Visual merchandisers are able to communicate visual concepts in a clear and unique way. This career incorporates all elements of design and creativity and is slowly becoming one of the UK’s most popular careers.
You might think that a visual merchandiser just arranges the display in a shop window. But a visual merchandiser is so much more than just a window-dresser. Visual merchandisers are an essential part of how a company can be perceived and will design more than just displays.
A visual merchandiser will collaborate in-store and through head office to communicate ideas effectively. Some visual merchandisers will have a say in company branding, store layouts and will even be able to liaise with marketing departments to carry out effective marketing strategies.
What is a Visual Merchandiser?
A visual merchandiser is someone who develops and delivers visual concepts for a brand or company. What initially starts off as any form of window display jobs, visual merchandisers will soon grow with experience and begin to work on promoting products, services, and brands. Visual merchandisers will even display their work in catalogues.
A visual merchandiser will work with various departments or clients to realise their goals. It has been known for visual merchandisers to get involved with areas of graphic design and marketing, so as to ensure total synergy for all of a company’s ideas.
Your responsibilities will depend on where you are working and who for. They will also depend on your level of seniority. Some companies will have different roles and responsibilities for you than others; for example, some may require you to liaise with clients, while others may not.
The most common responsibilities for a visual merchandiser are:
- Conduct market research.
- Create packs for staff members.
- Establish brand guidelines and consistencies.
- Identify and source fabrics, hardware, lighting and props.
- Liaise with department heads for input on creative strategies.
- Liaising with buying teams, marketing departments and sales teams.
- Maintain your budget.
- Meet with businesses.
- Seek feedback from colleagues.
- Work with computer-aided design (CAD) programmes, such as AutoCAD, PhotoShop, Illustrator and Mockshop.
Your responsibilities will increase as you move into more senior positions. At senior or management level, you will be responsible for managing budgets, team members and for training staff members.
A degree is not essential for becoming a visual merchandiser, but it is useful.
A visual merchandiser salary starts off small but has the potential to be very lucrative. To begin with, you will generally be earning between £15,000 and £20,000. The starting salary will depend on your experience in the industry and any qualifications you have.
Once you become a visual merchandising manager, your salary will increase significantly. At a management level, your salary range will be between £21,000 and £27,000 depending on the company you work for.
At a more senior level, the visual merchandising salary becomes far more lucrative. You can expect to be earning between £40,000 and £60,000 at a senior level.
Your salary will depend on a number of factors. Your qualifications and your location are the main factors for a role like this. Those with a degree tend to have a higher entry point for salaries and those in large metropolitan areas like London are able to command a higher salary than those in other areas.
A degree is not essential for becoming a visual merchandiser, but it is useful. The reason for this is that employers are generally more interested in any portfolios you may have or any other examples of your work rather than specific qualifications.
However, qualifications can still come in handy. Not only does a degree show that you have an advanced level of knowledge in this area, but it also means that you have more training in specific programmes that other, non-graduates may not have.
If you are thinking of going to university, the best subjects to look into are:
- Fashion design
- Fine art
- Graphic design
- Interior design
- Surface pattern design
- 3D design
These can be studied at either undergraduate or postgraduate level. Generally speaking, undergraduate degrees should be more than sufficient for this career, however, a postgraduate degree will stand you apart from the competition and increase your earning potential. You can also study these courses at an HND level too. It is also study while doing any merchandising apprenticeships, which will provide you with experience as well as the qualifications you need.
Your employer will likely provide training. In this role, you need to be keen to improve your own skills even without your company’s help.
Training and development
Your employer will likely provide training. In this role, you need to be keen to improve your own skills even without your company’s help. Watching tutorial videos on YouTube is useful, but can only get you so far.
You can take on training courses either before applying or after. Institutions such as the London College of Fashion or the Fashion Retail Academy offer degrees, diplomas and apprenticeships to those who need them. They are well-equipped to help those already in work as well.
This is an industry that is regulated so you will need to complete a continuing professional development (CPD). Of course, this will largely be down to the employer you work with, but since associations such as the British Display Society (BDS) offer so many training courses for visual merchandisers, you will find that most companies will ask you to complete a CPD.
You can also register with other institutions besides the BDS. The Association for Cultural Enterprises (ACE) offer similar benefits, visual merchandiser apprenticeship opportunities, networking events and advice on how to get into visual merchandising.
There are a variety of skills needed to become a visual merchandiser. These skills can be further honed through training and development and with general on-the-job experience.
The skills needed for this role are:
- An ability to work collaboratively as well as independently.
- An interest in design and its future.
- An interest in visual work.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Excellent design skills.
- Excellent listening skills.
- Good negotiation skills.
As you move into management roles, you will need to have other skills in your arsenal. This means having listening skills, management skills, excellent numeracy skills and more. You will gain general visual merchandising skills through experience.
A visual merchandiser is someone who develops and delivers visual concepts for a brand or company.
The career prospects for a visual merchandiser are very good. To begin with, you may just be working on the shop floor or as a window dresser or as an assistant visual merchandiser, but this is valuable experience and will allow you to take on more challenging roles in the company later.
Beyond the general entry point, CAD skills are essential to this role. With CAD skills, you can move into elements of product design, graphic design and team leading. You will be liaising with clients and with various department heads to ensure that a project is being carried out to everyone’s exact specifications. Visual merchandising manager jobs will also include managing a team and the budgets associated with the department.
It is also possible to become a self-employed visual merchandiser. This is generally better for those who have worked in the industry for a while and have developed a wider network of contacts. This will also give you more scope for work, for example, being able to take on online visual merchandising jobs.
Not all visual merchandisers choose to stay in this particular role. It is possible that visual merchandising roles will provide you with adequate enough experience for future roles in interior design, graphic design and various aspects of marketing.