Visual Merchandisers conceptualize and produce aesthetic, functional, and interesting designs displays and exhibits in order to effectively deliver and communicate visual concepts and strategies. Some Visual Merchandisers are employed by museums, retail establishments, theatre companies, outlets, galleries, department stores, or other similar establishments, while others work on a freelance or consultancy basis to create visual concepts for private clients or deliver training to retail teams.
Visual Merchandisers are hired to promote retail brands, products, and services in-store, in catalogues, or online. Their main objective is to increase sales and buyer’s attention, encouraging “window shopping”. Not to be confused with Retail Merchandisers who are mainly concerned with volumes and allocation of stock in the store and not its visual and creative impact.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Visual Merchandisers are required to complete.
- Developing innovative design concepts which are practical, aesthetic, safe, and conducive to intended purposes and functions, being a reflection of the client’s goals and always keeping within the project’s budget.
- Designing and assembling permanent, temporary, or moveable exhibits and displays for museum exhibitions, trade shows, conventions, retail spaces, among others:
- Consulting with clients to determine needs, preferences, and purpose of space;
- creating sketches of visual displays based on the requirements set by the client or the store management department;
- using computer-aided design (CAD) software, such as AutoCAD or Adobe Creative Suite, to create visuals and plans;
- finalizing the designs and creating detailed floor plans after the preliminary design has been approved;
- using their creativity to enhance the aesthetic appeal of different displays and exhibitions (e.g. window displays, walkways, counters, and in-store displays), as well as to improve the use of lighting and space;
- sourcing the necessary props, materials, fabrics, hardware, lighting, and accessories required to carry out the design;
- keeping all expenses within budget and negotiating with vendors and suppliers;
- producing eye-catching and attractive visual displays, setting up/assembling the display or supervising the process;
- ensuring the uniformity of displays across multiple store locations, if any; and
- changing displays to promote new product launches or to reflect festive or seasonal themes, such as Christmas, spring, fall, or summer.
- Liaising with other Retail professionals, such as Retail Buyers, Marketing Executives, and Retail Merchandisers to make sure all stores have the right visual impact:
- Seeking feedback from colleagues and customers on the visual impact of displays and implementing changes if necessary.
- Conducting research on current and future trends in design and lifestyle, as well as on associated target market features:
- Keeping up-to-date on current trends and recent developments; and
- staying current on ground-breaking decorating techniques, new materials, and sales strategies.
- Consulting with clients to create the best design.
- Developing plans and creating sketches.
- Using their creativity to enhance the aesthetic appeal of different displays and exhibitions.
- Procuring the necessary materials, props, and accessories.
- Setting up/assembling the display or supervising the process.
The average Visual Merchandiser salary is $26,111 per year or $13 per hour. This is around 0.8 times less than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $18,000 while most experienced workers make up to $37,000. These results are based on 61 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Creative flair and a strong imagination, as well as an outstanding sense of style, always willing to try out new ideas.
- Interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to convey clear instructions, as well as having effective listening skills as to understand the client’s requests; and
- being able to work cohesively with other staff members.
- Organizational and time management skills:
- Having strong multitasking skills; being able to work under pressure in a dynamic, fast-paced environment;
- having time management and prioritization skills;
- being highly responsible, reliable, and organized; and
- being detail oriented and structured.
- Self-motivated and willing to work independently, as well as working within a multi-disciplinary team environment:
- Being able to take constructive criticism.
- Physical strength, manual dexterity, and visual/spatial awareness:
- Being able to sit, stand, walk, bend, crouch, climb ladders, and kneel for several hours;
- being able to work in cramped, small spaces and to use power tools; and
- knowing how to maximize the use of space.
Aside from the skills listed above, in order to become a successful Visual Merchandiser, a person needs to be creative, artistic, and have a great imagination. Although a person doesn’t necessarily need a degree to enter this profession, it’s highly advisable to complete a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design, Fine Arts, Spatial Design, Interior Design, Business Studies, Retail Management, or other similar disciplines.
It’s also vital to gain sufficient work experience and to develop a comprehensive portfolio before applying for entry-level positions. Visual Merchandisers are also required to be proficient in software designing tools including Adobe Suite, AutoCAD, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
Design, conceptualization, and planning of the overall design is frequently done during regular working hours, however, the actual assembling of exhibits is carried out after stores have closed to the public. Therefore, working late during the evenings is very common for Visual Merchandisers.
Furthermore, Visual Merchandisers are responsible for more than one store, so they may need to travel to other areas/cities to plan and install the latest displays or to supervise contractors hired for this purpose.
With enough experience, a Visual Merchandiser could progress to become a Visual Merchandising Manager. On the other hand, they could decide to move into Retail, Exhibition or Interior Design, or setting up their own business creating one of a kind, innovative displays.