Visual merchandising dates back to the ages when a table piled with goods was displayed in front of the stores. Since then, creativity and innovation has pushed the boundaries of the retail world. Retailers create a miniature world to lure the customers inside their shop, and also provide them with a pleasant shopping experience. What can these 'silent salesmen' do, to enhance retail sales?

The key to successful selling is always appropriate communication. Hence retailers hire salesmen with product knowledge, pleasing personality, and good in communication skills. Customers are smart, and can realize when they are being pushed and would resent it. It is the salesmen's skills that would make them to believe that they have made a right choice by themselves rather than being pushed into sales. This would be a win-win situation for both the retailer and the customer.

Satisfied customers are loyal customers. Hence it is more important for retailers to sell their product without coercing the customers. They need to design the store environment in such a way that it makes an emotional connection with the customer, giving them a unique brand experience. Visual merchandising is the art of putting things in focus combining products, environment, and spaces so stimulating and engaging, so that it encourages the sale of the merchandise. It has become an important retail element involving senior management architects, merchandising managers, visual merchandising director, designer, and staff.

India vs. Western countries:

Customers give three to five seconds of their attention to window display, within which, the retailer's visual message should be conveyed. The window display should go with the merchandise, make it discernible to the eyes, and should not suppress the product. It should not be like an unsuccessful TV advertisement, where the product is forgotten altogether and only the concept of the commercial remains in the mind of the viewer.

When a customer walks into the store, a tastefully decorated facade and well displayed merchandise proves irresistible for them to check out what the retailer has to offer. Western countries receive high priority regarding the commercializing of a product. Visual presentation and display of merchandise is always accompanied by thematic props. The collection of merchandise, planograms, and in store arrangement also changes along with the seasonal changes. The retail store undergoes changes in unison in dcor and visual presentation appealing to consumer's tastes and preferences.

Visual Merchandising in luxury retail:

Creating a visual connection between the consumer and the merchandise makes the selling process easier. Apart from window display, interior displays are also done to enhance retail process. A recent survey on visual merchandising states that 60% of the women get their clothing ideas from store displays. Display of clothing is necessary as it adds taste to the merchandise, promoting visual retail. Premium clothing displays invite buyers to view the clothing line. The key factor that attracts a customer is the presentation of apparels. A dry display rack would not attract the customer, making it necessary for the retailers to match the display fixture's theme with the clothing collection. Appropriate fashion accessories will add flavor to the clothing displays.

A good visual merchandising must be resourceful, confident, creative, and imaginative. To be successful, a retailer must have good judgment regarding upcoming fashion trends, and must be willing to take risk. The themes must to versatile, and adaptable to the ever changing fashion world. The retailer must be able to navigate the arrangement smoothly, and ensure the environment will be an asset to his business.

To get more detailed information regarding the same, Fibre2Fashion had an interaction with Manuu Mansheet, Director, Mansheet Design Pvt Ltd. When life was pelting at its own pace, career in Visual Merchandising happened to him by chance. Post graduated in MBA, Manuu; giving wings to his creativity studied Visual merchandising in IKEA, Netherlands. He excels in his creations blending current trends with a flattering creativity.

What would be your recommendation for "what to do first" in a visual decorating project? What are the essentials of an inviting space?

"Visual Merchandising means organizing to sell, creating the right environment for a certain product to be sold/showcased. It includes all the elements of sight/sound/touch that a customer feels in a retail space and also the communication that reaches out to him. As competition is increasing, retail spaces increasing, brands increasing.there is a higher need for image and identity creation for retailers & brands."

Where does India stand in comparison with the rest of the world when it comes to visual merchandising?

"There is a distinct Indian flavor of VM and retail etc which is very fascinating. Of course the international brands and stores are bringing in the international/western way of retail design and Visual merchandising. However a lot of local R&D and innovation is still required."

What are the latest and upcoming trends in visual merchandising?

"Most important and integral. Unless the product styling and display doesnt make it aspirational or does not communicate the brand image/philosophy; Numbers at the cash till (which is like music for every retailer) cant be achieved."

What are the opportunities in Visual Merchandising?

"Growing and dynamic field. Lots of innovations and R&D required for our local market, hence lots of opportunities for hard working/creative people."

What Challenges do you see in the field of Visual Merchandising in India?

"People want international manuals to be followed. India is a diverse country where many different cultures prevail.VM language needs to be localized and creatively defined. Innovation is the key. But the opportunity to innovate and do something new is required. "

Opportunities in Visual Merchandising:

Retailers seek innovative options to attract customers. One area where retailers are realizing is of utmost importance in a store display is lighting. Retail formats have gone through considerable evolution, in which lighting plays a crucial role in creating an overall in-store effect, and providing a pleasant shopping experience.

Visual merchandising uses good combination of colors, signage, and creates an oasis of merchandise, attracting the customer's attention, providing information, and guiding them towards the buying decision. A retail display should always be accompanied with an appropriate theme. They can be romantic, wild, or capricious, and capture peoples imaginations.

Challenges in Visual Merchandising:

The biggest challenge in visual merchandising is bringing the customer back to the retail store over and again by providing them a pleasant shopping experience. As this field is already practiced and proven by others, the retailer always need to focus on exceeding what his competitor does, or else, he would be left back in the competition.

Too much quantity displayed will reduce the comfort level of the customer, and affect his delight in the store. Visual coherence and conceptual coherence should be kept in mind while designing visual merchandising specifics. A brand similarity of the visual look, and feel created should be present; the absence of which might lead to reduction of sales in the long run. The store should be modernized while its personality is still maintained. The retailer must ensure that much high tech gadgets are not used without purpose, so that the customer does not get confused.

Today, apart from arranging the products, visual merchandising has become a more sophisticated and encompassing art. Arranged perfectly, this art silently exhibits the personality of the store and gives an idea of the products sold therein.



2)     Visual Merchandising and Display, By Martin M. Pegler

3)     Visual Merchandising, By Swati Bhalla, Anuraag S