Planit: A Creative Career in Visual Merchandising

Image Source: Two visual merchandisers arranging a mannequin display in a shop window Are you looking for a career that combines creativity, design, and business? Visual merchandising might be the perfect fit for you. In...

Two visual merchandisers arranging a mannequin display in a shop window Image Source: Two visual merchandisers arranging a mannequin display in a shop window

Are you looking for a career that combines creativity, design, and business? Visual merchandising might be the perfect fit for you. In this article, we'll explore the world of visual merchandising and the exciting opportunities it offers.

The Work: Bringing Displays to Life

Visual merchandisers, also known as display designers, are responsible for creating attractive displays in shop windows and within stores. Their role goes beyond aesthetics, as they also play a part in analyzing sales figures and monitoring trends. The work of a visual merchandiser involves designing displays, creating plans using computer-aided design (CAD) software, researching current lifestyles and trends, and arranging lighting effects. They are also responsible for selecting and arranging materials, props, and mannequins, as well as training store staff in product presentation. At the end of the season, visual merchandisers dismantle old displays and provide valuable feedback to the head office. In the online realm, visual merchandisers also contribute to the visual content of websites and social media platforms.

Pay: Rewards for Creativity

The pay rates for visual merchandisers can vary depending on factors such as the location, the size of the company, and the demand for the role. Starting salaries in the UK typically range from £20,000 to £25,000 per year for qualified visual merchandisers. With experience, this can increase to around £30,000 per year, and visual merchandising managers can earn over £50,000 per year. Some visual merchandisers choose to work freelance, where they charge a fee based on the complexity and scope of the display.

Conditions: Creativity on the Shop Floor

Visual merchandisers spend most of their time on shop floors and in shop windows, where they bring their creative visions to life. Weekend and evening work is common, and those working for companies with multiple branches may need to travel within a designated area. While visual merchandisers often work as part of a team, there are times when they need to work independently. Physical tasks such as lifting, carrying, and working with ladders are common in this profession.

Getting In: Qualifications and Experience

While formal qualifications are not always necessary, having relevant education and training can boost your chances of success in visual merchandising. Consider pursuing an NC or NQ, HNC, or HND in design or art and design, preferably with a focus on display design. Some colleges, such as City of Glasgow College, offer specific courses in fashion and retail with modules that introduce you to fashion display. Additionally, gaining experience through retail sales jobs and assisting with visual display work can be a valuable stepping stone into the field. Employers may also require candidates to have retail experience. Physical fitness is important, as the role involves physical tasks, and having a driving license may be necessary for traveling between stores.

What Does it Take? Skills and Traits

To excel in visual merchandising, you need a combination of creativity, technical skills, and business acumen. Being passionate about design, fashion, and consumer products is essential. Having IT skills and strong communication abilities will help you collaborate effectively with colleagues and stakeholders. Additionally, a good understanding of business and marketing principles will enable you to align your designs with the company's overall objectives. Other crucial qualities include being imaginative, artistic, and detail-oriented. You should also possess problem-solving skills, as visual merchandisers often need to think on their feet and improvise with available materials. Staying up-to-date with fashion and consumer trends, being aware of health and safety guidelines, and working well both independently and as part of a team are also essential. Lastly, being able to work efficiently under tight deadlines is crucial in this fast-paced industry.

Training and Advancement: Building a Successful Career

If you start a job in visual merchandising without formal qualifications, you can train on the job and pursue a part-time qualification like an SVQ in Retail (Visual Merchandising) at SCQF Level 6. However, most of the training in visual merchandising happens through hands-on experience. The British Display Society offers a distance learning Certificate in Display and Visual Merchandising, providing an opportunity to expand your knowledge and skills in this field.

As a visual merchandiser, you can begin your career as a display assistant or retail assistant and work your way up to becoming a visual merchandiser. In larger companies, you may also have the opportunity to advance to the position of visual merchandising assistant or manager. With experience and a strong portfolio, you could even choose to work freelance or pivot into related fields such as exhibition design, interior design, or set design.

Conclusion

Visual merchandising offers a dynamic and rewarding career for individuals passionate about design, fashion, and consumer products. With creativity, technical skills, and business knowledge, visual merchandisers bring displays to life, captivating customers and driving sales. Whether you choose to work in a store or online, the field of visual merchandising is full of opportunities for growth and advancement.

For more information on visual merchandising and related organizations, please speak to your local Jobcentre Plus office or visit the Find a Job website.

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