So What is Visual Merchandising?

There often remains a perception that visual merchandising (VM) is just ‘window dressing’ or even worse just ‘making things look pretty’. These out-dated perceptions overlook the value that visual merchandising adds to the customer’s experience of a brand. Although the ‘visual’ aspect of VM is obviously crucial, it is the commercial slant to visual merchandising that makes it so important to businesses. Visual merchandising is really about displaying a product, service or concept to its best advantage. It encompasses any visual aspect that will help to make this irresistible to the customer.

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Visual merchandising is all about standing in the customer’s shoes and ‘framing’ a product or service with elements that help to inspire or educate the customer. Just look at all the aspects that go into the visual merchandising of a location:

• Store design.
• Store layout.
• Fixtures, fittings and props.
• Lighting.
• Signage and ticketing.
• Merchandising techniques.
• Colour theory.
• Design principles.
• Standards and housekeeping.

All of these elements contribute to selling the product or service you have on offer. For example both beauty salons and catering businesses have to think about what a customer is going to experience when they visit their location. Does that experience and the visual cues they see reflect the quality, style and expected price of the product? What do you think of a hairdresser that has unfashionable décor, dirty windows and a few faded posters on the walls? Is this a reflection of the price of the service or the quality of the haircut?

How the location will be merchandised when it opens should not be an afterthought and should be considered in the planning stages of any business. There are so many components that go into setting up and running a retail business or business of any kind including branding, location, staff, marketing etc. These will all have an effect on the final presentation of your product. For example a great store fit out can be ruined if the staff are not trained in how to merchandise and maintain the shelves. Or a great display may be pointless if the store is too dark or products are not ticketed.

The great thing about visual merchandising however is that it is never too late to implement! A location can be adapted to better focus on your product, staff can be trained in merchandising techniques and a visual strategy can be designed to better reflect your brand. Customers need to see the value of visiting your location. Ultimately they need to be inspired, educated and convinced to buy your product and visual merchandising is an essential part of this.