Visual Merchandising and the Creation of Discernible Retail Brands

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Visual merchandising and the creation of discernible retail brands The Authors
Shona Kerfoot, Shona Kerfoot is based at Matalan Retail Ltd, Skelmersdale, UK.  Barry Davies, Barry Davies is Assistant Dean (Research) at the University of Gloucestershire Business School, Cheltenham, UK.  Philippa Ward, Philippa Ward is Principal Lecturer, at the University of Gloucestershire Business School, Cheltenham, UK. Abstract

This research presents the results of an initial investigation on “visual merchandising” and its effects on purchase behaviour and brand recognition. The context is concessionary branded female fashion offerings within a department store. The research utilises semi-structured interviews with a small sample of female undergraduate students. The interviews incorporated the use of stimulus material – photographs taken of concessions in a department store some 150 miles away from the research location. The results suggest that the themes that linked most strongly to purchase intention were: merchandise colours, presentation style, awareness of fixtures, path finding, sensory qualities of materials and lighting. Initial findings suggest that liking of display does not totally determine purchase, but does make it four times more likely. Article Type: 

Research paper
Keyword(s): 
Merchandising; Vision; Branding; Retailing; Fashion. 
Journal: 
International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management Volume: 
31
Number: 
3
Year: 
2003
pp: 
143-152
Copyright ©
 
MCB UP Ltd
ISSN: 
0959-0552
Introduction
Visual stimulation and communication have long been considered important aspects of retailing by practitioners and academics alike (McGoldrick, 1990, 2002). This interest in the visual has – at one level within the retail context – coalesced to form the practice of “visual merchandising”. This is defined as the “… activity which coordinates effective merchandise selection with effective merchandise display” (Walters and White, 1987, p. 238). Visual merchandising is therefore concerned with both how the product and/or brand is visually communicated to the customer and also whether this message is decoded “appropriately” – in this context affecting a positive psychological or behavioural outcome, ultimately leading to purchase. The importance of attaining such an outcome has meant that within the retail environment, numerous methods have been used to display merchandise and communicate product and retailer brand. This diversity in visual merchandising methods has perhaps also stemmed from the vast array of goods and services that are sold by retailers. The development of merchandising techniques, and the dissemination of these approaches amongst retailers, has a well-established history. For example, L. Frank Baum acknowledged the importance of window display as early as 1897. He also acted as the founding editor of The Show Window – a trade publication in which he offered guidelines to retailers on the creation of effective window displays – where he provided an early mechanism for the dissemination of visual merchandising “best practice”. This early publication evolved to examine display across the store and continued to offer advice for some considerable time. This interest in the importance and potential of display to affect customers has continued within the retail sector and dedicated trade publications are still apparent, for instance Visual Merchandise and Store Display(VM&SD), started in 1922. However, the importance of visual merchandising has not received as much attention in the academic literature (Lea-Greenwood, 1998). One notable exception has been within the US fashion-based literature, where a number of texts have been devoted to the subject. These though are primarily practitioner-based, highlighting again a deficiency of attention from retail academics. This study represents a small step towards addressing this lack. It...
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