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Stealing the show

Visual merchandising as a career comes into prominence especially during the festive season, says Gauri Kohli

education Updated: Dec 21, 2011 10:31 IST
Gauri Kohli

Each time you visit a mall or a retail outlet, what is it that grabs your attention and tempts you to go on a shopping spree? The presentation, display and ambience are used to welcome shoppers, especially amid the ongoing cheerful Christmas spirit.

Whether it’s the Christmatic Glow at New Delhi’s Select City Walk or Santa’s North Pole village that has been recreated at Ambience Mall, Gurgaon, it makes one wonder how these visually-appealing decors were executed.

According to Deepti Goel, vice president (retail strategy), Ambience Mall, “We start thinking on Christmas decoration ideas months in advance as it takes time, design skills and knowledge to design, install and maintain the holiday decor.”

One can find Santa, assisted by his elves and reindeers, welcoming the shoppers to the mall. Another attraction is the 40-foot Christmas tree, covered with lights, decorations and tinsel, derived from a tree in the Garden of Eden.

At Select City Walk this year, there’s a Christmas tree and a special Christmas market where one can find cakes, cookies, gelatos and other goodies. There are also choir group and band performances for the crowd.

These elaborate preparations are carried out by visual merchandisers with much care and skill.

“As visual merchandisers, it’s our job to conceptualise the look of the malls. The biggest challenge is to be different when it comes to decorating the store on each festival. A good aesthetic sense and creativity are must haves and this field can be very lucrative if you have these skills,” says Nidhi Kukreja, a Delhi-based visual merchandiser with a leading retail brand.

Despite being a niche area, visual merchandising as a career is picking up fast. Says Somnath Saha, head visual merchandiser - Parx, Raymond Apparel Ltd, Mumbai, “Visual merchandisers can contribute to increasing retail sales by almost 20% during this time of the year. Today, every brand has a team of visual merchandisers to maximise the profitability of their stores.”

They also contribute to the advertising, marketing, and sales efforts of a retail location. “Most retail brands hire specialists who can excel in window styling, display and the overall ambience. It’s also important to present merchandise in a 3D environment, enabling long-lasting impact and recall value,” says Tarun Panwar, CEO of Indian Retail School, New Delhi.

With an increasing number of commercial establishments including malls and single-brand stores riding the Christmas bandwagon, jobs for visual merchandisers are going to increase. Experts believe that once foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail is allowed, it will also mean better salaries. “Currently, a beginner can get around Rs 25,000 a month and the ones at the senior level earn approximately Rs 70,000 to Rs 80,000. One can also work as freelancer with malls and retail chains,” says Panwar.

Hot tips
* A degree in fashion is preferred as fashion students are likely to use their knowledge of mannequin presentation, photography, merchandise presentation, and graphic design to create in-store displays that appeal to customers
* Look for internship or volunteer opportunities with retail outlets, especially during festive season, so that you can gain some initial experience in the field
* Once can also go for a designing course that includes visual merchandising as a subject

Where to study
* Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi
www.delhi.pearlacademy.com
* Indian Retail School, New Delhi
www.indianretailschool.com
* National Institute of Fashion Technology, Mumbai
www.nift.ac.in/mumbai
* Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi
www.ignou. ac.in