Industry News

Merchandising: Back to School…Everyday

September 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

Those familiar black and yellow school buses are on the roads again, carrying sleepy young minds back to school early in the morning.

The leaves are just beginning to turn, there’s Halloween candy in the grocery stores and…I love this time of year. It feels rejuvenating – packing away summer clothes and airing out my snowboard stuff and commencing a new season. 

What I like about this time of year is that it reminds me that I used to enjoy learning. Sure, I would fall asleep during my college psychology course on occasion, but overall I relished the learning process. And now, years after college, it’s like my brain wants some exercise when I see those kids on the school bus or students rushing to class at nearby University of Vermont. I remember being curious about things, taking notes and focusing on a subject for the sake of higher learning. While I am glad I don’t have math homework anymore, I believe that every day there is an opportunity to learn something.  Whether its trying a new recipe for dinner or discovering that your co-worker was once a member of a nationally recognized high school Nordic racing team (my co-worker Kevin!), it’s the opportunity to say “ wow – I never knew – you learn something new every day!”

And for me, with visual merchandising, I love to learn new things. Learning means that you are growing.  Learning means taking chances.  And learning means there will be moments of failure that you of course learn from – but never would have experienced if you didn’t try to learn how to do something a little bit differently. 

I just got back from a trip out west. Driving through Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, I stopped in cool, small towns and wandered aimlessly around cities. And took lots of pictures. The photos share a common thread of visual interest in an offbeat way for me. And what I took away from my trip is that visual merchandising takes on different means and forms. It’s not all about how to fold a sweater one way and make a sign the other way. You just need to exercise that brain and view it from a different angle. 

Case in point – this airstream trailer in Bozeman, MT that serves as a local homemade ice cream truck parked in a boutique hotel’s parking lot. To me this is fantastic visual merchandising because it’s a branding opportunity that is selling a story – a lifestyle. The words are big and the message is clear. What an ingenious way to use an otherwise empty space as a blank canvas. Hmmm…gets you thinking, right?

Another day I saw this display at Salt Lake City’s City Creek shopping center. What a smart and creative use of space as well as an interactive way to interpret the history of the state. I thought this would be a really cool branding fixture for a store or even a trade show booth.  Retailers know that embracing a memorable in-store shopping experience is vital these days.  Keep your eyes peeled for inspirational design ideas. 


Ice cream trailer parked at the Lark Hotel in downtown Bozeman, MT.


City Creek Plaza, Salt Lake City

I wandered into this French bakery south of Burlington, VT and loved this idea of using a roll of craft paper to call out the daily specials.  Now this may not be the look a high end specialty retail shop is going for – but for more urban sports shops – I think this is a great use of wall space and is super creative, inexpensive and easy to install.  Use it to post powder reports or your own daily specials.  Thinking outside of the box is a way of learning.


Vergennes Laundry Espresso Bar, Vergennes, VT

I’ve been working as a visual merchandiser in one form or another for nearly fifteen years. There is so much still to learn.  I’m inspired by other people’s work and by everyday things. I’m constantly trying to come up with new ways to display something like skis that I can use myself and share with you. I do believe it’s an important exercise to take regular field trips with employees on a seasonal basis to either check out the competition or to head someplace like the Vergennes Laundry for a coffee and brainstorm new display ideas. This can get new ideas percolating. And at the end of the day it’s a comfort to know that no matter how far we progress in our careers or how many years our store has been in business, there will always be learnable moments. 


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