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Visual Merchandising Versus The Credit Crunch


The media were absolutely united, for once, in their assessment that Christmas 2008 for Retailers was going to be a "disaster", "carnage", "dyer", "the worst ever" in other words 'not good'.

As the plethora of trading results were released, it soon became clear that these headlines were not too much of an exaggerated prediction. There are a number of players out there who have struggled during Christmas and posted disappointing like-for-like results. With some, regrettably, being forced to shut up shop-for good.

Was the writing for many of these high street names, however, not on the wall long before Christmas, and was it such a big surprise?

In contrast to this gloomy outlook there are a number of retailers who have posted extremely creditable results; New Look, JD, Primark, Republic, to name just a few. These retail brands place a considerable emphasis on outstanding Visual Merchandising, particularly within window displays. Their window and in store presentations look outstanding all the time and create the necessary theatre to sell their products.

During this testing time where retailers are being constantly pushed to save money it will be tempting for some vendors to give Visual Merchandising a lesser priority in a vain attempt to 'cut costs'.  

Clearly, as the above examples show, this would be a big mistake. In a year that is predicted to be tough, which it probably will, it is even more important that retailers create stunning displays to excite and invite their customers. Retailers need to understand the importance Visual Merchandising holds within their business and realize these displays can be created on even the smallest budget.

The importance of Visual Merchandising – A Case Study
A good example of this principle of driving sales through strong Visual Merchandising, Store Design and Promotions (though it may not be the most obvious one) is an outdoor retailer I used to work for. The business will remain nameless, but these guys were one of the most prolific Retailers of the late 90's early 2000's in terms of organic sales and profit growth and turning, what traditionally had been a very drab and staid retail sector, on its head!

The business, when subject to a management buys in, consisted of circa 100 stores and grew to over 450 stores across three fascias in little over five years. One of the driving principles of developing this business was to introduce and drive forward an aggressive and 'high street' ('not outdoor destination store') approach to affective Visual Merchandising, Store Design and Promotion. This, indeed, happened and continued to be at the fore front of their policies and budgetary considerations, transforming the stores into viable visual propositions and moving them way ahead of their direct competitors.

In 2001 the worst disaster, since the Second World War, hit rural Britain. The Foot & Mouth epidemic was the worst to hit since records began with some 2,030 cases reported. Millions of acres of countryside became 'no go areas' to the public in order to stifle the spread of the disease. The countryside was effectively closed for business. Walkers, ramblers, off-road cyclists, campers, outdoor enthusiasts and the like were all told to keep away.

This had a devastating effect on thousands of businesses not least retailers of outdoor clothing, footwear and equipment.

During this time not only did we continue to invest time and money into Visual Merchandising, Store Design and Promotions we accelerated our program. As a result we came out of the 'crisis' with like for like sales and a much stronger business. While others in this sector failed and went to the wall, we took advantage of this and snapped up a considerable number of stores and, virtually overnight, increased the store portfolio numbers by 25%.

The moral of the story is... 
The way in which you layout your store, present the product and run promotions can have a massive influence on customers perception of your brand and their decision making process on whether or not to try and buy.  Great visual merchandising is an essential ingredient to this and, as such, your displays must be eye-catching, fresh, commercial and inspired…at all times!

The tools to creating a great display
Choosing the right mannequin with the right feel and pose for your display is a pre-requisite in presenting outfits in the right way to sell the range.  A good display doesn't have to cost the earth and there are plenty of retail supply companies around offering solutions to match a range of budgets.

The Retail Factory is a leading distributor of retail supplies offering a comprehensive range of mannequin and bust forms .  The range covers a vast array of styles, colours and poses across male, female and child mannequins, bust forms, plus size mannequins, torso's, heads, legs, accessories and much more.

Garments displayed on mannequins & bust forms must look a million dollars as this could make or break a sale! At The Retail Factory  we recognise the importance and the benefits of strong visual merchandising and display and the overall 'power of presentation'.

Along with a wide range of VM Solutions The Retail Factory also offer expert advice and great low prices across their range to support retailers through this difficult period.

With companies like The Retail Factory working hard to support the industry and ensure the recent success of New Look and other such stores becomes the norm, the key point to stress with vendors is  'cutting VM budgets is not the answer to beating the credit crunch'.  Retailers must become more savvy when choosing the right suppliers and work with companies like The Retail Factory who are retail experts dedicated to creating the best possible solution for every budget.

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