Retail Exposed

VM is a term many of you will be familiar with, but just exactly what does it mean? While the literal translation of the abbreviation is Visual Merchandising, there is so much more to this process than `just a pretty window’. Founder and editor of iSpyStyle, Kate Vandermeer will host a short, sharp and business focused seminar this weekend at Fashion Exposed on

Kate Vandermeer

Kate Vandermeer

the topic of `Understanding Visual Merchandising for your business’. We sat down with Kate to discuss why it’s so important to get the right `product mix’, how to understand your customer to maximise profit, and `rethinking’ your current window display to engage the consumer.

Kate has spent the last 15 years in the Fashion Industry in Australia working in a variety of areas including Trend Forecasting, Marketing, Design Development and Visual Merchandising for Mimco, Decjuba, French Connection, Mogil and co-created and brand managed the online fashion magazine, stylehunter.com.

What does visual merchandising mean to you? 

To me its more than just a pretty window. Visual merchandising has the ability to increase your sales, create brand exposure and delight and entertain customers.

Why is it so important for businesses to understand Visual Merchandising?

Many shops tend to focus on getting the right “product mix” which is important, however the way product is displayed can really help sell the look that the buyer was intending. There’s a saying that a truly successful business has to have the 4 P’s… Product Price Promotion Placement – You really need all 4 elements to work well.

rsz_vis_1Why will the window display and store layout work for the business down the road but not yours? Explain the importance of tailoring VM to your own store and customer?

VM is all about understanding who your customer is and how they like to shop. It’s the merging of function and inspiration. You must create interest to attract your customer time and time again but I believe VM must have a purpose and encourage conversion of sales (whether that’s enticing windows to get customers in store or interesting layouts to help the customer shop more easily.)

How can they tailor VM to their specific business? What can they look for when planning the initial design?

It’s a great idea to create “mini destination” spots. If your layout is all open plan and there’s nowhere to “discover” and get lost in, you’ll find a customer can see everything they need to see right when they walk in and therefore they may not take the time to walk in and around the store. Creating obstacles and area’s upon which the customer’s curiosity gets the better of them is the goal.

rsz_vis_3How will VM catch the eye of your customer and will it be a vital tool in avoiding financial woes in the current economic climate?

What so many stores do wrongly is to think in times of economic uncertainty, that they can’t afford to do interesting VM /windows etc. Its exactly in these times, that stores become “same same” and this is the time to rethink your window displays to create excitement, look at tweaking the internal layout, move fixtures around, wallpaper a feature wall to create interest. I liken it to having a makeover. When you put effort into your appearance, your confidence is electric. When a store looks haggard and sad and a bit depressed, that energy is felt by the customer and the “desperation vibe” is very obvious.

As a regular visitor and speaker at Fashion Exposed over the years, what is your favourite part about the show? And why is it an important platform for retail and buyers?

More than ever, attending trade shows is imperative. It’s all about finding an edge and that might be securing a new brand, looking at bringing on a new category or meeting with other like minded people in the industry to connect, network and discuss the issues facing you. My favourite element of the show is definitely the Business Seminar. Whilst I love going to “spy” on what new trends are emerging and discovering new talent, I love being involved and also attending the seminars as so much can be gained from an insightful point of view. When you’re busy and caught up in the day to day of your business, it’s so important to stand back and think of the big picture when it comes to your business and where it’s going. I think the line up this year really covers the most important issues facing the industry today.

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