Have you ever walked past a window display in a shop and felt like you needed to go in and buy everything in the display? That was the work of an expert visual merchandiser, and if you like creating your own displays and showing off the latest styles, then a career as a visual merchandiser may be in your future.
Want to learn how to start working in visual merchandising? Here’s all you need to know!
Know the craft
Visual merchandisers don’t just pick out any outfits and props to stage. There’s a lot that goes into visual merchandising, and there’s a long process to take displays from the early drafts to the store windows.
First, visual merchandisers need to come up with some sort of idea and layout for not only the store window but also for the other displays around the stores. All of them must fit together to form a cohesive look that inspires shoppers to look for those specific pieces. This involves coordinating the colour schemes, lights, banners and ticketing and layouts throughout the store, and it may also require integrating elements from current print and television promotions.
Once a design is drafted, visual merchandisers need to create a budget for any props needed and present their design and budget to managers for approval. This requires excellent communication skills as well as the ability to plan out a realistic budget for these displays.
After everything is approved, the visual merchandiser will set up the displays and adjust as the season goes on. When items become unavailable, the visual merchandiser will change out the items and replace them with new ones. When holiday seasons roll in, the merchandiser will update the displays as needed.
To start working as a visual merchandiser, you need a wide variety of skills. It’s not enough to be able to design a display. You need to be able to design a display that will encourage people to buy from your store, and you need to understand what factors compel people to buy. Combining these factors will help you design the best look.
So how do you start building these skills? The best place to start is in a boutique or department store as a sales associate. This is a great entry-level position that will allow you to learn all that there is about running a store while still giving your flexible hours to devote to your schoolwork.
Each store has its own demographic, and as an associate, you’ll get to know that demographic. You’ll understand their needs and what they look for when buying clothing, accessories and other products.
You’ll also get to know the store and company from a business perspective. All companies - whether they’re multinational conglomerates or independant boutiques - have different budgets, needs, ways of forecasting sales and ideas about how to run their businesses. As a sales associate, you can learn about the business from your managers and see what it takes to run a store.
It also won’t hurt to do some extra reading so you’re up to date on the latest fashion trends and changes in the industry. Your displays need to be able to reflect the current trends, so you will need to be on the cutting edge of what is in and what is definitely out. Consider subscribing to a top fashion magazine or reading blogs. You also might follow your favourite designers on social media.
While this might not translate to direct experience, reading and keeping up with fashion will help you learn the industry lingo and become a valuable asset as a sales associate.
Having great experience is important in a visual merchandiser’s career, but having the right certification can be the big difference between being an associate and a visual merchandiser. As you work as a part-time sales associate, you should also be working on your Diploma of Visual Merchandising from Kangan Institute.
This nationally-accredited diploma is vital for any aspiring visual merchandiser because it covers all the skills necessary to thrive in this industry and helps students build those skills while gaining real work experience. Kangan currently has a partnership with Myer, and for up to six weeks during the course, students will work with different Myer sites to develop their briefing, developing, budgeting and implementing skills. This is great experience for those not currently working the retail and fashion industry already.
The course teaches many other relevant skills. Students will learn current visual merchandising concepts and gain a thorough understanding of colour theory, drawing, graphic design and digital design and art. The course also covers how to use props effectively and lighting to better show off the important parts of the display.
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