DALLAS, Mar 3, 1999/ FW/ — The Visual Merchandising Department is composed of several sections:
Display Department (which actually do the windows and store displays)
Sign Shop (which makes the signs)
Retail planning and space design
In big department stores which has an in-house Visual Shop, these three sections are usually separate department, though all of them are under the VP Visual Merchandising or the VP Operations. The sections might be separated but they work in conjunction with each other.
The VM Director or Creative Director is the head of the whole Visual Merchandising Dept. He or she usually handles several stores or locations. For department store chains, the VM Director will usually be in charge of a geographic location. In the United States, the geographical divisions are usually: The Northeast, the South, the Midwest and the Pacific Region. Each department store may vary in the way they divide the country. If this is the case, there is usually a Regional Director which handles the region, and each city or state has a VM Director. Sometimes, the division is in terms of number of stores, or in terms of sales volume.
Below the VM Director are VM Managers who usually handle one location. There are VM Supervisors or Lead VMs depending on the size of the crew. And then, the Visual Merchandisers.
Not all stores can afford an in house VM Shop. Sometimes, there will be only one VM who is everything (Director, Manager, VM). And there are even stores who just freelance their windows and store display. That is the reason why there are a lot of freelance Visual Merchandisers.
Even stores with a VM Shop hires freelancers, to get a fresh point of view. This is very predominant during new construction and retrofit of stores, wherein the permanent staff still has the store to maintain and still has to get ready for the additions. To ease the load, the stores will hire freelance VMs.
The Sign Shop are usually staffed by Graphic Artists. They seldom work in the store floor, their main function is to create signing and advertising materials. In most stores, the signs are usually contracted out. For bigger operations, the Sign Shop is in-house.
Retail space planning is a very specialized field. Usually, that aspect is contracted out, the in-house staff usually composed of only a handful of individuals. There are firms which specialize in this field, usually manned by architects and space designers.