1 Interpret a visual merchandising plan Visual merchandising is about creating appeal and is known in the retail industry as ‘the silent salesperson’. When the overall impression of a store is well coordinated and organised, it is more inviting to the customer. Visual merchandising involves attracting customers into a store, and influences the way customers move around the store, carefully placing displays to draw attention. Visual merchandising begins with choices about the colours and layout of a store, and extends to fixtures and fittings, lighting, product labelling, signage, graphics and good housekeeping. Retail businesses use visual impact to: attract target customers for particular products Communicate information to customers through images, signs and labels. All retail stores use visual merchandising to some extent. The style of visual merchandising used by an organisation is an important part of positioning the enterprise within the market. Effective visual merchandising helps to distinguish a store from its competitors. Visual merchandising also helps to develop a positive atmosphere in a store and provide stimuli for customers that result in products ‘selling themselves’. Placing a strong focus on informative visual merchandising can reduce the need for sales staff to answer repetitive questions and inquiries from customers. Many retailers use a formal visual merchandising plan or manual. The aim of a visual merchandising plan is to specify the organisation’s objectives and basic standards in relation to the presentation of the store and its merchandise. The format and structure of visual merchandising plans and manuals vary widely between different retail organisations. A detailed formal plan or manual may include: the exact number and type of displays to be set up schedules for implementing each display store locations for each display the merchandise and signage to be used for each display and how these should be placed on the relevant fixtures o ‘plan-o-grams’ – diagrams of displays and how they should look. o o o o 2 In other cases, retailers may specify broader standards that must be met in terms of visual merchandising. These may include how stock is to be arranged on different types of fixtures, types of stock to be displayed in windows and other display areas, and how often these should be changed. The choices you make in displaying merchandise should be guided by the organisation’s visual merchandising plan. This will help you to: clarify the standards your organisation applies to visual merchandising outline your objectives in attracting the attention of customers specify design parameters to help you achieve those objectives Identify factors such as the season, which may have an impact on your visual displays. The design requirements of a visual merchandising plan The design principles used in visual merchandising are similar to those used in interior design. The intention is to create a visually balanced and harmonious background environment, where you can place specific centres of emphasis – your displays. There should be a flow or rhythm to the visual experience of a customer entering the store, which you can create using colour, sight lines, proportion, repetition, lighting, signage and the composition of displays. The design principles used in a store will differ depending on the: type and cost of merchandise sold size and location of the store Target groups of customers. 3 Visual merchandising design includes: applying the organisation’s visual merchandising standards choosing display features to suit products using colour applying the design principles of balance and symmetry using shapes, lines, space and textures. Visual merchandising standards The visual merchandising standards of an organisation create the retail image a store presents, and should be noticeable in the design style of the whole store. Successful visual merchandising of individual displays must accurately reflect these standards. You need to understand and apply your organisation’s standards as part of implementing a visual merchandising plan. The organisation’s standards provide a basis for consistency throughout the store. In a large store with a number of different departments, the consistency may aim to establish customer loyalty, rather than to simply attract a particular market segment. Select suitable display features Make sure that props and materials used in the display complement your products, rather than compete with or detract from them, for example: Expensive products may be enhanced by the texture of velvet, tasteful harmonising props, and quality fixtures with simple lines. Products for the DIY enthusiast may be complemented by rough, wooden or metal fixtures and textures. Trendy clothes may work well against bright, contrasting fittings and props. 4 If the budget is available, use light and sound to create an appropriate atmosphere for selling your products and draw attention to your merchandise. Use light to enhance the best features of a product and make stock more appealing. Also, plan and design signage to match the theme and purpose of the display. Visual images in and around the display can place products in contexts that appeal to your customers. For example, you could place a poster of a beautiful mountain view with products used for hiking and climbing. Use signs to communicate to the customer. These may: o explain features, benefits and uses of your products o suggest accessories for products on display o Identify your competitive edge. Use colour Colours evoke emotions and make a powerful impact on the customer. Use of colour should reflect the image your retail store wants to convey, and the products being sold. 5 Consider the following factors when selecting colours. Bright colours may attract the initial attention of customers, but this may be only a brief glance. Strong colours should generally be used for small areas and combined with softer colours. Vivid colours may be suitable for displays of low-priced merchandise. Up-market products should have a refined colour scheme that reflects the current fashion. Lighter shades create a feeling of space; darker shades tend to create a closed-in effect. Warm colours such as yellow, red and orange tend to highlight and enhance the appearance of products. Cool colours such as blue and green create a feeling of calm, balance and space. Contrasts can be appealing, but you need to be aware of clashing colours. Use balance and symmetry Symmetry exists when you can draw a line through the centre of the display, and the proportions and weight are equal on both sides. If the proportions and weight are not equal, then the display is asymmetrical. A symmetrical display needs a central focus with smaller objects on either side, elaborating on the central theme. The main signs and banners should reflect the balance of the display, although small items and signs may be placed asymmetrically without disturbing the balance. An asymmetrical display has more weight on one side, usually the left and near the base to maintain stability. Use shapes, lines, space and textures The shape of your display influences the visual focus. For example, the focus of a triangular or pyramid shape is at the top. Steps can also be an effective way of proportioning a display— the use of three steps is most effective. Textures can create a sense of touch to enhance the effect of your display. The smooth texture of satin creates a soft and sensuous feeling, compared with the roughness of Hessian, the coolness of steel and the warmth of wood. 6 A sense of rhythm guides the eye through the display where you can arrange objects rhythmically by creating: a series of increasing sizes a continuous line weaving through a display area an outward radiation from a central focus a repeating shape in different orientations. You can use lines to create a variety of effects, for example: A dominance of vertical lines gives the illusion of height. Horizontal lines are restful and widen the appearance of a display. Curved lines add a flowing sense of movement and are associated with femininity. Converging or diverging lines can produce an illusion of depth. Diagonal lines can induce a sense of movement or action – if used incorrectly diagonal lines can give the appearance of instability. Repetition of lines or shapes brings balance and harmony to the display. Overcrowding the display can detract from your sales message and should be avoided. 7 When you mount an in-store display to reflect your organisation’s visual merchandising standards and plan, you need to take into account factors such as: store promotions availability of merchandise availability of display stands and structures budget requirements Availability of staff and time to mount and manage displays. When there are storewide promotions which reflect seasonal changes in stock or in customer buying behaviour, make sure your visual merchandising reflects these seasonal changes. For example, displays in a home appliances business will focus on heating during autumn and cooling during spring. Visual merchandising colours, images and signage can be used effectively to remind customers of purchases they need to make. The visual merchandising plan will provide guidelines that you must interpret and apply to: the store as a whole individual store window and floor displays fixtures and hardware Signs, props and decorations. You need to extract information from the plan that will help you decide on specifications for store and display presentations, such as: colours layout functionality merchandise size location Health and safety requirements. 8 Compare two different plans From the information given in the following case studies for Selina Exclusive and Devilish, imagine that you will be implementing the visual merchandising plan in one store for each company. Read the following questions and make notes or draw labelled sketches to show the choices you would make for each store. What colours and lighting would you use in the store and on displays? What type of displays would you use and how would you position them? What merchandise and props would you select to display? What music would you use in the store? What signage would you use on the merchandise? Note or sketch your choices for Selina Exclusive, including colours and lighting, type and position of displays, merchandise to display, props, music and signage. Note or sketch your choices for Devilish, including colours and lighting, type and position of displays, merchandise to display props, music and signage. or Prepare a digital mood board for each store using Prezi upload to our wiki when completed 9 Case Study 1 Selina Exclusive is a small boutique fashion house with branches located in up-market suburbs of three major Australian cities. The business strategy is to provide high-quality fashions for customers willing to pay for designer names, exclusive lines and fabrics, and individual attention. The management of Selina Exclusive develops an annual merchandise plan in consultation with a representative from each branch. The plan includes the following specifications: Merchandise collection profile – details of the labels to be stocked and the range of products within each label. Sourcing and buying plan – lists of suppliers to be used and the anticipated stock requirements for each quarter. Merchandise allocation plan – shows how merchandise is allocated to the three branches, based on sales potential. Merchandise sales plan – specifies sales targets and profit margins in relation to stock levels for each branch. Merchandise requirements – identifies discount sales, seasonal requirements, pricing strategies and cash flow cycles. Selina Exclusive’s visual merchandising plan includes the following specifications of the overall theme of the stores: Each store is designed to give the impression of light and space, using soft colours and warm textures. Stores have fixtures specifically styled to suit the location. Materials used in display accessories are to be high quality such as glass, wood or stainless steel, and well finished. Minimal signs, props and decorations are to be used in displays, placing the focus on individual service Window and floor displays are to be simple, integrating available merchandise to achieve style. Displays for discount sales, held seasonally to dispose of out-dated stock, should be balanced by new season stock. Staff in each branch interprets the plan in relation to the specific requirements of the store. 10 Case Study 2 Devilish is a clothes store with branches in fifty shopping malls throughout Australia. They provide popular fashion products at competitive prices, targeting young women buying clothes for work, social and leisure wear. The merchandise plan for Devilish includes the following items. Merchandise assortment profile that identifies the groups of merchandise they stock, including the width and depth of products, pricing and anticipated turnover for each season. Sourcing and buying plan that includes suppliers for each product, volume and delivery requirements. Merchandise allocation plan that indicates merchandise allocation to the branches, based on branch size, location and competitive profile. Merchandise sales plan that specifies sales targets and profit margins in relation to stock levels for each branch. Merchandise requirements that identify sales and seasonal requirements, pricing strategies and cash flow cycles. The ‘Devilish’ approach to visual merchandising requires that: visual impact of the stores give an impression of action and excitement fixtures should allow bulk display of merchandise displays should include effective signage to direct customers to the advertised items window and floor displays should combine merchandise to indicate a range of available options and prices national coordination of promotions, which are highly publicised with clear price marking and signage to reduce the need for customer service. A detailed visual merchandising plan is provided to each store with instructions for laying out promotional displays. Branches interpret the plan in the context of their location and customer base. 11 What are the key differences in visual merchandising requirements for the two stores? What are the main reasons for the differences? Discuss your ideas with your colleagues, other learners and your supervisor or trainer to ensure that you have a full understanding of the influence of differences in the following aspects on the visual merchandising plan for each store: Type and cost of merchandise sold Size and location of the store Target groups of customers. 12 Resources for implementing visual merchandising plans The resources you use should be cost effective, fit the design requirements of the plan, and enable you to achieve the strategic objectives. The type and quantity of resources will depend on a number of factors such as the size of the store, the specific details of the visual merchandising plan, and whether your project involves the whole store, one department or a single display. You must ensure that you have the merchandise to display, and stock to back up the display. You should also consider the limitations of the budget allocated to the display. This will affect your choice of fixtures, fittings, materials and staff. Planning ahead will provide more choice of available resources. Remember to book people and arrange hire or delivery of equipment and supplies in advance. To implement any visual merchandising plan, you will usually need the following resources: people time technological equipment fixtures and fittings materials such as signs, props and decorations supports lights relevant merchandise. 13 The following list includes some questions that may help you decide on the best resources. What fixtures and fittings could I use to reflect the visual merchandising plan? What would they look like? How many do I need? Should I rent or purchase? Who is the most cost-effective supplier? Which personnel do I need to implement the plan? How many people? What skills and knowledge do they need? What amount of each person’s time is required? Existing staff or additional people? What materials do I need? How many and what type of signs? What additional display props and decorations? Re-use old materials or buy new ones? What type of lighting would be best? Is the current lighting adequate? What additional lighting do I need for special displays? Does the lighting give me enough flexibility?