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.

Store Study: BeBe

Posted in Store Study Assignment by Arcadia on April 18, 2011

This week’s store study assignment is by Lisa G.  I’ve featured Lisa’s reviews before, and I do like to post other student’s work, but Lisa does a really great job of analyzing a store from a visual merchandiser’s point of view.

BeBe, San Francisco Westfield Mall

What does the store design tell you about the retailer?

Overall this store’s design doesn’t really tell me that the designer or visual merchandiser cares about the product they are selling. Nothing to me is really appealing about this store. This Bebe store and many others makes me think that very little time goes into creating an experience that one should feel when they walk into a store.

Describe the store’s target customer?

I think the store’s target customer is one that likes to dress a little bit more on the sexier side. As for age range Bebe probably caters to late teens to early to mid 20s.  A lot of the clothing is on the tighter side so I would say their target woman is one who also likes to show off their curves.

Is the merchandise displayed in an accessible manner for the customer?

No, everything about this store is a mess. A lot of the merchandise is displayed on racks. They don’t really have any clothing on shelves or in cases. Their jewelry is hung on a jewelry rolling piece pretty much in the center of the store. They do a lot of color blocking in this store. All the whites are together, peaches, black, etc.

Is it stocked pile or more minimalist?

I would say it is somewhere in the middle. It is definitely not minimalistic but also not stock piled. I would say they have a few sizes of each different piece

Do the fixtures suit the store environment?

They have a table in the store that has a mannequin placed on the top of it and then benches going around the table. On the benches they have jeans draped over the side. This display is not done well at all because the display looks like it was thrown together and the jeans are also touching the floor.

Does the lighting highlight the merchandise?

Yes, they have a lot of lighting in this store but it is almost too bright. I think they need to dim the lighting a little bit because it actually hurts my eyes. I think it probably seems a bit brighter because in the corridor of the Westfield mall it is not that bright and then you walk into this store and the brightness is almost an over kill.

How is color used in the store?

Whenever I think of Bebe I think of colorful tight clothing and as I mentioned above they do a lot of color blocking in the store. Color is definitely shown in their merchandise. Besides using color for their clothing there really isn’t any other color in the store and the walls are very simple, white and plain.

Are the windows pleasing and drawing you into the store?

These window displays are awful and do not draw me into their store. Now that I’ve reviewed a few stores I realize just how unappealing the Bebe stores are to the public. Based upon their window display one knows they are having a sale. Yet, in the window display I think they added way to many mannequins in the window to advertise their sale. However, I do like the use of levels in this display. In their other panel they have six mannequins and then a poster with two models on it all being shown over 3 panels. I really don’t even know where to focus on this window display. I know in class we learned it is always better to have an odd number of mannequins yet in this one there are 6 mannequins and a poster board with two additional models. To me it does not seems like the visual merchandiser spent a lot of time on creating a great window.

If you could make changes in the store what would they be?

Here are my changes:

1.     Window display – Instead of having 6 mannequins and a poster of two models I would have three models gathered together and pointing to a sign that said Sale. The models would be dressed in typical Bebe attire since their goal is to sell their merchandise.

2.     The store itself is so dirty. The bare white walls are not appealing. To add some more color to the store I would paint the wall behind the cash wrap a bright color at least to add some differentiation. I would also hang a very large painting or mirror behind the cash wrap.

3.     Shelving. They should include some shelving in this store and fold some of the clothing instead of having it all on racks or table displays.

4.     In class we learned to put your most expensive and new items up front and then your sale items near the back. Walking into this Bebe store I could not tell what was new or their gold merchandise. I would change the layout of this store and maybe have the cash wrap in a different area. Off to the side instead of right in the middle.

Thanks Lisa for another great assignment!

PAVE’s Rising Star Award

Posted in Inspiration, Retail News by Arcadia on August 18, 2010

Hey Folks, do you know someone you would consider a rising star in our field?  Perhaps it’s yourself?  It’s not too late to nominate them for PAVE’s (the Planning and Visual Education partnership) annual Rising Star Award.

This award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated vision, creativity, and talent in the retail environment.  Retailers and design firms can nominate any individual under the age of 35, who works in retail design, visual display, or contract design, and is a proven leader amongst their peers.

The finalists and winner will be recognized during the PAVE Gala, to be held on December 8 in New York.

The deadline is October 1.  Go to their website here to download a nomination form.  And while you’re there check out their other competitions recognizing student achievements.

(rising star image via: Brain Cafe)

Kitson’s Window Diss Display!

Posted in Nonpareil Windows, Retail News by Arcadia on May 4, 2010

It looks like a war of words have been taken to the windows.  RadarOnline is reporting, Hollywood boutique Kitson is in a feud with tv personality Jillian Barberie, and is using their store windows as their “weapon” of choice.  The windows feature some text graphics letting the shopper know what is In and what is Out!


  1. Dorothy Lucey (Jillian’s co-host)
  2. Floral
  3. Military Chic
  4. Clogs
  5. Tribal


  1. Jillian Barberie
  2. See #1
  3. See #1
  4. See #1
  5. See #1

Ooooh, what a complete diss!  So what started the feud?  Apparently Jillian has been promoting her friend’s store and told viewers to go to that website before going to Robertson’s Blvd. in order to save time.  The owner of Kitson (which is on Robertson Blvd.) took this as a diss to all the stores on Robertson’s.  You can click here to read the entire story

(image via RadarOnline)

Little MissMatched is a little unneccessary

Posted in Retail News by Arcadia on May 4, 2010

There is a new retail store that has opened in Anaheim, CA called Little MissMatched.  When I saw the photos on VMSD’s website I was intrigued to find out more about this retailer.

It is a brand that is now going retail.  They target the ‘tween demographic, who they feel will come to their store to purchase accessories that they can mix-up (never to be matched) however they choose.  The store is cute and colorful and I believe will definitely attract it’s target market, but I have to ask is it really necessary?

Haven’t young girls been mismatching socks, earrings, barrettes, even shoes (my friends and I use to wear one pink and one purple Converse sneaker), and everything else since the beginning of time?  Do they really need a store to tell them what, and how to do, what they have already been doing with their friends?  I find nothing new or innovative about this store idea, all I see is a bunch of girls on MySpace grumbling, “hey we had this idea years ago.” But I get it times are tough and people will do whatever it takes to make a buck.

In my opinion, the whole point and fun of mixing up and having that “eccentric” vibe is because you are breaking the rules in fashion and going against the establishment.  Tweens aren’t the only ones who do this, if that were the case, vintage stores and the Olsen twins wouldn’t be as popular as they are and perfect examples of the do as you please mantra.

Fashion mavericks don’t want pre-packaged rebellion, that defeats the point!

(image via Newsweek)

Heritage 1981

Posted in Fashion 49, Store Study Assignment by Arcadia on February 23, 2010

I’ve been so impressed with some of the Store Study assignments my students have been turning in, I’ve decided I would begin to post some of their findings:

By: Jen C. – Heritage 1981 store – Concord, CA

What does the store design tell you about the retailer?

The store design tell you that the retailer is inspired by vintage style and very into Americana.  They cater to a very specific group of young adults, but the environment makes that group anxious to come back for more.

Describe the store’s target customer?

The store’s target customer is both men and women in their 20s and 30s, who appreciate both current trends and vintage style.

Is the merchandise displayed in an accessible manner for the customer?

For the most part, yes.  However, a lot of the racks are jam-packed with merchandise (the thick wooden hangers, although very pretty, don’t help the space issue much) and some of the shelves holding folded clothing were much too high for this 5’3″ girl to reach unless I was rocking some stilettos.  I guess next time I’ll come prepared.

Is it stock piled minimalist?

Stock piled.  Very, very stock piled.  However, that is to be expect from a store whose parent company is Forever 21.

Do the fixtures suit the store environment?

The fixtures definitely suit the store environment.  It’s a mixture of the expected, such as metal racks and wooden shelving, and the unexpected, such as vintage suitcases on the floor overflowing with scarves and belts.

Is the ambience fitting for the store’s image?

The ambience is very fitting for the store’s image.  They decorated with old suitcases, antique books, quirky mannequin heads, offbeat lamps, and vintage photo frames, full of modern people portraying the lifestyle of their target customer (or the lifestyle they want).  Every aspect of the store seemed to be such a quirky mix of old and new.

Does the lighting highlight the merchandise?

Overall, the store has minimal lighting and is pretty dark in most areas.  The displays throughout the store, however are well-lit with task lighting.

How is color used in the store?

The store is painted mostly dark blue, with wooden fixtures and flooring, and a few accent walls in bright orange with white trim.

Are the windows pleasing and drawing you into the store?

Honestly, I never would have entered this store in the first place if it wasn’t for their amazing windows.  There are window displays on either side of the entrance which are typical and contain three mannequins each (one for women, the other for men) with an American flag as the backdrop to each.  There are two ways to enter the store, with the entry ways divided by a third display in which mannequins are set on top of old books.  On the other side of each entry way is another display and behind the glass are red, white, and blue buttons (think “Vote for Obama!” versus “Oh crap, my sweater is missing a button”), hundreds and hundreds of buttons, filling the entire window floor to ceiling.  I can’t even explain how awesome it is.

If you could make changes in the store, what would they be?

The only thing I would change about the store is how much they pack on each rack, much like their parent store Forever 21.  although it’s a lot cleaner at Heritage 1981 than Forever 21, it’s still difficult to shop with the racks as full as they are.

Thanks Jennifer for turning in a great assignment this week.  Job well done!

VMSD – Class Act

Posted in Store Design by Arcadia on February 19, 2010

Here’s an interesting article I found at VMSD (Visual Merchandising Store Design) by Paul Lechleiter of FRCH Design Worldwide and Brian Davies, Associate Professor of University of Cincinnati – College of Design and Architecture.  The article focuses on their partnership with the University of Cincinnati.  They taught a retail design course to the students in the Winter semester of 2009:

“We partnered with the University of Cincinnati to teach a retail design studio this past winter to design students in their fourth year of a five-year program. The design focus was on developing retail brand strategies and prototype retail environments. We wanted to pick our students’ brains while sharing our creative process in an effort to engage in a new level of unrestricted exploration and perspective.”

They discovered three things:

  1. It’s good to disagree
  2. Their retail experiences are their own
  3. More than just a store.

Click on the link above to read the complete article.  I’m glad to see working professionals educating the next generation by utilizing their talents, because they have so much to offer.

(image of FRCH via WSJ)

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