Visual merchandising is in existence since the dawn of civilization and prevails anywhere a trade activity takes place. Its like an alluring cover of a book which sparks interest in the minds of the viewer to read the book. Starting from big outlets that reserves thousands of rupees in its budget to create an attractive window display to a small street trader who puts the biggest mango on the top of his pile to attract the customer, Visual Merchandising plays a prominent role. With the dawn of the 21st century, business organizations started to put more focus on visual merchandising so as to sustain themselves in the world of cut throat competition. One way for the traders to distinguish themselves from others is their unique and creative way of creating a visual display.
Elements of Visual Display:
It is generally assumed that mannequins are the sole form of visual display. But this is far from the actual fact. Visual merchandising is made up of several important components which makes this as an art and complete in itself. Mannequin is a key element in this process.
v Exterior Signs:
Exterior signs help to communicate a location. An ideal signage should be visible from a distance of 200 meters, with 8 inch letters. Exterior signs communicate the viewer about the business happening inside. For example, expensive and lavish sign boards indicate luxury products sold inside. Here business logo plays an important part. One or two simple and catchy keywords can be used in the sign boards to give a better understanding of the retail store. Utmost care should be taken in exterior sign boards to make sure it looks fresh and without any damage. Signs with unlit light bulbs of faded paint might hurt the image of the store and prevent the customer from entering inside. A well maintained signboard is the stores signature.
This is a retailers blue print of how the merchandise should be arranged, so as to allow the visitor to properly view the product and its price. It is an international language of product presentation and shelf; space utilization. If the retailer has chain stores, this is a good way to communicate to all the staff about the arrangement of the products. This leads to creating a room setting with visible focus areas, and positioning the products in a proper way.
These are special elements that give a feeling of reality to the displayed product. For example, a winter theme will be enhanced by props such as dried leaves, snow flakes etc used as a back drop for the product actually displayed. They may or may not be directly related to the products sold but they provide support for their sale. Props support the theme of display and breathe in life into the products showcased by making it look alive.
Awnings are sun shelters that provide shelter to the customer from weather, reduce the glare and enables to customer to view the visual display in a clearer manner. Similar to an exterior sign board, an awning that is not well maintained will damage the stores image and stop the customer from entering inside. Appealing colors add attraction to the awnings used. It should be put in such a way that it does not hide the sign board.
A well designed landscape would look simple and make the customer feel relaxed. It also helps the retailer to screen the dirty environment of the store. Flower plants placed before and below the window display area gives some depth and makes the display more appealing. Well chosen and carefully maintained plants at the entrance will give a hearty welcome to the
customer. Strong benches in and out of the store for resting will relax the customer.
v Window Display:
Utmost care and importance should be given to the window display area since this is the key element in determining the image of the store and boost the sales. A customer will be attracted towards the shop within 5 to 8 seconds of noticing the display. The display should be so planned so as to attract the customers attention in this limited period of time. A perfect window display should include the following features:
- Attract: the customers attention.
- Interest: Spark interest in the customers mind to enter the store.
- Desire: Create a desire in the customers mind to buy the product.
- Action: Initiate the customer to the process of buying.
A theatrical window display will catch the customers attention and will stay in his memory for a long time. Proper illumination should be made so that the display looks attractive during the night times also.
Different colors and themes can be used varying to the season and depending on the products displayed. A Christmas theme can be of Christmas tree, Santa clause, and snowflakes with red and green colors dominating the scene. Display of baby products will look great in an array of light blue and pink. Warm colors like red, orange, peach, brown etc will give a feeling of warmth. Hues of green, blue, violet etc are cool colors and give a relaxed feeling. Colors like grey induce a depressed feeling. Using proper props in the display with the suitable color combination will enhance the look and increase the appeal of the product sold.
v Interior Displays:
The main purpose of interior display should be to project the stores image, motivate the customer to buy, and keep the store expenses at the minimum. The theme used in the exterior should be carried forward in designing the interiors also so as to provide consistency to the customer. Heavy advertisements and promotions will become baseless if adequate attention is not paid to the interiors of the store. This is a powerful advertising strategy used at the point of purchase place, i.e., the place where the sale actually takes place. In-store visual display arrangements have great influence on the in-store purchase decision of the customer. A research reports that approximately 64 percent of the purchasing decisions were made in store.
Proper lightning highlights the arrangement of visual display. It can also be used to draw the customers attention towards a particular area or a product. Generally lightning is of the following types:
Primary Lightning: This gives overall illumination to the store like using fluorescent lights. This does not specifically highlight any product or area.
Secondary Lightning: This is used to highlight specific areas. Example: lights down lighting from the ceiling.
Atmospheric Lightning: This is used to create distinctive effects on specific objects. Example: spotlights, color filters etc to create a dramatic effect.
Mannequins are the key elements in the world of visual display. They add visual impact to the display theme. Mostly used to display clothing theme, life size mannequins are popularly used in retail outlets. A proper positioning of the mannequin involves the creativity of the retailer and plays a prominent role in promoting sales. Different types of mannequins are available in a variety of materials to suit the needs of customers. They are both an art and commercialism. No one can deny the art and the creativity that comes with it. The magnetism of the customers with mannequins will continue as it has been for the past hundred years. Right choice and usage of mannequins will motivate brand image of the product, create a positive image of the store and ultimately increase the sales figures.
Visual Merchandising Budgets:
Big retail outlets have a budget of 30 to 40 lakhs while malls have a budget of 15 lakhs annually. Earlier retailers used to spend approximately 1.5 to 2 percent of their turnover on visual display. Now it has increased to four percent. Retailers mostly use a seasonal display programme. They keep changing their display themes depending on the current seasons. Special display methods are followed during occasions like Christmas, new year etc.
There is an ageing bubble due to baby boomer generation. Customers demographics are also fragmented currently due to changing ethnic population and relocation. Traditional boundaries among marketing channels of various countries are now being broken resulting in increased competition for a product both locally and internationally. Hence to keep ahead in this cut throat competition, retailers need to come up with innovative ideas in the arrangement and assortment of their product display in a way that would reflect the customers preference. They should also modify their display themes in regular intervals so as to keep pace with the increasing demands in the industry.
Arranged perfectly, this art silently exhibits the personality of the store and gives an idea of the products sold therein. Today, apart from arranging the products, visual merchandising has become a more sophisticated and encompassing art. High profile displays are used to create brand awareness, and entice customers into the store. In western countries, Visual Merchandising receives the highest priority in retailing. Self servicing feature used in most of the retail stores now a days, retailers emphasis more on the store layout, fixtures, colors, lightning, and other silent communication tools. A recent report states that there is an increase in the impulse of unplanned shopping among the customers among certain categories like garments. Visual merchandising helps to increase this impulse.
A successful business depends on creating a distinct image in the customers mind. A conducive shopping environment moulds the customers mind set and builds a good impression about the store and its products.
With proper focus and planned actions, this art would earn a prominent place in the retail industry and generate a considerable amount of revenue to businesses.
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