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What is a Visual Merchandiser?

An example of something a visual merchandiser might create in a store's window.
Retail displays.
Visual merchandisers can help stores in a shopping mall stand out from competitors.
Visual merchandisers are often in involved in what clothing and styles are shown at fashion shows.
Fashion merchandisers may be called on to recommend display designs in a store.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2014
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Visual merchandisers are professionals who are experts in the process of creating and staging displays in retail stores, conventions, fashion shows, and other public events. Along with physical locations, the merchandiser of today is often called in to envision and implement online displays for retailers and others who wish to sell some type of merchandise.

One time-honored job in this field is the window dresser. Since the inception of the department store during the 19th century, creative people with a visual flair would be called upon to create displays including merchandise offered in the store. Often, the window display would be a means of advertising seasonal items as well as goods that were of long-term interest to consumers. Today, smaller retail chains sometimes retain the services of a visual merchandiser who develop a concept for a window display that can be easily set in place in all the front windows of stores associated with the chain.

The retail merchandiser may also create displays that are placed throughout the store. This is often the case when there is a desire to call special attention to certain products, such as sale items or new merchandise that is intended for use in the upcoming season. As with the window displays, these in-house displays are updated or replaced with entirely new items from time to time, as a means of keeping a fresh appearance.

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Along with the retail visual merchandiser, the fashion merchandiser also envisions, creates, and implements a visual display to attract customers. Fashion merchandisers work with designers to marry recent creations with the perfect environment to introduce the new line to potential buyers. This can include laying out the stage, lighting, and other elements that call attention to the fashions themselves and heighten the desirability by helping the customer envision when and where the garment can be worn.

One of these creative professionals may accept assignments from many different clients, or work for a single employer. The merchandiser may head up a team, providing the creative direction, or function alone, managing all the aspects of creation and setup on his or her own.

Training to become a visual merchandiser often involves a combination of formal education and practical experience under the watchful eye of an established designer. As with many creative efforts, a merchandiser may choose to get a degree in interior design and secure credentials related to set design. Working under the direction of an established visual designer can often help the novice learn how to manage many of the small details connected to the creation and implementation of a new visual display.

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lluviaporos
Post 3

@croydon - Yeah, you can't just join a big business and expect your visual merchandiser career to involve creativity. Often the stores are identical, because they did a lot of research on what is the optimal display type.

As the visual merchandiser, your job would be to follow the instructions sent by headquarters.

Of course, it's not like that everywhere and smaller companies aren't going to worry all that much about looking like clones.

And there are plenty of virtual merchandising roles that involve a lot of creativity these days, but you need to know your website design if you want to get into that.

croydon
Post 2

@indigomoth - There are other ways to have fun with store windows. I remember my mother's boss paid us every year to spray paint Christmas designs onto his company's windows.

And the video store down the street puts up a themed display for every new release they are promoting. They've done some really good ones too, like a chest of pirate gold and a skull for the Pirates of the Caribbean series or a simple bunch of red roses for American Beauty.

What I found interesting when I was traveling through Europe recently is how little most stores must allow their employees to actually do. There were a number of window displays that I thought were quite creative and unique... until I realized the stores were using the same window display in every city I visited. Most people won't notice, because they only see their own city.

indigomoth
Post 1

I've always been envious of people with visual merchandiser jobs, particularly those who work on window displays. I mean, most of the time window displays aren't really that interesting, they are just a nice looking arrangement of products.

But, sometimes window displays can be really cool.

There is a department store in my city that is famous for its Christmas window displays. It does a different one every year, always telling a story and incorporating a Christmas theme.

They often do some kind of version of Santa's Workshop, with all kinds of "helpers" around the window.

Of course, they also incorporate the store products into the display, but it's a gorgeous way of advertising and it's something that the kids of the city all drag their parents in to see.

And it must be really fun to design and set up every year!

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