Anyone with an eye for creativity and a mind for business will find a career in visual merchandising particularly rewarding. The discipline offers an artistic approach to the retail industry - as visual merchandisers showcase products through innovative shelf and window displays, branding and even the layout of stores themselves.
Visual merchandising roles vary depending on professional context. The target markets and philosophies of different retail organisations are never quite the same - and good visual merchandisers should be able to adapt to the situations in which they are placed. If you are searching for a job in visual merchandising, read our guide on what to expect in different working environments.
Luxury brands often have a very well-defined professional philosophy and appeal - and need to present their products to customers in specific ways. The product ranges of luxury fashion labels require a level of sophisticated presentation which meets not only the expectations of prospective customers but those of the product designers: a luxury shoe label, for example, would expect their products to be presented in a different manner to their competitors, in a way which reinforces their value as a precious commodity. Within these frameworks, visual merchandisers must work to understand the individual heritage of their store and develop an empathy with the luxury goods they are exhibiting. Luxury fashion knows its target market - a demographic which demands to be impressed.
High street fashion
While the high street represents diverse fashion territory, the competition it fosters can lead to striking displays of visual merchandising. Like other retail environments, high street corporate philosophy influences its visual displays and, given the broad appeal of popular brands, visual merchandisers may find themselves working within strict constraints and with smaller budgets than more affluent luxury brands. Since high street fashion labels tend not to vary as significantly in terms of product quality and price, visual merchandisers must create displays which stand out from the crowd - meaning they must develop an understanding of the appeal of their store over that of their competitors and use that knowledge to draw customers and generate profits. Working in a fast-paced and competitive environment, the role requires a strong understanding of consumer patterns and the psychology of retail - but also brings opportunities for innovation and dazzling creativity.
By definition, boutique stores attract fewer customers than popular high street and luxury brands, offering a specific range of clothing with a limited customer base. Boutique visual merchandisers must be able to create displays which reflect their store's unique appeal and offer customers the incentive to return for that experience in the future. In many cases, the curb-appeal of a boutique store lies in its personal character - the challenge for the visual merchandiser is to capture and communicate that in the displays they create. Given the diverse nature of boutique stock on any given day, putting together a display with broad appeal requires skill - visual merchandisers should be able to think outside the box, using lighting and other peripheral features to maximise the impact of their work. Colour and creativity are keywords for boutique merchandisers but a working knowledge of what customers want from their store in particular is also crucial.