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The Art and Science of Visual Merchandising Strategies

Paul J. Russell Explains that Visual Merchandising Strategy is about Enlightening Your Target Consumers through Creative Nonverbal Communication

Imagine going to the mall on a bright spring day in search of that perfect outfit for a special occasion. As you stroll pass numerous stores, you stop to take a glimpse at three mannequins in a window positioned in front of a large beach scene graphic. Each mannequin is outfitted in top and coordinating slacks. The presentation lacks the quality of being mysteriously eye-catching, and although the merchandise in the window display doesn’t grab your attention, you see the red sign that shouts “sale” so apathetically you decide to walk into the store anyway.

To your right, you observe a nested table of jeans with numerous styles and colors. Behind the table sits four fixtures, each housing a different style of shirt that could possibly match any of the jeans on the table, but you have not been enticed to explore the process. Actually, to explore the possibilities appear to be more work than you are willing to invest. The back wall has a large logo sign in the middle of the presentation surrounded by various styles of jackets, but you are not in the market for a jacket. So, you turn and unassumingly walk out of the store recognizing your need to continue your search for that perfect outfit elsewhere.

As you continue to walk through the mall, a store window across the hall demands attention and you suddenly feel a sense of excitement to examine the possibilities. As you approach the window, you think to yourself, that’s a nice outfit. You are looking at three mannequins, just as you did in the previous window presentation, but this time, there is a major difference. There is a color scheme running throughout the presentation with each mannequin wearing a well-coordinated outfit, layered with matching merchandise. Each outfit presents a mixture of red, white and blue color coordinated patterns that complement the other.

The window presentation seems to tell a vivid story of how all three outfits can be interchanged. Mind you, the presentation speaks a conscience message of possibilities beyond what is physically shown. Every item in the display can be mixed and matched, creating a plethora of options. The model in the large graphic situated behind the mannequins is wearing a well-coordinated red, white and blue outfit highlighting a few of the same items presented on the mannequins. The presentation is mesmerizing. You not only visualize how well the outfit would look on you, but the impossibilities of finding that perfect outfit have faded away and excitingly, you are drawn through the doors.

As you scan the store from the entrance, you are amazed at how the red, white and blue color scheme in the window display is dispersed throughout the store. Every section of the store presents a small vignette that includes fixtures, mannequins and displays, presenting complete, well-coordinated collections that could be mixed and matched to create a striking ensemble. As you wander through the store, you are halted in your tracks by a vibrant display that shows multiple items presented in concert with the same red, white and blue color scheme that is so classy you can’t pass it up. Patterns on top of patterns, small patterns mixed with medium size and even larger ones on top with the same color story pulling it all together. That’s it you say to yourself as you tell the sales associate you want to try on the complete outfit.

As you leave the dressing room, you make a decision to purchase all the items including the jacket that matched so well. Oops! You were not in the market to buy a jacket, but it completes the outfit, you say to yourself. You leave the store thrilled and vow to return.

The first retailer in this article does not appear to be focused on creating a unique shopping experience for their target consumers. Although, visual merchandising was incorporated in their overall planning process, it is not prevalent and the store does not have a comprehensive strategy for attracting customers and stimulate multiple sales. They have a plan, not a strategy.

A strategy is much more in-depth than a plan. A strategy involves identifying risk, using insight and creative thinking on each detailed step chosen in order to reach the desired destination. If your organization’s goal is to win the war at retail, develop a visual merchandising strategy not a plan.

“Visual merchandising strategy is the art and science of enlightening your target consumers through creative nonverbal communication.”

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