Visiting the Westfield London shopping centre in White City on the first weekend of opening may seem like a crazy idea, but I was not there to spend but to witness the competition between retailers and how they presented their brands.
Clearly the visual merchandisers (VMs) had been working overtime. Tougher trading has always forced retail chiefs to put visual merchandising at the forefront of their business. VMs are renowned for pulling their creative resources together to create outstanding window displays that draw customers across the threshold of their stores with a hope of them spending their cash.
Maintaining high standards requires attracting, rewarding and developing the talents of the people who put the art into retail. It is essential to give VMs the confidence to dress windows and lay out shop floors.
There are a number of ways this can be done, and investing in learning is one. My course at the Fashion Retail Academy is a one-year experience; students gain a Level 4 Diploma in visual merchandising that can get them an entry position in a VM team.
They get to study window design, store layouts, mannequin dressing, signage and graphics, retail concepts and store architecture.Another way of pushing VMs forward is
recognising talent. That is why I am backing SkillVM, a competition in which the best VMs in the country go head-to-head in window dressing competitions. Through it we can admire the work VMs do and recognise their importance in shaping the retail spaces of the future.
Students and professional VMs can enter the SkillVM competition at www.skillvm.com.
Tony Morgan is author of Visual Merchandising: Window and In-Store Displays for Retail