Clothes shopping. Words that spark excitement in most people. Whether we are shopping for a specific event or just casually browsing the rails, our mood is high and anticipation is positive.
In most cases, we may have an idea in mind of what we are looking for. However, that is not the only factor that can influence our buying decisions. Any brand will want to create a seamless experience for its customers, that not only maximises sales but ensures the customer returns. A sure fire way to achieve this is through the power of visual merchandising. Has a window display ever stopped you in your tracks and lured you in to the store? (guilty!). Or have you ever bought the exact outfit displayed on a mannequin? (guilty!). Then you have been sidetracked and influenced by visual merchandising.
Zara stick to traditional methods and simple techniques when it comes to their window displays. They are a big fan of the mannequin, which have been found to be the most effective tools you can use to present the latest fashion trends
Topshop Singapore making a big impact with their use of pop colour florals for spring/summer.
The rise of the department store paved the way for the window display. During the 1840s, the production of large panes of glass took the art of visual merchandising to a new level. Stores like Selfridges used their windows for product display, incorporating political, cultural and artistic influences, creating what we now know as a “static runway”.
The window displays at Selfridges would often attract the crowds. They left their lights on at night, so customers could still enjoy the displays during closing hours, which before was unheard of. Selfridges were also one of the first stores to move their beauty products to the front of the shop floor. They wanted to display their most popular products as soon as the customer walked through the doors and would let customers try them before buying. Something today as customers we for granted.
Fashion trends heavily influence store displays. Brands rely on something visually amazing that represents items that are popular right now. As we head into the new year, we are often bombarded with summer edits that encourage us to shop for forthcoming summer events; including swimwear, beachwear and festival wear. Some cities are even more specific to their own cultural events. For example, it is impossible to walk through Liverpool’s high street during the spring months without noticing the extensive marketing strategies put in place for the Aintree Races festival.
Topshop window display in the weeks leading up to the festival.
However, nothing holds more importance than the displays for the Christmas festival. The budget is big and the stakes are high. Get it right and the visual merchandiser can ensure successful Christmas sales. Get it wrong and you risk the consumer discussing it for all the wrong reasons. Marks and Spencer caused an uproar in their 2018 Christmas campaign when they featured the festivals “must have” items. They were accused of being outdated and sexist when they advertised David Gandy in a power suit and his female counter parts in “fancy little knickers”. Many believed it normalised damaging stereotypes.
Harrods taking a sophisticated (and less controversial) approach for their Christmas 2018 window display, less is certainly more.
You will find that most stores divide their floor space into four sections, Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze (sometimes 1,2,3 & 4 or A, B, C & D). This is a strategy used to position products around the store to make sure they have maximum impact on the customer. As soon as you walk through the doors to a store, that is the prime selling space. This needs to capture the imagination of the customer, so they continue their journey around all spaces. Platinum sections often hold the stores competitive price point items or the high fashion items. During sale times, stores have also been known to place their sale items in the platinum area to lure the customer in. The most challenging section for the visual merchandiser is the bronze section, which is positioned at the back of the store. This section usually has a lower foot fall because of the distance from the main entrance. You will often find staple items placed here, or a desirable brand to encourage customers to venture there. Interestingly, according to an article on Retailminded.com, the majority of people will walk to their right when entering a store. This could possibly be a result of most people being right handed and it has been labelled the “invariant right”. Retailers are thought to keep this in mind when designing the store layout. (I totally shatter this theory. I am right handed and always go left!).
Platinum areas by H&M with a use of colour blocking for a high impact.
Colour is an important, inexpensive method to create that wow factor, ensuring aesthetically balanced displays. It draws the eye of the customer immediately, which in turn can keep them in the store for a longer period of time and makes them more likely to purchase something.
An impressive display from the cosmetics giant Sephora.
Gap using neutral colour blocking techniques.
It does help the retailer if particular items are already imbedded in our subconscious. A new trend is usually promoted through a variety of mediums. We see them through televised advertisements, via magazines, Instagram, online clothing sites and celebrity endorsements. We may start a shopping trip not really knowing what we are looking for but these influences come into play and make our decision for us.
Other methods used by retailers to draw us in can be more subtle. Some focus on the ambience as a whole and spend time on not only displays but on the aroma of the store, lighting and how the atmosphere can be changed with music. Hollister is a great example of this. They have this unique aroma that drifts out onto the high street when you walk past the store. There seems to be a great air of mystery surrounding the smell, with the workers themselves not knowing exactly what it is. A true Unique Selling Point (USP goals!).
So the next time you come home from shopping with an item you had no intention of buying, you may have a better understanding as to why… The visual merchandising made me do it!! 😉
BY: SOPHIE ALLEN