Visual Merchandising / Window Dressing / Display - the Fashion Spot
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Visual Merchandising / Window Dressing / Display
Moderators Note: I found this post in the thread about Fashion Merchandising and thought it was important to post here, in the Visual Merchandising thread, too ... since there's always a lot of confusion about the two different jobs. I think that this gives a good idea of the difference or the two.

To learn about and to discuss Fashion Merchandising go here.

Originally Posted by rarahls
is visual merchandising very totally different from fashion merchandising?

quite confused...

"Compels the prospective customer to stop, look and to buy through the use of visual presentation. Creates window and/or interior displays of merchandise throughout the store. Showcases new ideas, concepts and products. Coordinates marketing, merchandising and retailing to communicate with the targeted customer. Presents design concepts and store layouts, develops the retail image. Supervises wall and counter displays."

"The question confronting every retailer is what encourages a customer to shop in one store rather than another? The answer: a coordinated effort that includes marketing, merchandising, store design, and visual merchandising. Visual merchandising today has become an indispensable and integral component of the fashion business. It is the tool or language that retailers use to communicate with the targeted customer. Visual merchandising is the passion and the pizzazz of retailing. "


"Determines the store's merchandising budget and sets sales goals. Creates and enforces merchandising plans and standards. Directs the store's merchandise profitability. Collects and prepares the merchandise. Feeds information to the design and product development staff. Develops financial plans for product categories. "

"Fashion Merchandising connects every entity of the fashion industry. It is the heart of the industry, where all facets including the designers, the stylists and the retailers are joined together to achieve one goal… to meet the demand of the consumer."

Last edited by BetteT; 23-08-2007 at 05:08 PM. Reason: Coped post from another thread ... see moderators note.
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Visual Merchandising / Window Dressing / Display
I am wondering how to get into window dressing? Not as a career or a full time job but more as a part time thing to bring in some cash when I'm studying, window dressing would pretty much go hand in hand with my course. Is it something that I'd "qualify" for by being creative and aware of current trends? If someone with a bit more knowledge in this area could help It will be greatly appreciated.

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Hey there! I am what you can call a window dresser I guess, a "visual merchandiser". I am still in college and do it full time in the summer and part time in school. Perhaps contact local malls or stores to volunteer first and then build a portfolio of examples? In my case I had some good internship experience that kinda opened doors for me (internships are always good!). It's definatly a fun job! I dress mannequins, bust forms, coordinate sections of clothing by themes, make fixture displays, etc. You will like it! Good luck!

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Yep, it's called visuals here too. Perhaps working at the shop part time will get you connections and a degree in art/design or some kind of experience in the field anyway.

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Thanks guys, yeah I'm just querying the idea really. With my university course I won't have the time to do a part time job such as retail because of the hours...with it being through the day, and I can't have my whole saturday taken up either because I'll most likely use it to do coursework. Thats why I was wondering if it's something that you could do just everytime the window displays change. I'd certainly enjoy doing it. I guess I'd even enjoy doing it for charity shops as a volunteer...when I see their displays they're just so uninspiring, there's so much that could be done that would bring more people in.

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i enhanced the title of the thread....

yes- i used to do this...
when i was trying to break in...what i found it that you need a portfolio with examples of your work to show potential employers..

if you do volunteer at the charity shop- then take good photos and blow them up to 8x10 and make a portfolio....
also see if there is anything your school can do to help...

i got my first job doing visuals through FIT......

good luck......

"It is not money that makes you well dressed: it is understanding."

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Originally Posted by fab_fifties_fille
I am wondering how to get into window dressing? Not as a career or a full time job but more as a part time thing to bring in some cash when I'm studying, window dressing would pretty much go hand in hand with my course. Is it something that I'd "qualify" for by being creative and aware of current trends? If someone with a bit more knowledge in this area could help It will be greatly appreciated.
I think, though im not 100% sure, that some shops get outside companies to do their displays (i no when ive asked for things of manequins (sp?) theyve told me they cant change the display as a company does it). perhaps you could ask in some shops who does their window displays and ask for their number and that way you might be able to get work experience in the summer or perhaps somewhere like Connexions or another career advice/jobcentre would be able to give you some where to contact? Here is some info from
Display Designer/Visual Merchandiser

What is the work like?

Display designers create ideas and designs to promote a store or business’s image, products or special themes. Visual merchandisers make sure designs are featured through all displays, marketing and promotional activities. Some people combine both jobs.
Designers initially discuss with their clients, or company decision makers, an image, seasonal theme or special promotion to feature in forthcoming displays and marketing. They produce drawings, plans, coloured impressions, and sometimes models, to present ideas for discussion, before finalising designs.
Visual merchandisers are responsible for implementing these designs. They work closely with marketing and sales teams to make sure the image, theme or promotion is highlighted in all customer areas, through displays, products and point-of-sale materials. They may be involved in training sales colleagues in merchandising skills, identifying current and future trends, and reporting back on activities of business competitors.
The usual starting salary is around 14,000 a year.
Hours and environment

Display designers/visual merchandisers usually work 35 to 40 hours a week, but sometimes longer, for instance, when preparing displays for Christmas or a special promotion.
They work in design studios, offices, at company headquarters, or are based in store. They spend a lot of time on their feet when designing and arranging displays. Some travel is likely, especially in companies with branches in different parts of the country, to co-ordinate designs or brief staff on the required appearance.
Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary, depending on the employer and where people live.
  • The usual starting salary is around 14,000 a year.
  • Experienced people can earn up to 20,000 or more.
  • Top designers or managers may earn up to 45,000 or more.
Skills and personal qualities

A display designer/visual merchandiser should:
  • have a flair for design and appearance
  • be creative, imaginative and energetic
  • be able to use computer-aided design programmes (for display designers)
  • have good concentration skills
  • be able to produce high quality work
  • be able to work to tight deadlines
  • have good communication skills
  • be self-motivated and practical
  • be aware of current trends and activities in design, fashion and culture
  • have technical drawing skills.
It is important to:
  • enjoy working creatively in a fast-moving environment
  • be interested in portraying a company’s image and activities through eye-catching designs and displays.
Getting in
There are jobs throughout the UK, but mainly near major towns and cities. Display designers/visual merchandisers either work for a store or other type of company, or freelance, working for different clients.
Although the design world is competitive, display designer/visual merchandiser jobs are increasing. In the south of England there are sometimes more vacancies than applicants.
Large stores usually employ their own visual merchandisers. Some have in-house designers or employ different freelance people according to their needs. Other types of companies employing display designers/visual merchandisers include airport and seaport operators, hotels, museums and book shops.
Jobs may be advertised in Design Weekly, The Designer magazine, local and national newspapers, on general retail job websites (eg, and on websites of major department stores. The Design Council’s website provides links to appropriate organisations to contact about possible work.
Entry for young people
Most display designers/visual merchandisers enter the work with a qualification in design, display or merchandising.
There are various design degrees, but those specifically relevant are:
  • A BA (Hons) in Exhibition & Retail Design and in Retail Design Management.
  • A Foundation Degree in Visual Merchandising & Promotional Design.
  • A Foundation Degree in Visual Design and Display (through the London College of Communication).
The British Display Society offer a variety of courses including:
  • Advanced Diplomas in POS (point-of-sale) Design, including Merchandising, and in Retail Display Design.
  • Short Certificate Courses in Visual Merchandising & Merchandise Handling Skills (Levels 1 and 2).
The Diploma in Fashion Retail, offered by the Fashion Retail Academy, covers visual merchandising. The Arcadia Group website has details.
There is also a Diploma in Foundation Studies (Art & Design) and BTEC/SQA national certificates and diplomas in design. Interior design qualifications can also be helpful. Contact local colleges and training providers for information on available courses.
For a degree course, applicants usually need at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A levels/H grades. For Foundation degrees they need five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and one A level/H grade. For other diploma/certificate courses, five GCSEs/S grades are usually needed. Useful subjects include art, design and IT. Contact the British Display Society for entry requirements for their courses.
Entry for adults
There is no upper age limit to becoming a display designer/visual merchandiser. Mature students do not always need full academic entry requirements at some universities and colleges, especially if they have relevant experience in design or retail. Full or part-time Access courses are sometimes available to prepare for degree courses.

Degree courses usually last three years, and Foundation degree courses two years full time. Other certificate and diploma course lengths vary, but are usually one to two years. The British Display Society diploma courses last two years, and short certificate courses 60 hours. Course content includes practical work and assessment, and sometimes a work placement. Contact individual colleges and training providers for full details.
The Diploma in Fashion Retail is a one-year course based on three days a week in further education, and two days in retail work. There are NVQs/SVQs in Design (Level 3) and Design Management (Level 4).
Apprenticeships which may be available in England are Young Apprenticeships, Pre-Apprenticeships, Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships. To find out which one is most appropriate log onto or contact your local Connexions Partnership.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For further information contact Careers, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact COIU
The Chartered Society of Designers offers a membership scheme for professional designers in all types of design work, and also runs training courses and workshops for designers.
Getting on

In stores and other large companies, promotion opportunities may be available to supervisor, head designer or merchandiser, and sometimes to department manager. There are some overseas job opportunities, especially if working for a company with branches or offices abroad.
Some designers/merchandisers move into freelance work or set up their own business. Self-employed designers/merchandisers progress by getting regular work from their clients and carrying it out to a consistently high standard.
Further information

Arcadia Group. Website:
The British Display Society, 146 Welling Way, Welling, Kent DA16 2RS. 020 8856 2030. Website:
The Chartered Society of Designers, 5 Bermondsey Exchange, 179-181 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW. 020 7357 8088. Website:
Design Council, 34 Bow Street, London WC2E 7DL. 020 7420 5200. Website:
Skillsmart Retail Ltd., The Retail Sector Skills Council, 40 Duke Street, London W1A 1AB. 020 7399 3450. Website:
Further reading

A Guide to Courses and Careers in Art and Design: Creative Futures - NSEAD
Careers in Retailing - Kogan Page
Design in Britain - Design Council
The Kogan Page Guide to Working in Arts, Crafts & Design - Kogan Page
Working in art & design - Connexions
Working in retail& customer services- Connexions

Creative Review
Design Week
The Designer
(Some may be priced)

sorry i didnt realise how long the article was

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Last edited by chanelnumber5; 27-08-2006 at 01:44 PM.
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That was very helpful, thanks!

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Visual Merchandising is one of the easiest careers, in my opinion, to get into fashion. With the exception of places like Barney's New York, it's pretty easy to get into if you have a solid fashion sense and you have some sort of education. It's a hard job though...not glam at all. The hours are usually very early in the morning and you can make a lot of overtime. The easiest way to go about this is to be an in-store merchandiser. Just go into stores that you like and talk to a manager. See if they hire certain people to do visuals. A lot of visuals are full-time though so I don't know if it's the best option for a student. I am a visual merchandiser so this info is defintely valid and best to my knowledge.

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i used to do this but i worked directly for the designer. it was VERY part time. the company would fly me to different stores of theirs in my region to design the displays when they needed to change them and i ended up working only about 10 days out of the month. this wasn't good for me, but it seems like it might be what you are looking for. maybe you should try to contact the offices of designers you want to work for directly.

Style is a simple way of saying complicated things - Jean Cocteau
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i do visual merchandising at jcrew in nyc, i don't have a degree in that! i'd love to do the same for barneys or saks or bergorf, prada soho store, etc.

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Originally Posted by bedtimestorynyc View Post
i do visual merchandising at jcrew in nyc, i don't have a degree in that! i'd love to do the same for barneys or saks or bergorf, prada soho store, etc.
I would also LOVE to do Visual Merchandising for Barneys. Would a degree in Fashion Merchandising help with a visual merchandising career?


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VISUAL Merchandising
"The Passion and Pizzazz of Retail."

I work as a Visual Merchandising Manager and LOVE my job. We style the windows, create wall setups and displays to reflect current trends, conduct floorsets overnight, place all new merchandise on the sales floor, and have all the fun in the world while making merchandising decisions so we can catch the customers' eye.

My question is, are there any degrees for this career? I was going to go to school for Fashion Merchandising, but realized that it dealt with numbers, etc. and knew that wasn't the path for me. I saw at FIDM they have a Visual Communications Major, but I am not sure they are the same thing. I think I could do this forever at a corporate level, I just want the help getting there with a degree.

Also, what companies have visuals? Lets share the ups and downs and the places to go for Visual Merchandising since a lot of people don't know about this rapidly growing career.


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Merged with existing thread.

Good topic, Breck! And you are correct that Fashion Merchandising is not the same as what you do ... most people misunderstand that point.

I think I'd love to do what you are doing ... I"m a stylist and I just see this as "stying" the store.

I think that all big department stores and big chain stores have visual merchandisers, but I know that in many cases they decide what to do in the head office, and then either have the store clerks set it up according to the plan or send merchandisers out to each store to set up. So, on a local level, the people setting up don't get to use their own ideas.

I'd contact someone at FIDM and just ask them what the curriculum is for their Visual Communcations program is ... the actual classes. I think it would become clear if it's training for what you do or something else.

** It's All in the Details! **
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There is a color theory & visual merchandising class at F.I.T. also. It is very helpful. I have the textbook they use, if anyone is interested in knowing. It talks about the different techniques, mannequins, chairs, marketing techniques, color schemes etc. I was amazed after this class at how much actually goes into dressing a window.
Also, I have a friend who does visual merchandising for H&M. They are changing their setups constantly. He said they he was working as a SA for a year and had asked about visual merchandising. His manager gave him a shot and thats how he started. I would try getting a job at a shop you would like to work for and talk to your manager about visuals and what they look for in a visual merchandiser.

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