His entire career has spanned all the majors from David Jones to high street favourite Country Road and now Myer, where he resides as National Visual Merchandising Manager. So it’s safe to say John Strickland knows a thing or two about VM for retail.
In the last 10 years since he first started, John has noticed many changes he didn’t think would exist and the emphasis on VM has increased dramatically. But as much as it has changed, he says the principles stay the same.
He adds: “It’s always been about delighting the customer. VM used to be just display and window dressing, now it’s moving more into the realm of brand management and dictating to shop fitters the look and feel of how a store should look, you need many more skills now.”
And with the influx of online stores in the fashion retail market, there’s a renewed push for VM in-store with retailers shoring up their bricks-and-mortar business to offer a point of difference to the online experience. John sees it as an imperative if you want to sell your product at the best possible margin.
The feature windows at Myer are the pride and joy of the department store. John says the calendar for these are locked in six months in advance with the planning for each window starting about then also.
The Christmas windows take a little more time however. According to John, they start planning the festive display the minute the previous year’s windows open by gauging the customers, and more importantly their youngest customers’ response. The new window concepts are signed off in January of the year they go in, then they go into production. It takes about three to four weeks to install.
“VM Management is not always just about the “pretties” being the VM Manager at the largest department store throws up some different challenges, we do a lot of ordering, filling in endless spreadsheets and things like budget forecasts, it’s really a left brain/right brain role,” says John.
John will present at the Fashion Exposed Conference on Monday August 26 on how Visual Merchandising is a key factor in influencing consumers purchasing choices and how can VM change a consumers purchasing decision.
“In today’s market there is so much choice, what makes a customer purchase a plain white shirt from Myer, Witchery or from their local boutique? It’s about how they feel about the purchase, from where the shop is located, to the fixtures and VM to the service and marketing,” he says.
“All these things have a strong influence. In short the VM person should think about what is being sold, at what price, and how best can I support that.”
We had a quick chat with John for a few VM tips we can implement in-store now;
For those retailers who don’t consider themselves to be ‘creative’, what are some tried and tested practical VM tips that are almost fail proof?
– Keep it clean, don’t put some much stuff in that you can’t see the product
– Be famous for something
– Add white to freshen and black to sharpen
– Invest in a decent mannequin
– If you can’t do wigs well don’t use them
Do you need big budgets to create stimulating VM?
How can you create an ‘atmosphere’ without spending big dollars?
Build a blank canvas keep it simple, white or timber walls, dark floor and simple fixtures with good lighting are a good start. Some stores I see just need to start by stripping back to the bare walls. Any VM you do will always look better against a stark background
What can retailers do in store to encourage dwell time?
Make the customers feel welcome by giving them a peaceful and stimulating environment with some negative space and good service. Things like well placed seating areas, Cafes, wifi, in-store theatre etc also helps.
Rather than see digital as the enemy, more bricks-and-mortar stores are bringing the online experience in-store. Case in point, Burberry Regent St store in London which was modelled off its online website. Do you see more of this happening?
Yes a lot of retailers are trying very hard to incorporate digital. Some good and some bad ideas will keep on coming and evolving until something sticks.
What digital technology can we can bring in store to enhance the consumer experience?
I see a lot of retailers install iPads that don’t work three weeks later and I also see some attempts to get them to shop online with a store device while shopping. I think it’s better to let the customer use their own device and supply them with WiFi for free.
My point is, if you are going to have technology make sure it works and works well. There is nothing worse that a blank screen. It’s not novel any more just to have a large screen. Technology should sit comfortably in the stores current environment and be used to enhance the customer experience not just advertise something.
What are some of the VM trends we can expect to see coming in store in the next 5 years?
I feel VM will be important to many retailers for the bricks and mortar stores. In-store theatre will be important and continue to develop new ideas. Fiscal challenges will continue to challenge us to do many things better and cheaper; this also will drive creativity.
See John present `How visual merchandising can influence the consumer’ at the Fashion Exposed Conference on Monday August 26 from 2-3pm
Through John’s experience at Myer he discusses how you can create atmosphere and theatre through Visual Merchandising.
One of the key factors influencing customers purchasing decisions, come and learn about current and future strategies for store presentation.
To book, visit fashionexposed.com