This discussion is excerpted from a Retail Environments Network discussion on
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Our skills are valuable and need to be passed on. … The
missing link is not the creativity of new VM staff; it’s how to
bring it all together. A lot have no understanding of basic
freelance visual merchandiser and lecturer
Hands-on training in this field is invaluable. It needs to
remain a necessity.
director of sales at Adel Rootstein
Real visual skills are rarely taught any more … Experience
still trumps “schooling” in visual. Even getting an intern gig
or a Christmas visual temp job at Macy’s will help a young
person get their foot in the door. The pressure is then on to
Richard Rollison, independent national account rep
and broker/ retail design consultant
Companies want the schooling to get in the door. Nothing
beats hands-on training, but the schools do prepare students as much as possible. We can only introduce people to
the trade that takes years to master.
Kathie Bramson, professor,
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology
I teach VM at The Art Institute of Portland, Ore. In each class, at
least two students decide to pursue visual as a career. They
have been among the brightest and most talented of each
class. I also train visual merchandisers in first or second VM
jobs. Too often, the depth and breadth of their experience doesn’t prepare
them for moving into more complicated and demanding aspects of the job.
Linda Cahan, visual merchandising consultant
In many developing countries like India, it is an emerging
and attractive career option. … There is a huge gap in the
demand and supply in the Indian market. Introducing it in
design schools will help bridge the gap.
Chetan Sharma, VM assistant,
Pantaloons Fashion & Retail
In Bangladesh, even now people don’t know about this
Farzana Bonny, VM manager,
Partex Furniture, Partex Star Group
Aeropostale Times Square
display last year featured
VM products by Global Visual
Group. Stop by the store during
the Retail Design Collective to
see this year’s festive display.
Visual departments were cut way back and replaced by a centrally located corporate staff that sent out directives to store
managers to place a sign and a headless mannequin with a
designated ensemble in a bare display window. … The talent is
simply not there to train younger people in the skills needed for a true visual
merchandiser. Skills that simply cannot be taught in a school. … Plus most
retailers do not have budgets in place to support this kind of training, [and]
they long ago abandoned this more individualistic approach to their stores’
image. … In some cases, [visual merchandisers] are expected to clean up the
store and assist customers while maintaining displays.
J.D. Vincent, visual merchandising,
James D. Vincent
How do we justify our windows and displays work when the
foot flow goes down? And how do we take credit when the foot
flow and sales are up? … VMs are amongst the lowest-paid
“professionals” as most companies see us a non-asset (only
when sales drop tremendously, suddenly “display” is valued and deems to be
important). … My unspoken task is to groom the Next-Me, yet it’s hard to find
one who’s reliable enough and willing to deal with the dirt, dust, lifting,
housekeeping, and the actual beautifying work. [But] I see huge potential in
growing the art of VM here in Malaysia. Since NYC is too far from my reach
now, I seek inspiration from stores in Hong Kong and Bangkok.
Christopher Yong, visual merchandiser,
Céline, Loewe & Superdry
a VM skills shortage?
A recent commentary pointed to a potential future shortage of visual merchandisers
and suggested that on-the-job training trumps formal education for the profession.
Karen Schaffner, publisher of Retail Environments and A.R.E.’s director of membership
and sales, asked two of our LinkedIn groups their thoughts on the issue. Here are a few excerpts: