It’s not uncommon for retail buyers to get so familiar with their product that they find it very difficult to view it from a customers’ perspective. Even the best assortment will not achieve its commercial potential if it is not displayed and communicated in a way that presents a clear, powerful and irresistible proposition to the customer.




The retail integration of buying and merchandising with visual merchandising lays at the heart of presenting these powerful propositions and transforming merely product groups into product stories with emotional connections to customers.

Buyers and merchandisers are becoming more aware of their role in “buying for space” – buying with not only commercial but visual considerations. The overwhelming trend is to work with smaller story blocks but the pressure this brings in buying the correct options relies on more experience and skills than ever. Depending on the sector, for each product story the buying & merchandising team must consider the balance of different categories, the balance of image makers, best sellers and basics, the architectures of size, colour and price, the fashion positioning and end-use, attributes of the product from functionality to fashion.

Combining these into traditional coordinated themes has never been easy to buy for or indeed to translate into store displays. As a result there has been a development to buying other product story groupings where a simplicity of store display can more easily be combined with commercial considerations but without any lessening of store visual impact or emotional connection.

Working more imaginatively with categories can deliver “killer category” displays where the visual power and authority of the pure category cannot fail to impress and inspire sales. Within this “power proposition” those all-important architectures of price, size and colour add commercialism and structure to drive sales and margin.

Coordinating categories in a logical and customer focused way has long been a tool of casual fashion retailers loosely displaying t-shirts and shorts, or blouses and skirts together, suggesting coordination without dictating a defined look. In buying terms this facilitates a broader perspective concentrating on colour palettes and styles within categories with only appropriate considerations of others. Across all sectors this evolution of category coordination through to cross-merchandising is seeing returns in everything from electrical businesses combining consoles with accessories, through to health and beauty retailers displaying haircare with skincare, and in every sector in-between.

The more structured “combined category” approach has the potential to create very powerful and attractive displays where different assortment features can deliver a populated visual matrix where one story runs horizontally along a display and another one vertically. Any combination of brand, theme, fashion position, colour, size and sub-category can be combined in eye-catching simplicity and absolute clarity of proposition – used to display everything from stationery to candles, baseball caps to lingerie cups, bed linen to exercise weights.

The reduction in option numbers has also added power to the simple silhouette where a few carefully and creatively coordinated pieces can create a powerful proposition for the customer. This simplicity of story can be used to communicate colour, or fashion, or value or whatever message is important for a retailer, in a way that is relatively easy to buy for and relatively simple to display. Inspirational hotspots in non-fashion again command high inspirational impact from a few carefully combined options.

The extreme of simplicity in product stories is the impact that a single “hero” product can have. “Heroes” punch higher than their weight but their instant and important message can significantly impact on the customers’ perception of a retailer’s proposition and assortment focus. Every retailer has “secrets” and the conversion of these into “heroes” through simple bold displays can be dramatic. Find a space for “heroes” in your store and with the help of visual merchandising, let them do the rest.

A final consideration of “product stories,” whichever stories any particular retailer delivers, is the need for clarity. Confusion to clarity is an ambition of many stores so the type of product stories you chose to buy for and display, and how well you explain the logic, the segments and the complexities behind those stories is an essential ingredient to your overall brand proposition.

For sure, visual merchandising cannot create this clarity in isolation from the buying and merchandising strategy, whilst buying teams themselves can be easily frustrated by store displays that have little understanding of the assortment structure planning.

Integrate buying and merchandising with visual merchandising to present clear & powerful product story propositions and your customer will thank you many times over with their patronage, their loyalty and most importantly their hard earned money.


VM-Unleashed delivers a variety of workshops to improve the integration of VM Operations within retail businesses.

All workshops are either 1 or 2 days and are customised for each business including an own store review and assessment.

 “Visual Merchandising Operations: maximising store performance”
Integrating buying and selling in an omni-channel environment

Regular and popular modules include:

Space Planning integrated with Assortment Planning:

  • Store capacities and grading
  • Display densities for square and linear metres
  • Creation of product story blocks and space allocation
  • Buying for space

Product stories integrated with buying & merchandising

  • Working with categories, themes and silhouettes
  • The role of hero products
  • Creating commercial & visual propositions
  • Explaining and selling product stories

Retail calendar integrated with commercial promotions

  • Strategic use of commercial promotional mechanics
  • Working with margin, rate of sale, sell-through and gross profit
  • Creating the emotional retail calendar with marketing events
  • Delivering the retail calendar in stores and omni-channel

The VM Toolkit integrated with retail organisational structure

  • The modern visual merchandising toolkit
  • Demanding compliance or supplying education to stores
  • VM and the wider retail organisational structure
  • Roles & responsibilities of retail functions


For more information then please don’t hesitate to get in touch:
+44 7967609849