The myth of visual merchandising

The definition for pornography is that there is no definition, but you know it when you see it.

Good visual merchandising is not judged by whether it looks good. I see many people approach merchandising like that, including some consultants; who incidentally, are really interior decorators.

They can tell you it looks good. Or that it is neat and tidy and appears well-organised. And good VM is defined as something that looks good. (After all, it has the work ‘visual’ in it.)

Good VM is VM that SELLS. (In fact, an ugly dump bin piled high with specials may be great visual merchandising.

In order to know how to merchandise, you must therefore know how people buy.

The role of VM is to create the narrative that people need in order to buy.

And narratives abound because we need them as Seth Godin reminded us recently..

When we say VM needs to tell a story, we mean (for example):

  • The merchandiser uses colour blocking <> The customer story is a wide range of options
  • The merchandiser builds a pyramid <> The customer story is one of abundance
  • The merchandiser changes the lighting <> The customer story is one of exclusivity

As Seth said:

The media isn't the one that needs a narrative... we do. We need to make sense of what's around us, not just the true things that really happened, but the fictional ones that we know didn't.