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EuroShop 2014: Visual merchandising

The triennial EuroShop show unveiled the latest store design and retail innovations.

The business of sorting out what matters and what’s peripheral is always tricky and prone to accident. So imagine the task faced by more than 100,000 visitors who pitched up at the triennial store equipment show that is EuroShop, where they had to navigate a sea of merchandise and ultimately make a call on what would be useful to them.

Expectations were high at the show, which was held from February 16-20 in Germany’s self-styled fashion capital at Messe Düsseldorf, and there were certainly some elements that stood out as crowd pleasers and were impossible to ignore.

Among these, and perhaps unsurprisingly given current retail trends, were digital and mechanical. This varied from UK visual merchandising company SFD’s body-mapped mannequins to Hans Boodt’s robotic arms. They were interesting in large measure because what was on show was the outcome of traditional visual merchandising companies working with other parties [largely technology firms], rather than going it alone. Indeed, if there were any conclusions to be drawn from an exhibition that featured 2,226 exhibitors from 57 countries, it is that it is no longer enough to work on your own and if you want a show-stopping store interior it will be the result of collaborations with multiple parties which have the technical know-how to deliver it.

Crowd pleasers: SFD’s body-mapped mannequins

Crowd pleasers: SFD’s body-mapped mannequins

The next Euroshop will take place in 2017.

So what were the major themes for garment retailers, mannequins and visual merchandising? More or less the whole of Hall 4 was devoted to mannequins and whether it was elongated Alberto Giacometti sculpture-like figures or mannequins wrapped in an embrace, there was something to suit all needs. That said, the mannequins that had a digital or mechanical twist attracted the most attention. Dutch manufacturer Hans Boodt had one of the hall’s biggest stands and took presentation to a new level at the entrance, with computer-controlled robotic arms on its mannequins endlessly applying different faces. This was less about the end result and more to do with admiration of the technology-led process that led to each mannequin having a new face.

Paul Brooks, owner of Watford-based SFD, was keen to demonstrate a mannequin whose shape had been scanned and mapped by a computer.

This enabled sets of clothes to be projected onto the naked forms, giving the impression of a fashion show with just a single mannequin. The theory is simple enough but the technical hardware required is substantial. It was also symptomatic of the way in which visual merchandising seems to be heading. Static mannequins and displays, no matter how winsome, may in future lose out to those that can incorporate action, whether through light, projection or mechanical movement.

The other element that was obvious in Hall 4 and across much of the other 14 halls was using the power of repetition as a means of getting the message across and attracting more customers. This is hardly headline news, but as a theme it did exemplify much of what is currently apparent in many of the better chains.

Northern Italian shopfitter and shop equipment manufacturer Schweitzer seemed to nail this in its ‘Dept Store 3.0’ - a stand in Hall 12 that had visitors reaching for the cameras on their smartphones. Schweitzer and its design arm Interstore’s speciality has been food retail interiors, but on its two-level Dept Store 3.0 it was the naked mannequins with QR codes around their necks guarding the entrance that really caught the eye. On the actual stand itself, there were more mannequin troupes. This time they were arranged in an elevated line, ballet-style, along a rail that projected from the perimeter.

In terms of props, it seemed that if you want to get ahead, get a bike. Bicycles were everywhere, whether suspended in mid-air with blue skeletons astride them, or merely framed with figures standing next to them. Either way, this was one of the most popular ways of making more of displays while, presumably, gaining a mildly green halo at the same time.

Visual effects: plenty of bicycles

Visual effects: plenty of bicycles

Lighting and navigation was another theme. Retail lighting giant Philips had tongues wagging as it unveiled the prototype for a lighting system that links via an app to shoppers’ phones and enables them to navigate a store and to find specific items within it. The idea behind this is that existing LED lights in a store will be turned into a positioning grid with each light being identifiable by the app on the shopper’s phone. This will enable in-store navigation via your phone to be a reality. You need never get lost again.

However, the system is still at the prototype stage and at Euroshop 2014 rather more was being made of the potential for playing with LED lights to create movement and interest above static displays. LED lighting was still something of a wunderkind for many back at the last Euroshop in 2011. This time round things have changed and the LED’s capacity to provide lighting of different intensity, warmth and colour was being demonstrated across numerous stands, with Reggiani, Philips and Bäro all showing what can be done.

Even for retailers with modest funds, LED lighting and its possibilities seem to offer an affordable world that would not have been possible for most of the last decade.

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