Cigarettes and Visual Merchandising

A local mens store in my city currently has a manikin in the window with a paper bag on its head, drawn on facial-features and a cigarette glued to its sharpie-drawn mouth. Next to it is a female manikin trying to kiss/make out with paper-bag-dude.
I’m sorry but that is by no means a good window display. I’ve seen manikins styled in many ways – some stores have them pretending to run, but these manikins took it to another level. They looked cheap and tacky. The clothes on the manikin are nice, so it’s a shame you get too distracted by the cigarette to look at them. If you want to be edgy, different, attention grabbing, think of something other than a paper bag and a cigarette. Please, I beg of you!

Visual Merchandising

I’m not going to describe myself as much of an authority on retail as I’ve only been in the industry for about 5 years now. However, over those 5 years I have learnt quite a few things. One of those things is about how you present your store.

We live in a world nearly entirely based on visuals. We buy products not only based on what we’ve heard about them, but what their advertisements look like, what they packaging looks like. Everyone always says, “don’t judge a book by its cover”, and sometimes I will admit they’re right, but majority of the time, I do the exact opposite. My favourite book of all time, Susan Elizabeth Phillip’s Match Me If You Can, was picked out of a second-hand book sale by my best friend in grade 10 because she liked the cover as it reminded her of me. Just like her book choice, majority of my choices in everyday life is more often than not influenced by the visual aspects. From soft-drink in the supermarket to make-up products in the chemist; how something looks has a stronger influence on us than we realise.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. I personally don’t see what wrong with choosing the [whatever] because they’re put more time and effort into marketing their [whatever]. Unless of course we’re talking about something morally wrong that is marketed in a visually appealing way – just one of the many tests The Gruen Transfer puts advertising companies through on their show.

So if the visuals are so important, why is it so common to walk into a retail store and find yourself looking at an utter pigsty? There’s nothing attractive about shopping in stores like that. Am I the only one who feels that if a store (usually labelled ‘[whoevers] fashion outlet’) is out-of-control messy, then there’s bound to be something wrong with the clothes?

Besides, they don’t call it retail THERAPY for nothing. It’s not meant to be strenuous! Who honestly wants to spend their Saturday or Sunday afternoon wading through a massive pile of tops to find something that may or may not look cute on? Because after all that effort of searching for something, you’ve still got to try it on and debate whether you want to pay that much for it. By this time, the whole process has taken up a fair chuck of time and energy and everyone needs a coffee – cue Gloria Jeans in shopping centres making a fortune (aside from the decent beverages).

I don’t believe one should have their hand held, so to speak, by the sales assistant when in a store, but I do believe they should make sure it’s an enjoyable experience. This starts with a clean, organised store.

No cluttered racks – that just makes it hard to pull clothes out to look at and means as the sales assistant, you have to spend more time trying to keep that bastard neat. At the same time, make sure they’re not bare. There’s nothing worse than your customers thinking you have a limited selection that clothes. You don’t want a lack of clothes to lead to customers thinking you’re not making enough money to buy more/are too lazy to buy more/are going out or business/have just started up. Actually scratch that, there’s one thing worse: customers thinking you have a very broad range of clothes and not wanting to dig through the MESS. You can see what I mean from the two, very different, photographs.

Retail therapy style clothes racks - neat and visually appealing :-)!

Spread your colours out. Yes, it’s convenient if you want a specific colour to go to that coloured section, but it also means it’s harder to distinguish which clothes are which. They will sell much better if you position other neutral colours around them as they will stand out and be picked up by customers.

If you have a massive influx of new clothes, then you’ve got an excuse to make your sale section a little more crowded. If you still can’t fit everything in the store a great idea is to put the two most popular sizes out only. This might mean either a Small and Medium OR a Medium and Large on the shop floor, with extras and other sizes out the back. However, you must make sure your staff tell customers this as they may not realise and think you’re simply out of the size.

In the end, you’ve just got to play around with it. But remember that visual merchandising is extremely important as everyone judges majority of things based on how it appeals to them visually. A good-looking shop floor can give of a personality, a style, an emotion. It can even make the store look more expensive, not necessarily the clothes (although it might), but a good-looking store will show that those who run it put a lot of time and money into keeping it looking great. If staff spend that much time making the store look good, imagine how great they’ll be helping you out with your outfits! So don’t forget to keep those racks tidy guys!