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By David Jenkin

Many years ago, the potential of excellent visual merchandising really hit me. I had just read an article by the great Stanley Marcus, founder of Neiman Marcus, entitled “The Case of the Oriental Rug”.

At the time I was the Merchandise Manager of an "independent" department store, with full buying and selling responsibilities. And we had just received a huge shipment of Oriental rugs. The next morning I phoned our Display Manager and asked him to meet me in the floor covering department where the rugs were neatly stacked in piles, half a metre high. “What I want you to do” I said, “is to create a Persian bazaar right here in the department. Let's get rid of these stacks; let's hang the rugs from the walls and the ceiling. And let's get spot lights and music to create the ambience”.

The Display Manager did a terrific job (the term Visual Merchandiser hadn't been created in those days). And to everyone's delight the customers responded as if the rugs were precious jewels. Although I didn't recognise it at the time, this was my induction to the power of visual merchandising.

Cascading champagne glasses, colour co-ordinated walls of bath towels, tumbling towers of books, stacks of soft toys, colour-blocked jelly beans, ceiling-high bins of designer jeans, expensive silk ties endlessly folded. This is the world of visual merchandising. For some retailers, the 'word' is almost out of favour; designers say they have built it into the store design. In other cases power presentation has replaced the word but not the concept.

The principle is what really matters and the principle hasn't changed at all. It's all about presenting merchandise in the most eye-catching way.
Generally speaking, the vast majority of retail stores are boring and sterile. Far too many retailers place merchandise on the rack or shelf in the same way you would expect to see it in a warehouse; it's only the size scale that is different. Lots of stock; little appeal. And yet retailing is all about catching the eye of a potential customer, and then completing a transaction.

It is probably true that the most competitive of all retailing environments are the great markets of the world. The Pike Place Market in Seattle; Covent Garden in London; the famous bazaars in the Middle East, the Seafood Market in Sydney; the Victoria Market in Melbourne. In these intensely competitive market-places visual merchandising is a supreme art.

Much of the produce and many of the products are identical – the difference is often in the ability of the merchant to attract your attention, to draw your eye away from another display, to capture your custom, to complete the sale. In Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia, I stumbled across the largest open-air market in Africa; surely the largest market in the world. For as far as the eye could see, small 'retailers' were sitting on the ground, or standing idly about displaying their wares.

In one section, larger than twenty supermarkets lined up together, individual spice merchants were calling to customers and doing their best to out-manoeuvre their colleagues. But across this strongly perfumed landscape of product, one stallholder's display grabbed my attention.
Every other merchant had used matting or makeshift benches to show the range of spices on a horizontal level, but one creative African had stacked hessian bales, shoulder high, with one bale of each product slashed open, to show the particular spice spilling out. It was a spectacular presentation.

My colleague said to me “Wouldn't he lose a lot?” My reply said something about the volume he was selling!

Some retail stores, to remain competitive, must introduce new stock every week or so; other retailers like homeware stores (IKEA, House etc.) must rely on innovative visual merchandisers to keep fairly standard merchandise lines looking smart, different and new. The primary issue here is how to make the store a place of passionate attraction; how to make the merchandise so visually arresting that customers will be caught up in the wonder of it all; how to create presentation points that cause customers to touch the product, to pick it up, to taste it, to try it on, to connect with it.


Visual merchandising is not just another word for display. A display may take an item of apparel, for example, and carefully accessorize it with jewellery, or create a wonderful window presentation; there's an important place for that. Visual merchandising is the art of creating power behind a classification or a single item of merchandise, or a single seasonal colour; and doing it in a way that proclaims, “We believe in this; we are an authority in this area; pay attention!”

I remember the first time I saw a Crate and Barrel store some decades ago. It revolutionized my thinking about how to merchandise homewares. I was struck by the incredible visual impact: here was a combination of a retail store, a gallery, a warehouse and a theatre. Merchandise carefully placed on rough hewn crates alongside beautifully crafted dining tables. Massed product, colour coded, irresistibly
presented. Later, when I met the founder of Crate and Barrel, Gordon Segal, he explained the goal for their merchandise presentation: “to make the whole store a feast for the eyes”. That's visual merchandising in a nutshell!

And that's exactly what Gelatissimo, the Sydney based gelati retailer is doing. Now I have to admit that I am a gelati fanatic. People say that my itineraries in Italy are designed around the great gelati shops – in Rome, in Siena, in Florence, in San Gimigliano, in CinqueTerre. My response, of course, is that I am just doing retail research! Gelatissimo is definitely in the big league. In every shop each variety of gelati is an individual star on a pre-set stage. The visual merchandising has to be seen to be understood – it's mouth-watering! I defy anyone who enters a Gelatissimo shop to exit without a cup or a cone.

To optimize visual merchandising, two additional things are required. Firstly, a store design that allows visual merchandising to do its job; a design that facilitates visual merchandising rather than overpowers it; which creates space for powerful visual merchandising. Secondly, buyers who are convinced that buying specific classifications and specific products in depth is the way to maximize sales revenue; buyers who work with the store design and with the store manager to optimize the potential.

Great visual merchandisers are in short supply. Multiple-outlet speciality stores often create model presentations in one location with the images transmitted to all stores by D.V.D., or video-streaming, thereby ensuring that a common visual impact is presented in all stores.

Visual merchandising techniques will not work in the same way for all stores, although it is strongly my view that by far the majority of retail stores will significantly improve performance with the adoption of an integrated approach to visual merchandising.

At the end of the day, visual merchandising is the joining together of merchandising skills with great display capability. That's the key. If you are a merchant at heart you need a great visual merchandiser. And vice versa.

A chance to get noticed in the industry. A chance to show your creativity. A chance to participate and win display awards every month. (submit your entries at [email protected])

Category: Wrist Watches, Mood Windows

Courtesy Bob and Susan Negen | WhizBang! Training, Phone: 616-842-4237, Fax: 616-842-2977,
To sign up for your FREE Tip-Of-The-Week, Visit:


There are only three ways to grow your business - and one way is by getting new customers to do business with you.

One of the best ways to entice new customers is to give them a sample of your wares…


You see this technique all the time at grocery stores or the cosmetics counter, but it can work for nearly any business.

As a matter of fact, I just saw a postcard from Victoria's Secret offering a free pair of panties. They're betting that people will like the sample panties so much that they'll become long-term, profitable customers.

Sampling also works extremely well for service businesses – who wouldn't want a free stress-buster massage or a complimentary consultation with a financial planner?

Roberta Miller from the Bank Of Lenawee in Adrian, Michigan shares this very creative idea for sampling the outstanding customer service her bank offers:

“I work for a community bank and part of my job is to encourage local merchants to consider my bank as a possibility instead of their current bank.

So on Saturday mornings, I bring 20 to 50 one-dollar bills to our downtown stores and see if they need change. They are usually super busy and really appreciate not having to run out and get change themselves!

I always give them the bills in one of our drive up envelopes so they see our name and logo at least once a week.”

Think about how you can give your hottest prospects a sample of your goods and services because if you sample, you'll sell.

This one woman has referred more than 10 people to our salon in 3 weeks!

My tip is: Treat the person on the phone just as you would if they were in your store… and one day they will be!”

Bravo! A wonderful lesson in great selling as great customer service.

But when you look closely, this story is about much, MUCH more than giving great customer service on the phone. Here are seven additional lessons I can find in this wonderful story…

** Be willing to change how you do things. You'll never get different/better results doing the same old things the same old way.

** Be deliberate about your success and make conscious choices that take you closer to where you want to end up.

** Understand specifically what's special and different about your business that sets you apart from the crowd.

** Be able to explain to your customer the BENEFIT TO THEM of your special, unique differences. Why does it matter to them that you're different?

** Treat every customer like your most important customer regardless of how they look, talk, walk, or how much money you think they have. You never know who they are or who they know. Plus it's just good manners and common decency.

** Ask for referrals.

** Big time success comes from the geometric explosion of doing lots of little things right. Big time success rarely comes from hitting a “home run”.


Silver starbursts and sculptural metal pieces set the tone for Ann Taylor's resort-wear windows.
By Lauren Mang

Ann Taylor spared no expense when pulling together its resort-wear windows – an homage to 20th Century metal sculptor Curtis Jere.

“Almost all of our installations feature authentic vintage Jere sculptures that we sourced over several months through antique dealers and eBay,” says Victor Johnson, director of visual presentation for New York-based Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft.


Elegant metal starbursts and shimmering gold disks scale acid-green backdrops, while dimensional silver and gold starbursts are suspended around groupings of mannequins.

“We felt that overarching motif was a refreshing complement to our resort colors and patterns,” Johnson says.


India is full of surprises. Retail IS booming. The practice of Visual Merchandising is common with every retailer, but unconsciously. Share the displays around you, near your home, on your way to office...submit your entries to [email protected]


Another of unusual merchandise category. Any guesses? These are the models of MONASTERIES for decoration purpose only. These colorful models with bright red backdrop really get your attention from a good distance and make you entre the shop...

  A LOUIS VUITTON oversize bag, displayed right outside the new Bangalore (now Bengalooru) International Airport. The tag on the top says “Louis Vuitton Bangalore Now Open”. It can not go unnoticed even if you are too late for the flight!!!

An electronic metal moving display stand. It looks little funny but do get your attention even if you are in a hot and a busy street. Here sunglasses are displayed. This stand is now available with many vendors based out of Delhi, Mumbai & Bangalore.



Rose Displays Ltd.

The EcoGotcha plastic sign holder is made from polypropylene rather than PVC for an eco-friendly alternative to displaying graphics. Three styles are available: EcoGotcha, in white, clear or black; EcoAnoGotcha and EcoAnoGotcha Plus, both featuring an aluminum exterior in clear, black or champagne finishes.




Attract-WD (right)
LSI LED Displays & Digital Signage

The Attract-WD creates visual impact with full-motion video. Features a 10 mm LED pixel pitch, a 170-degree horizontal viewing angle, automatic brightness control and a multi-strip visor system that allows for daytime and sunlight viewing.


"Missy" Mannequins (left)
Universal Display & Design Inc.

Stylized “missy” mannequins are the company's latest addition to its Mode line. Mannequins come with or without heads in any finish. 186 (212-242-0374;


Mirror Kits (top)
Stylmark Inc.

Mirror kits come fully glazed in standard- or triple-pane sizes, with or without backlighting.


If you don't know of her then it's safe to say that you've been living under a rock. Cindee Falsetto has reached the pinnacle of her supermodel career to become the highest paid runway personality in recent years. Though her success hasn't come without harsh crticism, “She's so stiff, I honestly don't know why she gets so much attention”, says Kate Moss.

Ivanovich Tanaka: So how do you deal with this recent barrage of criticism?

Cindee: Most of the time it's pretty easy actually. My father always said that I was 'thick headed', I guess he was right. When people say mean things I usually just stand there and take it.


I: Do you ever try to talk to them, you know to set them straight?

C: No, never. Although once this really pretty girl walked up and started talking about how I was so 'dense' then she said the meanest thing anyone has ever said…

I: Uh huh..? What was it Cindee?

C: She said that I was 'fake'. Can you believe that? Me, fake?! I was so upset that I almost cried. I was standing there, tears were just about to roll out when I composed myself at the very last second.

I: Well that seems like a sore subject, lets move on. So who is your favorite designer right now?

C: I've got to say that I am really enjoying some of the new dresses from Gucci. I once wore the same one for two weeks straight. But shhhh for god's sake don't tell anyone that! (giggles)

I: Wow you must have really liked it to wear it for 2 weeks!

C: I did. It felt so nice. People kept coming up to tell me how much they loved it, some even touched it!!! While it was on me! That kind of creeped me out but that dress sure did get a lot of attention.

I: I'm sure that happens no matter what you wear Cindee. (Wink)

C: (Giggles)

I: Do you aspire to be bigger than some of the veteran supermodels like Naomi Campbell or Kate Moss?

C: Yes. Those two especially. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a supermodel. I would stand there for days, weeks, sometimes even months perfecting my 'look'. While I was coming up in the industry Naomi and Kate have said many mean things about me. So in essence, they've helped fuel a fire that was already burning within me.

I: Cindee, thank you for your time. I have one last question before I ask you out, you turn me down and I start crying like a school boy. Ok?

C: (Giggles) Alright.

I: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

C: Right here. Doing what I was made to do.

I: Thanks Cindee.


" Summer Displays" Contributed by: Iqbal Krishna, [email protected]



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