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The Importance of VM in Retail Design

Visual Merchandising (VM) has always been important in retail design but it’s playing an increasingly central role today in attracting and immersing customers in the physical retail space.

In a competitive high street or mall, your choice of window display is critical. It needs to make your brand stand out from the crowd and attract passers-by. But importantly it’s not just about creative impact – all VM should epitomise your brand and tell your brand stories. The role of your VM is to elevate the physical customer experience of your brand – both from the outside as well as inside your store.

So VM has a strategic role to play and should be carefully considered. It is more than promotional or seasonal product display and should be deployed to excite and entice your customers, engage and inspire them. VM must create brand desire from your customers and make them want to shout about it on their social media. Fundamentally your VM is a powerful sales tool and used effectively it can give you a real strategic advantage.

Visual Theatre: attracting customers and driving footfall

The UK retail design industry recognises some great exemplars of VM visual theatre at the annual VM & Display Awards. Amongst the many worthy winners at last year’s awards were luxury retailer Burberry who installed a dramatic hot air balloon pop-up store at Heathrow’s Terminal 2. This eye-catching installation provides a perfect example of how brands can attract and drive footfall while at the same time deepening customer knowledge (and thereby connection) through brand stories. The Burberry balloon concept talks to the age-old craft of gabardine production by introducing customers to the achievements of Air Commodore Maitland who took up ballooning in 1907 and who wore Burberry gabardine for his pioneering flight.

And who can forget online fashion retailer Missguided’s first bricks-and-mortar store at Westfield Stratford City? They must be congratulated for their exciting physical articulation of their brand – their instore VM and branding really is perfectly relatable and engaging for Generation Z!

Of course ‘visual theatre’ is equally important for restaurant and bar design. In our recent concept for new Italian restaurant Bancone in London’s Covent Garden, the open kitchen allows diners to immerse themselves in the excitement and creativity of chefs preparing fresh, traditional, artisanal dishes. Even passers-by can enjoy watching fresh pasta being made in the window…very tempting!

The role of Instagram for VM

With our distillery tasting bar concept for Sipsmith London it wasn’t only the visual theatre that was important. The critical role of Instagram was also a key element in the brief. Instagram is obviously huge for brands today so we carefully considered the back wall behind the bar and ensured maximum standout for the brand precisely behind where Sipsmith’s talented mixologists ply their craft. We created a sculptured polished copper swans head and below this sits the hero product in glass balloons on display pedestals. This unforgettable brand backdrop has proven to be a terrific success on Instagram for Sipsmith.

Brand Stories: an intrinsic part of the Customer Journey

VM that is strategically placed should encourage customers to browse and engage with your brand in a new and compelling ways. We recently worked with the Welsh jeweller Clogau on a new store concept to showcase their brand’s rich heritage around the store.

The new store navigation enables customers to explore the full extent and depth of Clogau’s collections as well as aligning the experience with their online presence and facilitating their cross-channel seasonal marketing campaigns – vital today to support the omni-channel customer journey.


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