Enjoy dressing up your dolls when you were growing up? Imagine doing that on a larger scale and getting paid for it, we have looked at what being a Visual Merchandiser is all about and here before the main article is a summary of our findings.
1. Visual merchandisers use their creativity and design skills to showcase retailers’ products, usually through eye-catching window displays and store layouts.
2. You could be working for a major retail chain or you could work for small boutiques as a freelancer.
3. While most merchandisers work regular hours, you may need to work late in the run-up to a big promotion.
4. Many visual merchandisers get into the job by working their way up from the shop floor. Big employers like the Arcadia Group often help train up talented staff.
5. Alternatively, you can take a specialist qualification – such as a Diploma or degree – and enter directly as a visual merchandiser.
6. Starting salaries can be as low as £12,000 a year, though creative directors at major stores can earn much more.
7. Specialist online recruitment sites for the retail industry, as well as the websites of major retailers, are both good sources of jobs.
What Do Visual Merchandisers Do?
Visual merchandisers use their creativity and design skills to showcase retailers’ products, usually through eye-catching window displays and store layouts. While most specialist visual merchandisers work for large retail chains or groups, a relative few work for small or even boutique stores, sometimes on a freelance basis.
Generally speaking, as a visual merchandiser, you would work standard shop opening hours, usually between 45 and 40 hours a week. However, you may be expected to work late or even over the weekends ahead of large promotions such as Christmas displays or seasonal sales.
Duties can include:
- Creating bespoke displays to promote a special offer or new product
- Ensuring that optimal use of a store’s space is made at all times
- Dressing shop dummies and also creating scenes and displays
- Sourcing materials, props and products for new displays
- Training shop floor staff on how to properly display merchandise
Skills and Qualifications
Generally speaking, there are two distinct routes into this line of work. Either you can work your way up from the shop floor or you can go straight into working as a visual merchandiser.
In terms of the first option, many larger retailers, including the John Lewis Partnership and companies owned by the Arcadia Group such as Topshop, often allow talented members of the sales team to train on-the-job and they may even help you gain formal qualifications.
If, however, you want to go straight into being a visual merchandiser, then there are a number of relevant qualifications you can take. Some of the qualifications employers might look out for include:
- Level 2 or Level 3 Diploma in Fashion Retail
- Level 3 Certificate and Diploma in Visual Merchandising
- Fashion Degree in Retailing and Marketing
Just some of the colleges and universities offering degree-level courses in visual merchandising or related subjects include:
- University of the Arts in London
- University of Hertfordshire
- University of Central Lancashire
While entry requirements vary, you will usually need to show some artistic flair, have a keen interest in retail and possess a few good GCSEs to get a place on a course.
Aside from formal qualifications and relevant retail sector experience, prospective employers may also want you to have a wide range of specialist skills and knowledge such as:
- A keen eye for detail and a strong sense of style and design
- The ability to work as part of a team, as well as under your own initiative
- The ability to work to deadlines, often working unsociable hours to meet these
- A keen interest in the latest design trends and developments in the fashion industry
Again, many visual merchandisers work their way up from the shop floor into a more-specialist role, so if you’re a school leaver or if you have worked in another sector and so don’t have any relevant qualifications or experience, it might be a good idea to start off by applying for general sales assistant jobs.
If, however, you are searching for visual merchandiser jobs then there are a number of good places to look. Firstly, specialist retail industry recruitment websites regularly advertise jobs for both new and experienced visual merchandisers.
Good places to look for new openings online:
- Retail Choice (http://www.retailchoice.com/),
- Drapers Jobs (http://www.drapersjobs.com/jobs/visual-merchandising/)
- InRetail (http://www.inretail.co.uk)
Alternatively, visit the websites of major fashion retailers to look for new openings. The Arcadia Group Careers website, for example (http://www.arcadiagroup.co.uk/careers) is regularly updated with vacancies for experienced visual merchandisers listed alongside those for entry-level sales staff.
Pay and Benefits
Starting salaries for visual merchandisers – even for those employed by major retailers – are relatively low. For instance, newly-qualified merchandisers dressing window displays of a high street store can expect to earn between £12,000 and £16,000 a year.
More experienced visual merchandisers can earn up to £25,000 a year, while annual salaries for design directors of large stores can be as high as £60,000.
Aside from the pay, one major benefit of working as a visual merchandiser is that it allows you to get paid while indulging your passion for fashion and expressing your creativity.
The job also gives you the chance to work as part of a team while slso enjoying some degree of creative independence.
Another option within the world of fashion for you could be a career in Fashion Merchandising or if you are good at writing then check out our Fashion Journalism jobguide.
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