Local visual merchandising and the economy

May 4, 2009 at 5:27 pm (Uncategorized)

Visual merchandising is like makeup. If woman wears makeup every day people might see her as eye-catching, but won’t notice her makeup. If the same woman goes a day without makeup, people notice, and might see her as less attractive.

“Whenever you incorporate visual merchandising, you increase sales,” said Sandra Starkey, a professor of visual merchandising at UNL. She said engaging windows and displays will increase consumer traffic and in turn will boost sales.

Awesome Louis Vuitton window in New York City

Awesome Louis Vuitton window in New York City

Visual Merchandising, or the process of subliminally leading a customer from the shop window to a product, just might be the key to staying afloat during the recession as a retailer. Consumers don’t directly notice the efforts of visual merchandisers, but without them, retailers might suffer in the sales department.

“It’s particularly important for smaller retailers because it can give them a competitive edge,” Starkey said.

Bottega Veneta window in New York City

Bottega Veneta window in New York City

Visual merchandisers are responsible for the well designed windows that catch the attention of potential customers walking by and for the strategically placed products that consumers find easily accessible. But in tough economic times, visual merchandising has gone out the window at places like Westfield Shoppingtown, where Starkey used to work as a freelance visual merchandiser.

Since her time there, the mall is under new management and does not hire outside help for visual merchandising assistance.

“They’ve eliminated a lot of services they offered the merchants and customers,” Starkey said. “It definitely had something to do with the economy.” For example, the service kiosks are gone.

Starkey said, “Everyone is trying to do all they can to do things in house. And sadly, it’s not done well.”

In an article on VMSD.com Steve Kaufman, the editor of a visual merchandising magazine said, “Struggling retailers are blaming the economy—tight credit, the threat of rising joblessness and plunging consumer confidence. All are fair concerns. But perhaps they mask other operational or strategic mistakes these companies have been making all along.” He went on to say, “Smart retailing is smart retailing, in good times and bad.”

Once place benefitting from visual merchandising right now is Wilderness Ridge Golf Club. There sales are currently up about 3 percent from last year. Joanna Engleman, the visual merchandiser at the Golf Club, said this is unusual because competitor’s sales are down. She said, “Most golf shops in Lincoln don’t have visual merchandisers though.”

At Wilderness Ridge Golf Club Engleman is in charge of the creative visions for all the displays including a window in the restaurant, an outside window and set-ups in the store. She changes all the displays every two weeks to maintain consumer interest. Engleman must also adjust the displays if a customer purchases merchandise directly from the display. She said in that case it’s good because it means she’s doing her job.

“The clothing we have in the shop is a huge part of our annual income and profit,” she said. “We have a lot of out-of-towners coming in for events, and they want something from the shop with our logo. So, I have to make (the merchandise) presentable to make it sell.”

Starkey said, “(Customers) notice the product just not what brought their attention to it.”

“I just stopped at American Eagle because I saw they had new stuff in the window,” said Krysta Bialon, a senior nursing major at UNL. “I spent about 200 dollars.”

Starkey said, “(Visual merchandising) is like a lot of advertising, it’s hard to directly calculate the results.”

She said visual merchandising is like dressing for an interview. “It’s your first impression. You wouldn’t go to an interview dressed in a scruffy t-shirt. It’s all about presenting yourself in a way that sells.”

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