I Do Windows

Vicky Wren a Visual Merchandiser for Habitat

Posted in Interviews, Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on May 4, 2011

[Vicky Wren kicks-off this new segment I’m adding to the blog called “Learn From the Pros”.  What better way to learn visual merchandising than by those who are actually out there doing the work.  Textbooks are fine in theory but we all know you learn best by actually applying what you learn.  Enjoy!]


Vicky Wren is a visual merchandiser who visits us from the United Kingdom

What led you to pursue a career in visual merchandising?

I’ve always been interested in spatial design and after doing theatre design during my A-Levels, a foundation course specializing in 3D and a degree in Design for Film and Television I realized I was definitely in the right field but hadn’t quite found what I wanted to do. So I did loads of research into what other options were out there and came up with event design and visual merchandising. I went into event design but couldn’t stop thinking about visual merchandising so after a while went traveling and set up my visual merchandising blog. I then did a short course in visual merchandising and as much work experience as I could and then started applying for jobs and I’ve now been with Habitat for over a year and a half!

What are the primary responsibilities for your job?

My primary responsibility is to follow the brief sent by head office. This is sent out twice a year – one for spring/summer and one for autumn/winter. These guidelines include instructions on room set styling, implementing the scheme window and setting up the bay runs and lead in tables in various departments which include bath shop, decorative accessories, lighting, table top, cook shop and living textiles.

Throughout the year I will also have to set up various promotions which means prepping, implementing and then dismantle POS including baffles, barkers, window decals and till point posters.

Before the start of a new season, I arrange furniture for the room sets with the store manager, and we discuss how we want the floor plan to look, and I update the finalized floor plan on the computer.

I also maintain the visual office and board, respond to e-mails and have an assistant who aids me with the store maintenance – there’s a lot of painting, filling and drilling to be done!

What is the daily routine of an average day for you?

My assistant starts at the same time with me in the morning and I give him a list of jobs to do for that morning. I usually do a floor walk and/or have a discussion about jobs that need to be done on Monday with the store manager and then floor walks throughout the week. After that, each day is quite different to the next. One day I might be setting up the scheme window or taking down a promotion and another I might have to re-arrange the decorative accessories bays as we’ve had a big delivery of different candles.

What are your sources that you refer to for the development of your projects? What sources do you use for materials and props?

I have to keep as close to the brief as possible as we get marked each season on how close we’ve kept to the brief so I wouldn’t say I get to develop projects in my job. I guess technically the brief is my source. All materials and props are sent by head office or we have to go and buy them locally as directed by head office.

(Christmas window 2010)

What is the typical process you go through for implementing a project?

When I have to implement a promotion, or a new brief, or window, the typical process I go through is after I’ve referenced the brief I think ahead and make sure the space we need to use is prepped and is the right size to fit any furniture or fixtures. I make sure it’s clean and any paint effects that are needed are carried out and any old holes filled. Then there’s usually the need to do lots of heaving lifting and squeezing into tight spaces to get it all done and dusted! (<–students take note of this!)

Do you network with others at your position level within the industry, if so, how do you go about it?

I make sure I network with other VM’s in the company within my region, as it’s very helpful because we all help each other with any queries and e-mail each other photos of best practice. Apart from that I have my blog, which is really more for fun but it keeps me connected with lots of visually minded people, which is interesting. Also, before I got this job I tried to get work experience in visual merchandising and just used every contact I had!

Do you ever have to work or consult with Fashion Merchandisers or the marketing team on some of your projects?

I sometimes have to consult head office about queries but I have no need to contact the marketing team and certainly no need to contact fashion merchandisers as I work for a furniture and home accessories store.

What are the education or skill requirements for a job in visual merchandising?

I’ve known people who have worked their up to a visual job in head office, but I know that for my job I had to have a degree because everyone else who was applying had one too, so if you didn’t have one you weren’t really considered! Apart from that you need an eye for detail and a creative streak, you need to be fit and be able to work well within a team and it also helps to be a bit of a perfectionist!

What are some of the positive aspects of your job, in other words what do you enjoy the most?

I love the problem solving aspect of the job and the chances when I get to use my initiative in a creative way. For example sometimes I’m involved in events at the nearby shopping centre where there will be a theme, e.g. ladies day at the races, and I have to choose what to take over to represent our store or when we don’t have what is listed in the brief and I get to dress the room sets with suitable alternatives.

I also love the variety of the job – each day really is different to the last.

What are some of the negatives?

I don’t particularly like the promotion set-ups as there is no creativity involved in them, and sometimes I wish the brief wasn’t so strict so I had a bit more creative freedom! On the whole though I would say that I love my job and feel lucky to have it.

What are your predictions for the retail industry?

In terms of window displays I think there will be more emphasis on movement and sound but I also think there will be a move towards simplicity.

In more general terms I think there will be more focus on nature and I think eco products and the vintage trend will continue to be strong.

I also think that during these times of recession stores will try to focus attention on their products that are value for money.

Thank you Vicky for your time and for sharing your knowledge!

(photo provided by Vicky Wren)

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