Visual Merchandising: The Marketing Component
Boosting the Bottom Line of Consumer-Centric Companies
According to Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ data, 64.7% of women indicate that they view store displays for fashion trend information, and another study indicated that 30% of consumers make purchasing decisions based on store visuals. Visual merchandising, the integration of merchandise presentation and display techniques, is not only an aesthetic tool but also an educational and financial tool that can help increase retailers’ or apparel and home furnishing manufacturers’ bottom line. Many industry experts, especially those in Consumer-Centric companies, believe that well-planned and aesthetically pleasing visual merchandising is essential to doing business in today’s competitive retail environment. Most apparel and home furnishings firms now have company divisions or Brand Communications/Marketing Communications Departments dedicated to assume the responsibilities for visual merchandising, including both the trade and retail areas. Visual merchandising functions in the retail store are housed in the Sales Promotion Division of the retail organizational structure.
Display by Kate Blair, Nikki Player,
To educate students to function successfully in this Consumer-Centric business environment, the Visual Merchandising: Principles and Management class in the Department of Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management at North Carolina State University was developed as a general study and application of techniques in the effective utilization of visual merchandising as a major marketing tool. Based upon a business and marketing framework, students explore the relationships between visual merchandising, advertising, special events/promotions, and sales promotional budgeting and calendars as related to the fields of manufacturing, retailing and mall marketing. The focus of the course is placed on the integration of textile and apparel product characteristics, target market characteristics and the latest merchandising technology and concepts.
Adrienne Fehr and Brooke Stephens
Specifically students learn how to:
Based upon student learning styles, class formats are composed of a variety of learning activities, including hands-on lab applications, student presentations, lectures, and discussions of the effectiveness of current visual techniques being used in the industry and retail stores. Additionally, on most projects, students work in teams in order to obtain a more realistic view of today’s work environment.
Students are introduced to the overall concept of visual merchandising when they conduct a “Store Image Analysis” by tracking the change of image of a current–day retailer from its origination until the present. In class, students are introduced to an overview of Consumer-Centric company organizational structures and the role of visual merchandising within those companies. Additionally, merchandise presentation and display techniques are previewed to provide background for an in-depth study later in the semester. Handouts, supplemental trade journal readings, and up-to-date materials aid the students in their research and studies.
Since creativity development and the application of design principles and art elements in a visual endeavor are major objectives for this class, a baseline evaluation for student teams is assessed when students build their first visual display early in the semester for Open House in the College of Textiles. Other creative displays for the teams are evaluated based on improvement from the original creativity exhibited in the first display attempt and from applications of theory of problem-solving for specific retail cases.
The Visual Merchandising class revolves around two major and one minor project that require research, application of theories, and hands-on experiences. For eight weeks, the student teams track the Sales Promotional Division of a selected retailer. With the aid of forms, such as “Six Basic Principles of a Retail Merchandise Presentation or Display”, “15 Point Checklist for Displays”, or “10 Common Sense Rules for Displaying”, students observe the changes in the retail environment for the eight week period. They document findings with photographs, advertising pieces, and sales promotional events aids. This exercise helps the students understand the integration of the Sales Promotion Division functions as related to visual merchandising.
During the eight week period of store observation, class lectures revolve around design principles and art elements as applied to visual merchandising. After each lecture, one of the student teams is responsible for constructing a display that depicts the principle or topic. The same team also plans an activity that involves student hands-on-experiences utilizing the principles highlighted in the lecture and display. Each team then visits its selected retailer and documents “best practice” examples of the topic discussed in class that week. This project culminates in a formal presentation of findings from the selected retail store.
The final project for the class is an application
project implementing all of the major theories and principles studied
throughout the semester.
The entrepreneurship project consists of developing a strategic business
plan for a small business. The plan must address the new retailer’s
target market, trading area, merchandise mix, sales promotional mix, promotional
strategy development and sales promotional budget. However, all of these
strategic business plan components must be evident and “readable” through
an actual size “lifestyle merchandise display”, store signage,
a promotional or special events piece announcing the grand opening, and
store layout, décor, and merchandise presentation. One might say
that these visuals are worth a thousand words, but in this case the visuals
are worth an exam grade for completion of the Visual Merchandising: Principles
and Management class!
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