Visual Merchandising Defined

DALLAS, Mar 1, 1999/ FW/ — Visual Merchandising has been around since the dawn of civilization, since humans started selling merchandise to a customer. When a vendor arranged his goods to be more attractive for a customer, or when a farmer put the biggest and ripest apples on top of the basket for consumers to see and touch, that is visual merchandising.

Today, Visual Merchandising has become more sophisticated and more encompassing than arranging merchandise for easy access to customers. Visual Merchandising elements are put into practice from designing the floor plan of the store to the beautiful mannequins that grace the store floor. With the specialty marketing of the 1990s, visual merchandising is a necessity to the retail industry.

Visual Merchandising has a several of aspects: store planning and design, store windows and floor displays, signs, space design, fixtures and hardware, props and decoratives, mannequins and forms to name a few. The industry is still evolving and it changes constantly with the times.

The exact period that Visual Merchandising became its own industry cannot be pinpointed in history. During the 1800s, it became apparent that it was a part of the retail industry. During the Victorian period, the window displays became popular. In the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, the style of display overpowered the objects featured. Museums and galleries followed suit in using the elements of commercial display to show their collection.

It was also during that time that visual merchandising became an intrinsic part of fashion and the retail industry. By 1910, department stores through trial and error had stumbled into a floor plan that up to today remains the blueprint for most large stores – cosmetics, accessories and impulse items on the first floor, along with men’s clothes; bargain goods, groceries and housewares in the basement; and higher ticket items on the upper floors.

The industry has also attracted great talents such as Salvador Dali, Gene Moore, Andy Warhol. Visual merchandising is a combination of a lot of things, wherein creativity is an everday fare. Challenging and frustrating both at the same time, visual merchandising is commercial art at its best.