Retail Dogma

Visual Merchandising: Definition, Elements & Importance

Visual Merchandising (VM) is the art of using a retailer’s products and combining it with other visual elements (props, lighting, materials, artwork,..etc) to create an appealing visual display of the merchandise offered for sale. The main goal of visual merchandising is to maximize sales through creative display of merchandise.

History of Visual Merchandising

The concept of visual merchandising was first introduced to retail in 1883 by Harry Gordon Selfridge, when he was working at Marshall Fields and decided to make products more accessible to customers by removing counters and using tables for display instead. He was also the first to use windows for merchandise display, instead of being merely used for lighting purposes only.

The success of this new concept has invited competitors to do the same, and ever since VM has become an essential part of retailing.

Elements of Visual Merchandising

Visual Merchandising Elements

VM uses external and internal elements of the store to deliver a coherent image to the customers

Interior Elements of VM

  • Store Design: The decoration of the store to match the theme delivered to the customer. This includes the furnishings, carpets, wall paintings, shelves and pictures.
  • Store Layout & Planogram: The store plan that assigns specified areas of the store to different product groups.
  • Display Space: Space used to display the products.
  • Signage: Any printed materials that display the store’s message to the customers.
  • Lighting: Lighting is a very important element in creating the store ambience and in highlighting specific focus areas.
  • Materials: Materials used in VM include fixtures, props, frills and marketing materials.
  • Colors: Colors play an important role in creating a coherent atmosphere and telling a relevant story to the current season.

Exterior Elements of VM

  • Window: Designed to attract customers into the store and reflect the current theme of the store’s merchandise.
  • Store Front: The area surrounding the store entrance.

Importance of Visual Merchandising

Visual merchandising plays an important role in conveying the store’s message to the customers through product displays and visual elements. It is frequently referred to as the “silent salesperson” due to its role of providing customers with important information, as well as suggestive selling.

Retailers who master VM gain a competitive advantage over the competition, because the visual display is what first draws customers into the store while browsing the mall.

Research has also shown that customers prefer shopping with stores that have a “personality” manifested through the store design and atmosphere. It has also shown that VM enhances brand recognition and recall.

Store Atmosphere

Store atmosphere uses visual merchandising, together with other elements to create a special ambience that enhances the customer shopping experience and gives a store its special identity in customers’ minds.

Elements of store atmosphere include:

  1. Lighting
  2. Background Music
  3. Color
  4. Visual Merchandising

Making sure that all those elements deliver the same feeling and message is key in creating a special “personality” for the store.

Commercial Visual Merchandising

The term “Commercial VM” has been gaining popularity and focus among retailers in the past few years. The main goal of this focus is to ensure that visual displays are planned and created with the primary goal of driving sales, and not merely to create a beautiful picture.

This is because visual merchandisers by nature are very artistic people, so retailers want to make sure that art will go hand in hand with commerciality.

It is also a strategy aimed at brining visual teams and operations teams together to fulfill the primary goal of the organization; i.e to deliver sales and profits.

Bottom Line

Visual merchandising is an important concept in retailing, aimed at using visual elements to drive sales and deliver a desirable customer shopping experience.

Retailers who utilize this concept properly stand to gain an advantage in the market and maintain brand loyalty.