Friday 1 January 2010

10 Commandments of Visual Merchandising for 2010

As we wave goodbye to another year, it is as always a time to reflect on the achievements and perhaps also things that didn't work so well throughout 2009. As 2010 approaches me like a speeding bullet, and as I write this in my tiny hotel room in New York's Meatpacking district, the heating still continues to fry me and the cold air from the Hudson rushes through the my open window as I try to maintain a sane level of warmth and coolness in order to work. Soon I will be back in London ready for the new season, while the Sale period works its way out of the retail, commercial and creative calender. In the meantime, I thought I should look through my archives to identify perhaps some of the considerations for 2010 which perhaps can either be avoided or employed as part of the overall process of this industry. The 10 Commandments listed below are not necessarily in any order and none is any more or less important than the other, however, as an industry we provide a service, creativity, commerciality, individualism, entertainment, dedication and so on and I do hope out there somewhere some of these thoughts will be read, and possibly acted upon in order for us all to keep moving forward into the next decade. They can of course be discarded, ignored and ridiculed. Does it really matter? Well yes it does. We are customers and consumers ourselves just as much as providers within this 'industry' and unless we have an overall view of what is actually happening out there, in here, else where or at least some where then we are condemned to repeating the same mistakes over and over again, year in and year out, while the customer or consumer becomes ever more sophisticated and leaves us with often a very large space full of merchandise which we cannot sell. Anyway, below are just some thoughts.......

1. Thou shall employ, support and maintain the professionals in this industry.

Sadly over the past year or two countless visual merchandisers, designers, display crew have been made redundant from their jobs. These teams often work late into the evening and all through the night, indeed night after night. I have never really understood why these teams are usually the first to go whenever we hit a recession? Why do retailers not seem to understand that these specialists are crucial in presenting your product to the customer? I sadly, very often see the most talented people with years of experience being cast aside when the going gets tough. This is one of the biggest mistakes retailers make. These people then sometimes go on to other companies to whom they are ready to swear allegiance too and you have lost vital talent to your competitor. So, come on retailers, in 2010, please remember these people are the most important people in your company (as well as your gate keepers such the personal assistants and Secretaries, of course)

2. Thou shall not use coloured fluorescent lights horizontally, vertically or any other combination or multiple suspended light bulbs. (lamps)
Time and time again we see the use of this type of lighting in schemes globally. My personal photographic archives over several decades illustrate these being used on countless occasions, so Levi and Habitat are not the only culprits here. So, come on creative teams, its time to ditch the coloured fluorescent in 2010.

3. Thou shall maintain retail standards.
I lose track of the amount of times I see poor retail standards. I guess nobody counts on me being around when the store is closed to record these things - but I am. To me this illustrates such a lack of care and I do feel that if this was my home I would certainly be embarrassed to invite anyone in. Wouldn't you? Of course, the store here is closed, however, the brand image is being harmed and to me this just says, "I don't care."

4. Thou shall not use the same Mannequins for every scheme.

Well, what can I say here that I haven't said throughout my previous blogs, other than repeat myself? Do we really have to see the same mannequins used over and over again for every new concept? Of course, its easy to criticise when one does not have to come up with a solution, and therefore, my solution is to have not just one collection of figures but at least two collections so that figures can be rotated over different schemes. I love this Rootstein figure of Yasmin Le Bon, but do we have to see her in every single scheme of every single store in the same skin tone all of the time?

5. Thou shall not use Chandeliers.
Well, just about every multiple retailer in 2009 used Chandeliers in their schemes. Joseph did use them beautifully during the year and and then just about every combination, milking the concept, appeared just every where on the high street. Now, I must say, I do actually love Chandeliers, but come on retailers lets leave them out of the schemes for 2010?

6. Thou shall not use wooden crates to place product on or in.
Well, if there ever was an idea that has been flogged to death it must be the use of wooden crates in a concept. How many more times do we need to see these? I tend to cringe every time they crop up, particularly as they are such a dated concept. As we are two decades post-grunge can we please leave them where they should be - back in the crate place (wherever that may be)

7. Thou shall not use motifs.
As any of my students or graduates will tell you this is my nemesis and I believe the Achilles heal of this industry. If ever there was something to offend a customer (well, me I suppose) it is the use of motifs. Please can we not use them in 2010 when there are so many other ideas that can be used?

8. Thou shall not use the same scheme as the previous year.
I was quite surprised this year to see quite a few schemes resurrected from previous years. Some of the biggest offenders were actually the designer brands, where schemes used in 2008 were repeated in 2009. As we all travel more and more and the places to shop become ever more (sadly) generic do retailers really believe that no one will notice? Or was this just a case of the global recession kicking designer brands where it really hurt - the wallet? Who knows. Anyway, below we have, the usually incredible Louis Vuitton store in London in 2009 and New York 2008. I am a little disappointed that they did this as they really do presentation so superbly well, but who knows what goes on in LVMH towers that made them make the decision to use the scheme twice.

9. Thou shall not use the same idea in as many different combinations as possible.
This is one concept that I felt was absolutely flogged to with in an inch of its life. I have images of this brand throughout 2009 and I think just about every single scheme was based on the same idea. I have long suspected that this is a result of over zealous marketeers - maybe I am wrong? But I cant believe anyone truly creative leading this campaign would do this? I do like this brand but it seems to have really lost its way recently. Anyway, please can we see something different for 2010. We know the brand, we know the logo, we know the print, we know the idea, we recognise it and it is a the forefront of our minds. So, lets do something different now please?

10. Thou shall have a successful 2010....!
Thank you to all of you in 2009 who have commented on the blog so far this year and for all of your kind e-mails - I hope I was able to help you. Anyway, as I am now just a few hours from 2010 while I am writing this and my own fate this year is uncertain, one thing that I am looking forward too seeing this year is this industry bounce back from the global recession and without wanting to sound too corny...... putting the 'Win' back into Windows. Happy New Year..! Jonathan

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