unique displays.

Graphics surrounded by a light frame highlight a store directory for the product
within the window...
The iconic 'Yellow Bag'- a prop that speaks brand identity...
An empty room setting connotes that January is a time to sit, relax and possibly
reflect on the year ahead in the window themed "silence"...
Futuristic 'wardrobes' display a minimalistic colour palette - a
possible sneak-preview into what to expect this SS13?
Forget captions, slogans and branding - let the product do the talking in "silence"...
Unbranded props which are still an iconic image...
Unbranded products within the Tiffany-style windows which
 are still recognisable amongst the public...
A personal favourite - a tap on the vast empty walls with hundreds of glasses filled with water...
Glasses and water - a cheap yet effective prop...
Unstyled mannequin torsos with key seasonal pieces used such as the skirt, the shirt and the dress for
SS13 - again Selfridges let the product do the talking without the need to shout about it too much with graphics or vinyls
Top Tip: Visit these windows during the early hours of the morning. The lights get switched on from 7am. The quietness of Oxford Street and the silence within these minimal windows echo an eerie air of creativity...
Happy Window Shopping

Friday, 4 January 2013

Topshop Pre-SS13 Window...

Topshop Oxford Circus simple pre-season window with
hanging canvas banner and 7 styled mannequins.

With Christmas out of the way and the joys of New Year officially over, all we seem to have to look forward to is one failed resolution after the other. But fear not as brightening up the bleak high street and putting a 'spring' back into our step is retail favourite Topshop with their pre-season window display.

50's styling...

Featuring a peak into the Topshop closet for SS13, we see blue skies, canary yellow and a twist of 50's styling reminiscent of Grease the musical! Summer Lovin', anyone?

Summer brights are mixed with rock-chick accessories
enabling customers to get the pre-season look right now...

Adding a typical TS edge that enables their shoppers to get the future look right NOW, the styling has a contemporary feel mixing the soft prints and ice cream-sweet colour palette with gunmetal accessories, edgy stud details and punky lifestyle. An interesting style juxtaposition...

Mixing leather with lightweight summerwear gives an added edge
to the mannequin styling...

So if you've found yourself bored of the left over sale tat that most high street stores are still offering, venture down to Topshop : new year, new window, new wardrobe. Are you warmed-up for Spring yet?

Happy Window Shopping

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Topshop: Creatively Cool....

I'll be completely honest, I have never really been into Topshop but since coming to London they have me totally hooked on their amazing displays and visual merchandising! Especially within the Oxford Circus store! This week, I managed to get a few snaps of the store (before being chased away by their security!) and it's all about the mannequins...

I also love the styling in the Topshop within Westfield White City - total clash of the prints!

Happy Window Shopping

All images are my own.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

What on earth is a Visual Merchandiser??

The girls at work introduced me to this ace video about visual merchandising (well it's a take the mick but it is hilarious!) All VM's will totally laugh out loud and for all you budding ones it could be a bit of an eye opener as every word is completely true!

Would love to know what all you visual merchandisers think to this:

Happy Window Shopping!

Video taken from YouTube