With the Anniversary Sale on the horizon, the last few weeks of the internship have consisted of intensive preparation and anticipation. The setup for the sale requires all hands on deck which gave the interns the chance to work directly underneath the corporate visual team. Visual merchandising has always been one of my favorite aspects of the retail industry because it’s a balance of organized processes while still allowing room for your creativity to flow. The Nordstrom visual teams have perfected the craft of merchandising and transformed it into a seamless operation. I had the opportunity to shadow the professional visual team from dusk until dawn for two full nights. Working alongside merchandising experts taught me the core fundamentals necessary in order to be an effective merchandiser.
Although corporate provides schematics of how the products and store should be laid out, these guidelines are generic example that doesn’t match every store. Each store has a unique layout, a variety of fixture types, and some variation in product. Merchandisers are given the task of utilizing this schematic as a baseline to create identical displays to the best of their ability. For a smaller store like Northgate, this involves a good amount of problem solving and creativity. The product and fixtures in the pictures aren’t always available to use on the floor. Teamwork and flexibility are necessities when completing these overnight store moves. For presale, Nordstrom hangs silver curtains throughout the departments to build exclusive tents for cardholders to shop early access. When we started hanging curtains on the second floor, we realized we ran out of the correct height curtains for the rest of the departments. After much contemplation, our visual manager decided to insert a bar to lower the hooks which allowed us to hang the shorter curtains while still having them hit the floor. Coming up with solutions as a team requires creativity, patience, and innovation.
2. Attention to Detail
Merchandising is one of the most important tasks in the retail industry because it can make or break sales. If displays and marketing don’t catch the customers eye, they won’t purchase the product. This makes attention to detail extremely crucial for marketing within a store. From steaming dresses to perfecting signage, every corner of the store needs to be aesthetically pleasing while remaining convenient for shoppers. Precision is especially important in regards to following safety and accessibility regulations. If the customer can’t walk through the department, how are they going to shop it? During our overnighter, we set up cardboard cutouts featuring several looks that are on sale for anniversary. The cutout displays included yellow tags with labels that read the brand and price of each product. Even though the labels were time consuming, they added the perfect finishing touches on each display. It’s details like these that signal to the consumer that its time to stop and shop while encouraging increased traffic throughout the store.
3. Sense of Urgency
One of the challenges of visual merchandising is that you are constantly racing against the clock. During our set up nights for anniversary, we had to move as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to finish before the store opened the next day. It takes a great deal of mental and physical stamina to maintain a steady pace throughout an overnight move. It’s vital that merchandisers work quickly while still generating a clean and crisp presentation. The ideal merchandiser can remain level headed and calm throughout tedious tasks and grueling nights. Our overnighter consisted of standing on thirteen foot ladders to hang curtains, pinning displays, and placing signage throughout the departments. Working in such a large department store can make tasks such as these seem endless. Determination and endurance can ensure that the projects throughout the night get completed in an orderly and efficient manner. The Northgate team beat the clock and everyone was able to leave at about four in the morning. Our store manager, Peter, was extremely satisfied with the outcome and the departments were customer ready by the next morning.
So far, the Anniversary Sale has been very successful throughout all the Nordstrom locations. The Women’s Specialized Department at Northgate has had a large increase in sales compared to the previous year. Our department setup and store setup has played a huge role in our increases and we expect sales to remain steady throughout the month of August.
Your Aspiring Merchandiser,