VISUAL MERCHANDISING TOOLS: functionality, prototyping, and setting up

by | 28 Apr 2020 | visual merchandising | 0 comments

Welcome to my column on Visual Merchandising!

Whether you’re just curious, a small shop owner, a big company manager, or a novice visual, my column will provide you with the basic tools (and a bit more) to navigate the world of Visual Merchandising.

Today we’re talking about Visual Tools, but what falls under this definition?

Visual Tools are all those elements that support the setup, namely all the objects designed and made specifically to improve the display and visibility of the product.

Hangers, mannequins, counter displays, hat displays, bag lifts, shoe lifts, bases, cubes, etc.. all fall under this definition.

But how do you navigate the choice?

First of all, the choice of VT will essentially depend on the type of product you have in store.

Every product category has the possibility of being displayed in different ways, the most classic example concerns clothing items. Anyone knows that a shirt can be either folded or well displayed on a hanger inside a rack and we all know the huge difference that results, or maybe not…..

 

Ok, I will start from this point to explain to you the importance of correctly displaying a clothing item, an accessory, or any other product but, in order not to lose you along the way, I will try to schematize the use of the most known and commonly used VT.

 

HANGERS

 

Made of wood, plastic, iron, fabric, more or less beautiful, more or less functional, we are all now familiar with this tool, so much so that it has become an integral part of our daily use at home. I won’t get lost in boring advice on the advantages of having a garment hung on a hanger compared to one folded, but I would like to draw your attention to the right choice of hanger.

Yes, because every garment needs its hanger!

During my sales force training, this has always been one of the parts I particularly cared about, because as obvious as certain rules are, magically they are not followed, but remember that the way you present the garments makes a difference.

Some rules:

Coat hanger:

If it’s called “coat hanger” there must be a reason, right? You should indeed use it only with this type of product: t-shirts, shirts, sweaters, tops, jackets, coats, etc. Although not falling into the coat category, women’s dresses should also be displayed with this type of hanger.

However, you should always keep in mind the difference between male and female hangers, because size makes a difference and, moreover, the use of wrong hangers could damage the garments.

Imagine a beautiful men’s jacket displayed on a woman’s hanger, lacking the right support and over time it will lay on the hanger taking its shape and leaving a visible mark on the shoulders because it’s too short.

You absolutely must avoid this happening, you could penalize a sale or in any case negatively alter the customer’s perception in front of a sloppily displayed item.

To date, to overcome these problems and to avoid logistical and budget issues, several stores are equipping themselves with a single size of hanger.

In such case, it will be essential that the hangers are made to measure or at least that the dimensions are well considered, because the collections of brands are very different and the men’s 48 or women’s 38 will not be the same for everyone, so it is essential to purchase a hanger that takes into account the average sizes of the garments of your product.

Gruccia con pinza:

Used exclusively for skirts, pants, or jacket/pants suits.

Pants will be exclusively displayed in their entire length by clipping them on the waistband and can be displayed open, as in the case of jeans, cargo, or other casual/sporty items, etc., or closed, as in the case of classic pants with a central crease.

In the latter case, remember that the pants are to be displayed with the zip/drawstring side facing front, a fundamental detail, since I often cringe seeing pants clipped with the back side exposed towards the customer!

The following photo will clarify what has just been described.

 

Never use the clip hanger to fold pants at the knee height! For this, you must use the bar hanger listed below.

Grucce con barra:

They are used exclusively for folded pants or for displaying jacket/pants suits, with the pants folded in half on the bar at knee height. Even in this case, you must pay particular attention to the side of the pants you expose towards the customer, it must correspond to the front part of the pants, the one with the zip/drawstring.

I have focused on the types of hangers most used but clearly, depending on the type of product displayed, you will have the possibility to choose hangers specifically designed for underwear, beachwear, scarves, etc. Generally, all hanger manufacturers and even ready-to-sell stores will have the right range of hangers to meet any need.

From my point of view, I advise you to balance the amount of product displayed between folded and hung. It is known that hung items are more visible and perform better, so make a thoughtful choice of which product will be hung and which folded, perhaps opting to fold the basic, continuous product and hang the more particular, detailed, or appealing items.

Do not forget that a certain rhythm of folded/hung serves to give movement to the store and stimulate the customer’s attention, therefore, as much as the hung item performs better, a store with only hung items would still be heavy and uninteresting.

 

MANNEQUINS

On mannequins, there would be a treatise to write, especially nowadays that the competition among manufacturers is fierce and that the range of products is infinite.

You could say that there are humanoid mannequins and busts, that you can choose between mannequins with and without heads, with interchangeable or customizable breastplates, with wig, makeup or without, but this you can find out for yourself by consulting one of the many online catalogs of a supplier X.

What I would like to suggest here is to keep in mind much more practical aspects when you find yourself having to choose mannequins.

Let’s say that beyond the appearance, which must be in line with the product and the look of your store, the fit and the price will be the determining elements in the choice.

However, I advise you not to underestimate other elements, such as:

  • Weight and durability and therefore robustness: there are mannequins that if they fall once, they immediately chip, so choose high-quality mannequins with materials resistant to shocks, durable and especially choose suppliers capable of giving you assistance in case of accidental damage.

There are suppliers that repair or replace damaged parts, others that provide repair and maintenance kits, others that leave you to your fate.

  • Attachments: some models have arm and leg attachments that can test any Visual Merchandiser and make dressing the mannequins a nightmare, as well as represent a real risk for the garments that, if accidentally pinched, risk breaking.
  • Disposal: today, eco choices are increasing and several mannequins can be easily disposed of as “classic waste”.

Keep in mind that now the direction of all businesses is ECO FRIENDLY, so it must take into account sustainability, not only for an ethical issue but also because it is the customer himself who asks for it, it is precisely the end customer who rewards companies that make sustainable and environmentally friendly choices.

Then do not underestimate that such choices will be an excellent starting point to promote your business, to position yourself in the market and to communicate added value to your customer, today increasingly sensitive, informed, and attentive.

An ECO FRIENDLY example above all: Bonaveri

Italian company leader in the production of mannequins, has always been attentive to a rapidly changing market and the needs that, consequently, continuously evolve.

Already in 2016 Bonaveri presented the first biodegradable mannequin in the world, an innovative product, made with BPlast, a biodegradable bioplastic obtained from sugar cane and painted with BPaint, the first paint made exclusively from renewable natural materials.

Furthermore, the packaging has been specially designed both to minimize the weight and therefore the energy consumption necessary for transport, and to optimize the size of the packaging, which has allowed an increase in efficiency in the logistical process. All this has led to a reduction of 40% in CO2 emissions, 37% in energy consumption, and 56% in water consumption.

Bonaveri has taken a decisive step towards the future, differentiating itself and acting very responsibly with respect to environmental sustainability and resource exploitation.

  • Fitting: the last piece of advice I feel like giving you is: do a fitting test.

Once you have identified the model(s) you like, request a trial in the showroom, this small step will save you from nasty surprises.

Your size 48 will probably differ from the mannequin’s size 48, because just as every collection has its own fit, every mannequin has its own. Alternatively, pay due attention to the measurements. Every mannequin has its technical data sheet with detailed measurements, do not underestimate them and use them to guide your choice!

DISPLAYS

This macro category includes the whole world of props supporting the display of small and medium-sized products; from purse/shoe lifts to fixed risers, from belt to jewelry displays, from heads, hands, and feet for accessories to modular structures, counter displays, and all that can contribute to enhancing the product and making it more attractive and desirable.

Also in this case the choice must be guided by practicality, design, and above all functionality.

It is essential that these supports are easily manageable, easily replaceable, and that they do not take away space from the product but rather enhance it.

The display must always be at the service of the product and never the other way around.

It is important that the displays are in line with the style of the store and the product but also that they are easily adaptable to changes in collections and setups.

My advice is to choose modular and easily interchangeable displays, possibly in neutral colors so that they can be easily adapted to any type of setup and collection.

Do not forget that the display, as well as the mannequin, contributes significantly to the perception that the customer has of the product and therefore of its value.

A cheap, damaged, or poorly maintained display will inevitably affect the perceived value of the product.

So choose quality also in this case and pay attention to the details, they make the difference!

THE SHOP WINDOW

The window is the business card of your store, it is the first thing that the customer sees and it is what, in a few seconds, will decide whether to enter or not.

It is therefore essential that it is always well-kept, updated, and in line with the season, the collections, and the promotions in progress.

The window must tell a story, it must be able to attract attention and arouse curiosity, it must be clear and direct but also leave something to the imagination.

It must be a perfect mix of creativity, technique, and marketing.

Here too, as for the displays and the mannequins, the advice is to choose quality, to invest in good lighting, in modular structures that can be easily adapted to different setups, and to always keep in mind the target and the message you want to convey.

Remember that the window is a powerful communication tool and as such must be used in the best possible way.

Do not underestimate the importance of a well-made window, it can really make the difference in terms of traffic and sales.

Finally, I would like to remind you that Visual Merchandising is not an exact science, it is a mix of technique, creativity, and a lot of experimentation.

It is essential to always keep in mind the target, the product, and the message you want to convey but it is also important to dare, to experiment, and to constantly update yourself.

The market is rapidly changing and the needs of customers are constantly evolving, it is therefore necessary to be always attentive and ready to adapt to new trends.

Visual Merchandising is a fundamental tool for the success of a store, it is what makes the difference between a simple store and a successful store.

Investing in Visual Merchandising means investing in the success of your business.

Good work!

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