I'm Cat, and I'm a visual merchandiser
Describe your job
My role in store is that I am a champion of high visual standards and l implement the key visual themes throughout the store that get sent from Head Office that week. I support the store to exceed all merchandising goals and consistently deliver on in store presentation. A large part of my role is being in charge of all marketing directions throughout the store and making sure this is always to a high standard. Marketing includes; window posters and decal, easel posters, store promotions, and all photography. A lot of money is spent on marketing therefore this has to be executed well.
The visual lookbooks that we get sent from Head Office are a guide, depending on where we are in the season, of what we as a visual team have to achieve that week. For example, this could be what we call ‘a new flow’ which is when we receive new collection e.g Spring SS20 and have to change the whole store around ready for the first stage of Spring, as we usually have two new flows a season. Once a new flow is complete, we then as a visual team have to maintain the standards and always use the initiative to drive store results.
What are the most important skills you need to do your job?
To be a successful visual merchandiser you have to have an awareness of fashion and trends, be able to outfit build and respond to customer needs ensuring that have a seamless shopping experience. It is important to know the psychology behind why people buy, and why now certain retailers are going out of business, retailers should be about focusing on the future of shopping more than ever before. What can we do in our store that is different to the rest?
You need excellent verbal communication and customer service skills, handle multiple demands, be able to work as a team and commitment to maintaining brand standards.
I left school and...
I left school then I was 16 then went to sixth form college to study a Diploma in Art & Design, Media Studies & English Lang. I always knew I wanted to be in the design field but I wasn’t one of those people that knew what it was that I wanted to do exactly. I worked hard at my Diploma and left college with Double Distinction* and got into Leeds College of Art to study a BA in Fashion Communications.
I worked hard at my degree but to be honest it didn’t quite set me up for graduating at all, but I finished with a 2:1 and then started many internships throughout 2016 at Fashion PR agencies to gain some experience.
It was the worst year of my life by a mile not earning money but I had an interest in styling therefore for me this was pretty valuable. By the end of 2016 I desperately just needed to start earning so started working in fashion retail, at the time I felt I wasn’t getting anywhere with fashion styling as I’d worked with many people, had an amazing portfolio but wasn’t getting paid for anything.
That’s when I started to look into a Fashion Buying diploma at Fashion Retail Academy in 2018. As I’d been working in fashion retail the course was really interesting, and this is when my interests in consumer behaviour really started. I graduated with Distinction.
Quickly after I went to my first buying job and soon realised it wasn’t for me as I found it extremely difficult being in a heavy admin-based role and not actively using my mind in a creative way. I left that job and quickly realised I really wanted to go back to Visual Merchandising as I feel more comfortable in a role where I am on my feet all day and not in an office environment.
It has definitely taken a few years since I’ve graduated to be where I am and to be happy in my career. However, I strongly feel I’ve needed to experience all the bad that has happened to me and to be in a role where they are looking after me with promised career progression. I’m currently working towards a senior position and wish to stay in the company for a few years.
I’m most proud of...
For my final major project at university I did a street photography project celebrating senior style and their stories. I met with Sue Kreitzman who featured on the Channel 4 documentary in 2014 called ‘Fabulous Fashionistas’.
I had messaged Sue on Facebook 9 months prior explaining the project, and literally the week before my project due date she messaged and said she would be delighted to meet me. I booked the next train to London from Leeds, travelled to her flat in Mile End and spent the day there photographing portraits of her and her flat. Her common used phrase is “I’m not an old lady, just cleverly disguised as one” which ended up being the quote that was on the wall at our final exhibition and in the book. I will never forget it.
Before I started my career, I wish I knew…
You’re going to come across many many difficult people in your career, it is just about trusting and finding the genuine ones.
A mistake I made which you can avoid repeating is...
I don’t regret that I’ve experienced many different areas of the fashion industry, but I do wish that I had more of a plan when I left university of what I would do instead of diving right in.
So, what’s next?
I’m currently studying a postgraduate diploma in Interior Design, therefore I would like to graduate by 2021, still progress in my current Visual Merchandising role as the two areas compliment each other really well.
In a few years I would like to possibly run a retail consultancy business where I work independently with fashion retailers and design store layouts and their marketing strategies. It would be great to also design some residential work for clients, but retail is really where my heart is at.