But then who is he, what does he do and where does a real Visual Merchandiser work?
Those who know me know that with this topic I usually get a little malaise, so I wanted to address this issue and clarify what are the macroscopic differences make these two figures, without getting angry, I promise!
In these 17 years of career, it’s funny how there’s still a lot of confusion in precisely defining the role of the Visual Merchandiser.
The absurd thing is that often this confusion hovers even among the Visual themselves, not only in HR offices, among professionals or among ordinary people.
So, where to start….
If the term window dresser is now confined to the 80s, it’s not enough to change your title to become a Visual Merchandiser!
Usually, a pure window designer works for a company.
Generally, they are salespeople particularly capable in the “creative” realization of attractive shop windows or, more often, freelancers who take care of the windows of independent shops.
If we talk about structured companies instead, at the head of showcase projects, we will find professionals with technical, graphic and managerial experience behind them.
Often they are graduates in architecture, interior design, set design or former Visual Merchandiser Managers particularly brilliant in their creative flair and with organizational experience, team management, point of sale marketing, etc..
But watch out, shop windows are not just about creativity, they are part of a strategic business process, they are the tip of the iceberg, at least that’s how it should be.
And no, it doesn’t have to sell!
The window doesn’t sell!!!!!
The display case is a means to “distract” the passer-by, to catch him as he walks wrapped in his thoughts, a means to “talk” with him.
“The showcase is the most beautiful dress the brand can wear”
Okay I swear, I won’t make a treatise on window dressing, also because, as described above, this applies to the world of fashion/design.
For the promotional shop windows of a supermarket, for example, I would never dare to make such a statement, here’s where a shop window sells.
With this excursus, I wanted to underline that a showcase project realized according to strategic criteria and not only aesthetic ones, have nothing to do with the old window-dressing techniques.
As a result, the professionals in charge of window display today cannot simply be “window designers”, because they have different training, experience and managerial skills and are now called upon to play a much, much more complex role than window designers.
But back to us.
So what will this Visual Merchandiser ever do that’s so different from the window dresser?
First of all, doesn’t make create shop windows!
Are you squinting? Well, so I keep your attention…
Dear reader, the truth is that in large realities the last thing on a Visual’s mind is the creation of a scenic window display, unless you are talking about Visual Merchandiser Director, who designs the windows.
The creative part of the showcase, as already mentioned, is entrusted to the window department.
The Visual will be responsible for the product change of the showcase and, at most, the modification of the layout of the available structures to make it more suitable for the goods to be displayed.
When I make these statements, I am referring to a large size reality, with many stores, a well-defined coordinated image, managed by the headquarters and a structured Visual team.
I am not only talking about clothing but also brands in the world of fancy goods, accessories, jewelry, sports equipment, etc..
From my direct experience in the world of fashion, I can tell you that in big realities like Moschino and Dolce and Gabbana, we had a department that dealt exclusively with the shop windows; it was certainly not the Visual to realize the concept!
I can assure you that whoever set up the showcases certainly didn’t make the internal displays, just as no Visual intervened on the assembly of the showcases, if not, maybe, for the part strictly related to the positioning of the product on the mannequins.
To give a rigid and univocal rule would be silly, because there are still companies that entrust the realization of the windows to Visual, who will then also set up the store, but it is generally freelance Visual.
Let’s say that there is a wide variety of situations and it’s not easy to precisely define the roles, also because everything depends on the type of company you’re going to work in and in each company there will be something that Visual will or will not be allowed to do.
I’ll try to simplify.
THE ROLES OF VISUAL MERCHANDISER
The first division has to be made between store Visual and headquarters Visual, because they have different tasks and responsibilities.
Within these two worlds, I will then schematize the intermediate figures and the roles of the different VMs.
IN STORE VISUAL
They are those who work exclusively in the physical store. They take care of the image of the designated store and have constant relations with the head office, which transmits to them the guidelines to follow.
Depending on the type of sector in which they work and the structure of the company, Visual in-store may or may not intervene in the shop windows.
For example, Zara does not allow any employee, except for the specifically designated staff, to modify or even just enter the shop window. There are teams prepared exclusively for the display windows.
In Moschino, on the other hand, employees can remove a garment from the mannequin if it will be necessary for the sale.
The company dynamics are different, also for this reason the roles of Visuals can change a lot from brand to brand.
In-store Visual Junior
This is the first step in a Visual’s career.
Usually, the junior VM also deals with sales to the public and, in parallel, supports the Visual senior or the shop Visual team in their daily tasks.
In-store Visual Senior
It is a Visual now autonomous in the realization of displays.
Generally, in large stores it is part of a Visual team but, in small stores, it could also be the only figure to take care of everything related to the image of the store.
In-store Visual Manager
He or she is the person in charge of the store Visual and is the reference person for all other stores Visual, both junior and senior.
It will also be the person with whom the store manager and department/floor managers, will constantly compare to improve and manage optimally the product on display, new arrivals, promotions, inventory, etc..
This figure is also the point of reference for the head office Visual who, in turn, will coordinate or supervise the work of the Instore Visual Manager.
Visual di area
It often happens that the Visual Manager instore takes care of a defined geographical area, in addition to the store to which it has been expressly designated.
It often happens that to be more effective, faster and also to optimize economic resources, companies divide the stores by geographical areas and have them followed by a Visual on site.
Also in this case its work is coordinated by the VM team at the location.
The headquarters visuals are those that make up the team that coordinates the brand image.
Their headquarters is in the company.
They work closely with the commercial office and the style office, the PR office and the technical/architectural office.
The tasks of the head office Visual
- Creation of internal shop displays
- Showroom setting up for sales campaigns
- Preparation of special events, fairs or presentations
- Point of sale installation on the occasion of the installation of the scenic showcases
- Implementation of the brand guidelines
- Realization of the collection guidelines
- Search and management of suppliers for VM tools (mannequins, hangers, displays, etc..)
- Image coordination of points of sale: merchandising, music, essences, packaging
- Training of staff at headquarters and in-store on Visual Merchandising techniques
- In-store staff training on the product
- Coordination with design offices for new openings
It has no direct responsibility for the points of sale but supports the Visual office during all activities, both back office and set-up.
It is a figure who has gained some experience and can carry out his work independently, clearly always coordinated with the rest of the team and following the directives of the VM manager or VM coordinator.
The VM coordinator works autonomously in a given geographical area, is responsible for this area, and is supervised by the VM manager. He works closely with the relevant sales office for the area assigned to him and with this office, he coordinates the intervention priorities, schedules visits to the store, organize new openings and monitors the economic result of the interventions carried out.
The WV coordinator will also be responsible for coordinating his WV team if the size of the relevant area requires more people.
This figure coordinates all the VMs, is responsible for all the activities of the Visual office and is accountable to the VM director (if this figure is present in the company) and often to the sales director for the geographical area of his area.
You’ll often find World Wide VM Director nomenclature or something similar.
He’s a figure at the top of the company and is therefore the highest role in the Visual department hierarchy.
He is in charge of setting and coordinating the corporate image, determining display standards and designing showcases. He coordinates and manages all decisions relating to the Visual team.
He works closely with the designer, CEO, marketing and PR department.
He does not deal directly with the displays but will actively participate during the installations of the new showcase concepts. He participates in new openings in prestigious locations and is involved in all strategic business, marketing and PR decisions.
In today’s realities, there are also figures from Visual intermediates, who deal only with showrooms, resort stores, new openings, or those who do more back office.
Everything depends on the company structure and organization.
So, after this papyrus…