Visual Merchandising Displays - Functional or A Waste of Space in Apparel Retail Stores?

Article excerpt

This study explored consumers' perceptions towards visual merchandising displays and to determine which aspects of visual merchandising displays are the most important to consumers. The primary research question posed by the literature was to determine which aspects of visual merchandising displays are relevant and important to consumers. The findings showed that a prominent visual stimulant and important aspect of visual merchandising displays was colour, which creates visual attraction and stimulation. Other important aspects of visual merchandising that were identified were the positioning of displays and the use of space, lighting as well as the neatness of displays. A further important aspect that was noted was that visual merchandising displays should provide information about the products sold in store. It became clear from the findings that visual merchandising displays have a functional role to play in apparel marketing.

Keywords: Visual merchandising, apparel stores, colour schemes, space utilization, retail outlay.

Visual merchandising must not be seen as a once off thematic or sales activity. It is rather an ongoing process to ensure that visual merchandising is effective and useful. It is therefore important to consider how consumers and potential consumers react and respond to different visual merchandising elements, and to establish what they see as important factors in the merchandising process.

Visual merchandising is not an isolated and once off phenomenon but rather forms a significant component of retailing. Besides the window displays, which are designed with the purpose to attract walking by consumers and encourage walk-ins, there is also in-store decoration that is designed to enhance the customer's comfort and convenience while shopping. The overall aim is to enhance the consumers overall shopping experience.

The next section focuses on what visual merchandising displays are and the role it plays in the total retail marketing effort.

Visual merchandising displays

Visual merchandising displays form part of visual merchandising, and it is imperative that the concept of visual merchandising is explained and understood first before visual merchandising displays are discussed. Visual merchandising can be defined as the activity that matches effective merchandise assortment with effective merchandise display (Bell and Ternus, 2006). Visual merchandising can in simple terms be seen as the way in which retailers display their products in store in order to attract consumers and to enhance their propensity to purchase the items as displayed. Visual merchandising is therefore all about displaying the right merchandise and in so doing use the available retail space effectively and efficiently in order to increase sales.

Visual merchandising display is one of the elements of visual merchandising and can be regarded as visual features that create attention or pleasure in a store (Mathew, 2008). These displays are also known as feature areas. In simple terms, the displays that are used in apparel stores are predominantly used to decorate and beautify a store by adding additional fixtures, props, posters, materials, colours, frills and objects to a store.

Apparel retail stores frequently use visual merchandising displays to illustrate a matter that is regularly associated with holidays, special days like Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day, women's month, mothers' and fathers' day, Easter, Christmas, seasonal changes, and major events such as the World Olympics. Therefore, depending on the event selected an apparel retailer's displays can be in a continuous flux of change.

In today's retailing environment visual merchandising forms a central part of the retailers marketing strategy. Besides the window displays, which are clearly designed with the purpose to attract walking by consumers and encourage walk-ins, there are also in-store decorations that are designed to enhance the customer's comfort and convenience while shopping, and overall to offer the consumer a better shopping experience. …

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