When I first started working as a visual merchandiser, I was 6 months out of college with a fashion design degree. I had never worked in a retail store and had been told that to truly understand the fashion industry I needed to work in visual merchandising.
As a visual merchandiser you build up a large bag of tricks to engage your customers and get them coming back for more. After three years as a visual merchandiser, these are a few little merchandising secrets you’ll be so glad you learned.
Appealing to the Senses
The goal of a visual merchandiser is to create a retail experience that appeals to customers through all 5 of their senses. When a store is successful at defining a clear aesthetic, the entire experience becomes linked to the customers’ impression of the retailer.
The easiest way to get someone’s attention in a retail environment is through color. Every color has an emotion to which it directly appeals: red equates to passion, blue to relaxation, yellow to excitement. The purposeful use of color in the windows will attract the attention of customers, bringing them into the store and driving sales.
Inside the store, a merchandiser is very thoughtful in the layout and placement of merchandise. The flow of the interior layout must allow customers to easily move about, find, and purchase products. Even the most desirable merchandise can be overlooked in a store without proper displays.
All visual merchandisers pay close attention to the behavior of shoppers and respond accordingly. By tracking the sale of product on each display, stores are able to quickly respond if the presentation isn’t appealing to customers. The most common way a merchandiser will combat lack of sales is to create promotions or discount merchandise.
Eventually, Everything Goes On Sale
Every product has a lifecycle, meaning all merchandise has an expiration date. It’s common that retailers push seasonal shopping — think Holidays or Back-to-School. If you visit a store at the end of a season there is plenty to dig through on the sales racks if you’re looking to find a good price on anything your size.
Though great prices abound at the end of a season, there are many opportunities to grab great deals any time of the year. The key is learning the product markdown timeline for the stores that you frequent.
Each store has their own way of determining when products will go on sale. Often for larger retailer chains a markdown schedule is set like clockwork. Usually products are discounted on the slowest shopping days. If you have the opportunity to do a little mid-week shopping, you will often find a wide assortment of freshly discounted merchandise waiting for you.
The next thing to note about markdowns is that an item can be reduced in price 3 to 5 times! These additional markdowns, called furthers, are often on the same schedule as the first discounts.
A secret of discount-savvy shoppers is utilizing the two-week price adjustment. Most retailers will offer a refund of the price difference if a product is reduced in price within two weeks of your original purchase. Be sure to save receipts and give the store a call to find out if anything you’ve purchased is eligible for a price adjustment.
Different Brand, Different Fit
One of the most valuable things I learned while dressing mannequins is the fit profile of different brands. When working in a store that carries a variety of private labels and designer brands, you begin to notice that not everything fits the mannequin quite the same. Once I realized that a size 4 doesn’t fit the same across brands, buying clothes became much easier.
Each brand designs clothing for a target customer — they determine a basic body type and create garments that range in sizes but maintain similar proportions. Keep this secret in mind when trying on clothing; if you find a garment that fits, other styles from the same brand will probably work well on your body.
The next time you are out shopping, take a moment and appreciate the thoughtful work that has gone into developing the retail experience you are enjoying. Strike up a friendly conversation with a sales associate and maybe you’ll learn secrets about upcoming sales and new arrivals. By being aware of these three secrets you will have a more informed outlook on your next shopping trip.
Photo credits: Bergdorf Goodman, Jonathan Adler, Madison Avenue Spy, and SFGate.