The Art and Science of Visual Merchandising
Make the daily sales goal. Reduce loss of inventory. Increase customer satisfaction and decrease returns. Today’s retailers must consistently hit ambitious, critical marks in order to succeed. The benchmarks above don’t even touch upon payroll, training, operating costs and marketing—or visual merchandising. Too often, visual merchandising becomes an afterthought or a “nice to have” when looking for cost savings. After all, couldn’t one simply hang a banner in the window and call it done? How does one begin to quantify the return on investment for money spent on visual merchandisers, signage, props and mannequins? The customer is coming to make a purchase—the experience is secondary, right? Wrong. In fact, studies show that it’s actually the merchandise that’s secondary. First and foremost is the shopping experience, so much so that the product is almost a souvenir of an enjoyable time. Experiential design isn’t restricted to museums and theme parks— shoppers want an immersive, entertaining and educational retail environment as well.
Let’s break this down. . .
Am I surrounded by consistent brand messaging and VM components whose aesthetics align with the merchandise style and price point? There is a certain retailer I frequent because of the comprehensive, immersive environment in their stores. I am convinced that my meals would taste better, my life would be better, etc., if I owned the hand-painted Portuguese nested measuring spoons they sell. Do I really need another set of measuring spoons? No. But I happily buy into (literally and figuratively) this aspirational
notion. Ideally, you will be able to allocate 1015 per cent of your operating budget to visual merchandising components: mannequins, signage, lighting, flooring, props and more (don’t overlook the dressing room!). Visual merchandising is both an art and a science— the thoughtful, creative, consistent use of all of the visual stimuli seen by the customer. This discipline is steeped in tradition. One need only watch “Mr. Selfridge” for a glimpse of the important role VM played in the early-mid 1900s (as a former executive with Marshall Field’s, I am duty-bound to mention that Gordon Selfridge’s “innovations” in British retail were an integral part of Marshall Field’s leadership and legacy. In other words, Selfridge packed up those priorities along with his steamer trunk and passport).