VM & Display Show: “The Commercial Context for Creativity”

The Evening Post:- 20th April
Visual Merchandising: “The Commercial Context for Creativity”



It was a pleasure yesterday to be speaking at the VM& Display Show in London. Many thanks to all indeed for pulling yourselves out of the beautiful sunshine and coming along to listen to me.

The show itself was full of innovative and creative businesses displaying everything retailers could wish for from the latest lighting and technology to a huge array of traditional props from plastic flamingos to incredibly detailed trees collected together in nothing short of mock rainforests.


And that was really good to see. The show is now as perennial as the plants adorning it but it has, as with the visual merchandising business as a whole, had its share of ups and downs, and suffered a long trend away from creativity to one of operational needs. But with a bang, an orchestra, lights, music and much action Visual Merchandising creativity is back.

This was in many ways the focus of my presentation – “How to Make Sustainable Profit from New Store Concepts, VM & Display!” – to create the commercial context for creativity rather than to blindly, or more accurately, open-eyed, walk into the honey trap of endless possibilities.

For those who don’t know my business, I work with creativity to put it into this commercial context.  My role in previous visits has often been to help my clients select wisely from the creative choices to ensure that the Wow! is in the context of their brand and that it fits into the wider plan and proposition.

So, back to the sub-plot of my presentation.

Firstly, the context for retail has and continues to change substantially with the continued evolution of e-commerce and social media marketing. It’s not all bad-news, as others would have you believe, but for anyone involved in physical stores from buyers and merchandisers to marketers and designers it is essential to understand just where the goal-posts are moving to.

At the heart is the fact that there will be less stores, but that those stores will need to be more exciting and full of theatre. Probably these spaces will involve some kind of collaboration with other brands, or services, and will need to create a better environment for store sales personnel as the spearhead of brand experience. And these stores need to be ultra-dynamic, with fluid inventory, not boxes on shelves, helping clients explore, experiment, order, collect or simply pass through if that is what they want to do.

Having said this, the small earthquake of organisational change occurring within retail businesses that could really propel VM to a new summit is the elevation of Marketing Insights under the guise of the Chief Marketing Officer, to the top tier of the boardroom table.

Enlightened businesses embrace their brand from top to bottom and all areas from product development to new store environments much be fed by customer & market insights that drive a coordinated creativity across all channels and platforms.

Not only should VM achieve a new importance, but the skills of the visual merchandiser should be transferred across all channels, real or digital. The future for retail creation is coordinated, integrated and highly acclaimed and rewarded.

Nonetheless, creativity has to be bridled and focused on commercial objectives and a specific brand focus. As always discipline and selective taste will be at the heart of visual merchandising.

So, not all bad news at all. Hopefully everyone leaving the room was encouraged about the possibilities of the future but equally a little more discerning in their selection.

We are all in business…and it must survive and flourish.

Visual merchandising & creativity have a renewed role to play in achieving that commercial success. Be focused, be creative but don’t burn your budget on a cosmetic wish list which could blow-up very quickly in the retail face that feeds you.



Struggling develop the elements of your new store context?

Unclear about the commercial context to launch your retail creativity?

We can help!


Sleep on it and drop me a line in the morning… tim.radley@vm-unleashed.com


The Evening Post is my daily take on the day in retail…offering always a positive spin to take to your next shift at the retail coalface.

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

For more information on how we help retail businesses…





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