I Do Windows

The Legendary Martin M Pegler

Posted in Interviews, Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on October 15, 2011

If there is one name we as visual merchandisers should all know it’s Martin M. Pegler.  I’m an avid fan and user of his many textbooks and was pleasantly shocked when one day he wrote me with some comments on my student’s work, I had posted on this site!  “Mr. Pegler knew of my little site”, I thought to myself, WOW!  I of course wrote back and since then we had been emailing each other back and forth, as I asked him if I could profile him for this site.

He has written or edited over 80 books all related to display and design, and does not suffer from writer’s block.  I know this because I asked, as I sometimes suffer from this :), I’m excited to hear he’s working on a new book around the subject of  being green and display work.

Mr. Pegler is an inductee in the Visual Merchandising/Display Industries Hall of fame and has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Professionals for Advancement of Visual Education (PAVE), He has also been a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology and is a popular lecturer in the US, Europe, and Asia.  He is a wealth of knowledge and is so generous in sharing it!

When I asked how can a display person apply their talents in other areas he said, “In my textbooks I write about the numerous areas where a good display person could blossom out, like event planning, staging fashion shows, point of purchase, or stylist for TV – it is endless what one can do with a creative talent, imagination, and the hands to do things with.  Just say I can do it – and go ahead and do it!”

Some students are completely fixated on getting a degree in display and some on getting display experience, where should their focus be – the education or experience?
“EDUCATION is most important!  Whether you go to school, take courses, or just devour history, culture, art, architecture and all the rest of the seven lively arts.  To be a really good display person you really should know all about the history of art, architecture and costume.  They are all related to the changing, but un-changing fashions; there is always something a little retro in them. By all means GET EDUCATED and KEEP LEARNING; absorb the arts and culture around you and behind you. Though I was a college professor for over thirty years; I must acknowledge that some of the BEST display people I knew were self-educated.  They had this burning need to learn.  If we as educators, can instill that need and love to learn, we have done our job. If it is possible to continue in a formal education, take it!  It will help one focus on the areas they should learn about.

What have you learned over your lifetime that you would like to share with the younger generation?
“What I have learned over the many years I have been a part of this industry, is that you never can know enough!   As I said before – things change – but you can always find something from the past in the new.  Keep your mind open to what is new, absorb – let it become part of you.  Use your own brain as a computer, store everything in the “My Documents” of the mind.  It will never let you down.”

With the popularity of e-commerce how can the visual display person continue to entice shoppers to come into the stores?  “E-commerce is flat and up till now, two-dimensional.  Displays are three-dimensional and can have a far greater appeal.  It is up to today’s display people to harness all the available technology and create something exciting and vital.  We must stop them as they walk in the street with attention-getting, eye-pleasing, sensory and emotional displays.  You can’t as yet do all that on the computer screen!”

What are some of the common mistakes new store owners make when setting up their floor plan and how can they avoid them?  “I think many retailers are not taking advantage of what good window displays can do for them, in helping them to stand out from the crowd. Good displays are an all-important opening statement, and announcements that also tell the shopper who and what the retailer is and stands for.  It is BRANDING!! – and is much cheaper than other forms of advertising.”

I’m currently reading Mr. Pegler’s latest book  Visual Merchandising and Display – Sixth Edition, it’s published by Fairchild Books, and as Mr. Pegler says, I’m learning so much.  This book is over 400 pages, and encompasses everything you could ever want to know about visuals.  I think it’s an excellent book for the beginner but the seasoned pros will find a lot of new information as well.  I have quite the mini library of display books, but if you are a student who can only afford to purchase one book , then make it this one.  31 chapters is  a lot of studying to do ;), with review questions and discussions at the end of each chapter.  Store planners and interior designers who work in retail spaces should really add this book to their library as well.

I would like to thank Mr. Pegler for taking the time to answer my questions, for sharing his knowledge, and for being so patient with me, you are truly a legend.


Barney’s NY Ken Ferraris talks to Visual Merchandising class

Posted in Interviews, Learn from the Pros by Arcadia on June 13, 2011

“I love my job – love my field.   Visual merchandising is changing due to the internet, our role is even more important because how do you get that person into the store?  Those answers are really important to think about.  How can you WOW them and do bigger than what you’ve done before.” -Ken Ferrrais

[Here are some highlights from class, these are my recaps on the discussion as I am paraphrasing Mr. Ferraris’ responses]

What led you to pursue a career in visual merchandising?

I am a San Francisco native who studied fine art and worked at an art supply store.  I started helping out doing visuals for the store, and building props; eventually I began freelancing for 20-30 stores in SF (various kinds of retailers).  I moved to NYC  without any connections, and landed a job for a kids stores across the street from Barney’s. The visual merchandising manager from FAO Schwartz hired me as a freelancer, that’s where I got my real training.  I then became the Creative Director for FAO Schwartz, then came back to SF to open a store for them here, which is now the location of Barney’s!  I’ve done a lot of work doing store design for the Viacom brands: meeting art directors, costume designers, fashion people, makeup people.  I was also the Display Director for the Discovery Stores, as well as head of retail design for Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

What are the primary responsibilities for your job?

I look at the store from the customer’s perspective.  The windows change about every 5 weeks.  The interior displays change in the front more often than other displays.   I have a staff of 3. We do our floor walk in the morning and maintenance checks. I have management meetings throughout the week, lots of clerical stuff, and I make inventory maps.

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

The dollar store! We use materials that are fairly inexpensive and we use them magically!  We reuse a lot of props, but we try not to use them in the same manner.

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

Lots of networking within the Barney’s store, and I’m friendly with display people in other stores.

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

We work with the fashion merchandisers a lot in doing the floor changes, depending on the floor of the store.  The managers are responsible for the placement of product.

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

You must like working in a store, it’s a very physical job!  You have to be on a ladder, be able to lift stuff, and think on your feet.  You need to research and learn about the brand you are promoting.  Barney’s is a very signage heavy store  – in which a lot is made in-house.

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

I love being in a creative job and thinking on my feet everyday.  Every single day I enjoy going into work!  I like working with other people, and I like working in teams.

What are some of the negatives? 

Managing your time and deadlines can be challenging.

What advice do you have for someone wanting to get in this field?

Do what you can to make yourself stand out from the others for the job.  Play up  what you think is appropriate for the interview.  Always present a portfolio!  Do as much research on the company as possible.

Thanks Ken for your time and knowledge!

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)

Step Inside Design Article

Posted in Interviews, Nonpareil Windows by Arcadia on February 13, 2010

Here is a great article I found online from the publishers of Step Inside Design. The article is written by Ina Saltz, and is titled, Step Out Through the Glass, Extravagantly.  She interviews visual display artists of Bergdorf Goodman in NYC – Linda Fargo and David Hoey.

Window Display in New York is very competitive to say the least!  Here they explain a little about their thought process, creative influences, the army of creative people it takes to do their windows, and their backgrounds.  Please take a look at the article, it will give you a great perspective on what it is like to work for one of the giants in the industry.

(Window: Bergdorf Goodman 2009)

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