Next up for the Day In The Life feature is an ol’ friend of mine, Olivia Cleave, who works as a Visual Merchandiser for a clothing retail group in NZ! I had little to no clue what her job involved until I read this…
A Visual whaa? Is the usual response I get when I tell people that I am the Visual Merchandiser for a major women and men’s retail group in Christchurch. My main responsibility is to ensure that the store looks its best and to promote sales through styling and product placement. The creative part of the role came naturally to me but it also involves intense business analysis and financial evaluation.
With a cup of tea in hand my first job of the day is to check my emails; we get sent weekly bulletins from head office in Melbourne informing us about the goings on throughout the different labels.
After tea and emails I ‘money map’ the store, this involves using financial reports sent from head office to figure out how much certain fixtures around the store made the previous week. I also find out which were the best selling styles and how much each mannequin in the windows made the company – I use this information to help determine the store layout for the upcoming week.
Next is a ‘walk through’ of the shop floor with the store manager to determine what her aims, concerns and requests are for the week so that we can discuss them with the Regional VM who is based in Auckland; this leads me to my next task which is a weekly conference call with my boss who works out of the New Zealand Head Office in Newmarket. Over the phone we discuss how the store performed the week previously, upcoming events, floor layouts/ drawings and make an overall plan of attack for the week ahead.
After morning tea it’s time to gung-ho into some real work, I usually rearrange each department of the store once a week. Sometimes it takes over a day to do womenswear alone. I get sent a presentation booklet from Head Office each month that shows all the stock for each department and I use it as a guide for laying out various stories (a story is what we call the different collections within a season). The job can be quite physical at times, I honestly never sit down during the day apart from when I’m eating and am constantly up ladders, using hammers and causing a ruckus wherever I go. Often customers ask me questions about the retail side of the business, I stare at them blankly and look around to be rescued by a sales assistant, and when I’m really busy and can’t be distracted I’ll often wear a handbag whilst I’m working so that people assume that I’m a customer and don’t ask me questions that I don’t know the answers to.
The most important part of being a Visual Merchandiser is dressing the windows; which is also the initial reason I wanted to become a VM, I watched the documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s and knew that’s what I wanted to do as a career. Windows at the stores get changed about once every second week, and it can sometimes take an entire day to do both men’s and women’s. Picking and styling the outfits for the windows is my favourite part of the job, but as much as I love it I’ve also had some pretty awkward moments with men’s mannequins, which passers seem to enjoy.
At the end of each day I go around and take photos of the changes I’ve made in the store to keep my VM Manager in Auckland upto date on how the store is looking, and she gives me weekly feedback.
Once you really know how much analysis goes into store layouts, product placement and windows, it’s hard not to consider retail psychology and the effect it has on the way we shop, maybe that’s why they call it retail ‘therapy’?
I have an unusual job that most people have never heard of, for me it’s the perfect balance of creativity, organisation and business and I LOVE IT!
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