The Daily Post:- 16th April
The Future of Visual Merchandising…Creative or Operational?


In the midst of answering client questions, and preparing for a couple of presentations in the near future, at the VM & Display Show and Retail Design Expo (well worth putting in your diaries) I am reminded yet again that “What is the future of VM?” is without doubt the most common question I am asked, both privately and for public airing.

And of course, since the advent of e-commerce and omnichannel, with a resultant increase in the rate of retail change never witnessed before…this question just gets more frequent than ever before.

So, in a nutshell I see the answer in 2 parts, the creative and the organisational.


From a creative viewpoint the answer is of course who knows? We have always lived in a cyclical world of creativity where the use of colours, fashions and fads have come around with the injection of something new and never possible before occasionally added to the mix.

Whether buyers, merchandisers and visual merchandisers our world is about responding to trends and creatively communicating our brand in the most appropriate way at any particular time. I’d have to say it is this unpredictability that adds excitement to our world.

So the big changes to our future, to our present, are largely about organisation, roles & responsibilities, collaboration and application. Let’s take a few of those and you can see where your businesses fits into the picture of change.

Brands are brands across every touchpoint with the customer. Visual merchandising is one of the cornerstones of this brand connection between product and shopper. This responsibility must therefore be carried across channels in a consistent way by the same people. Enlightened retailers have a single visual merchandising team that work seamlessly and simultaneously across channels and time.

Remember clothing has seams and retailers are seamless!


Secondly, visual communication and merchandising should never be separated between 2D graphics and 3D stores. In a pre-digital world a separation may have been controllable, but not now. A silhouette on a mannequin in a store is as much about visual merchandising as the image of the same in the window, in a magazine, on an e-commerce site and in social media. 2D & 3D teams should be one working again seamlessly and simultaneously across media and timeframes.

To facilitate this, retail organisations need to adapt. Where is the VM department in your business? Who controls it…your product director, your marketing team, your store ops or sales team? Even worse are you split between creative marketers and pragmatic store ops?

The ideal is variable by retailer but the general organisational solution lays with an integrated marketing and insights department with a role and responsibility at the heart or the summit of a business, depending on your emotional or pragmatic mind-set.

Best practice retailers combine an obsession with their customers’ behaviour and tastes with an equal and opposite obsession for transferring these insights into the merchandise buying process, the store design concepts, the marketing calendar development and the interpretation of all of this for the customer through visual merchandising & communication.

Success in the future, and in the current raft of retail businesses will be defined by a creative mind and an efficient organisation. Saving time, effort, angst and money in the process of making excitement, theatre, sales and money.

Same objective as ever, but more essential and more complicated than ever, in our 24/7 omnichannel world.

Of course the subject is more complicated than a few words can express, and the application to your own businesses more complex than generic recommendations.

So why not come along to 2 events that promise to be better and more relevant than ever, and along with other experts, I’ll hope to shed a little more light on the future of VM and retail.

VM & Display Show – 19th April @ 1pm, Business Design Centre. London

Retail Design Expo – 3rd May @ 10-30am, Olympia. London


And in the meantime…

Are you struggling to coordinate your creative and operational retail structure?

Are you finding it impossible to coordinate your retail channels

We can help!


Sleep on it and drop me a line in the morning…


Thank you for continuing to read & good luck for tomorrow!
Tim Radley

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