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The Role of a Visual Merchandiser

An overview of the role that visual merchandising has to play in an organisation.
Written on 11/22/13

Visual Merchandising Jobs

Capturing the imagination of shoppers, both inside and outside a store, is the job of the visual merchandiser. The best visual merchandisers can turn their shop's  window space into an intriguing art installation, or strategically arrange a shelf to maximize the chances of its contents selling. Effective visual merchandising can stimulate public awareness, draw shoppers into a store and provide a huge boost to sales figures.

Creativity and retail strategy

If you have a flair for creativity and an understanding of the habits of shoppers, visual merchandising may present an ideal career path. A visual merchandising job can take place in a range of environments, from large national supermarket chains to boutique department stores - the scope of the role may vary significantly depending on the size of an employers' retail operation and the type of products being sold.

Before a visual merchandiser can begin to actively promote their store's products, a clear marketing strategy must be developed. In practice this means, conducting extensive market research, liaising with suppliers and discussing results with a design team. Visual merchandising strategy should focus on presenting products in a way which works for their brand's style and image.  

Working as a visual merchandiser

A visual merchandiser is broadly responsible for the planning and building of store displays which, on a day-to-day basis, involves moving equipment and stock, creating signage, arranging lighting and maximising artistic and commercial impact. The role involves a close connection with wider retail positions, including liaising with inventory managers, retail buyers and suppliers - and organising floor staff to ensure displays are presented correctly.  On any given day, a visual merchandiser could be discussing marketing strategies for an upcoming season, negotiating with buyers over the delivery of a product, or rolling their sleeves up to help out with the construction of a window display. While an overarching perspective is vital, the visual merchandiser should also be able to pick out small details and solve problems: if a certain product is not selling well, incorporating it into a display may be the key to stimulating sales.

Finding a job...

Most visual merchandising careers begin in an entry level retail position. Competition for places can be fierce: most retail vacancies require a secondary-level education although having a university degree, especially in a marketing field, may prove useful for in-demand positions. Previous experience in retail is also valuable for prospective candidates and opportunities to move within a company, into a visual merchandising role, are frequent.

Why visual merchandising?

Visual merchandisers occupy an exciting position in the retail landscape and are in a unique position to help define upcoming styles and industry trends. The role allows employees to interact with, and gain skills in, a wide range of retail sectors - and offers an impressive path to career advancement. Beyond  career advantages, visual merchandisers get to experience products at the cutting edge of their industry - including the latest fashions and technologies - long before the general public. Many positions even allow merchandisers to take home the products they are working to promote for research purposes! Most of all, visual merchandisers are in a position to stretch their artistic muscles while advancing their career in an exciting retail landscape.