Visual Merchandising: Fast Track Your Way Into a Creative Career

Visual Merchandising Mannequins


Got an eye for trends, product, print and colour, but don’t fancy becoming a designer? Don’t worry – there are plenty more opportunities available for creative individuals. If you love the creative side of fashion, a career in Visual Merchandising might just be the right route for you. 

If you’ve heard the term before and aren’t quite sure what it means, read on to find out more about this varied and exciting job role, and most importantly, how you get can your foot in the door.

So, what is a Visual Merchandiser?

Most people may know that one of the key functions of a VM is to design shop windows – but there’s so much more to it than that. Essentially, a Visual Merchandiser’s job description means that they are responsible for the entire aesthetic of a store, from dressing mannequins to creating graphics, and for making sure that this falls within budget, corresponds to brand values, and maximises sales.

This is achieved through arranging the sales floor using fixtures and creating displays that reflect a seasonal theme or brand promotion. These displays should draw a customer in, create an atmosphere and encourage them to spend. It’s the job of a VM to note which items are selling and not selling, and move stock around to accommodate this with the aim of boosting sales and always keeping the inventory fresh and new for a customer.

When it comes to window displays, it’s about so much more than making it look pretty. VMs need to have a solid knowledge of current trends, colour theory and the stock about to hit the shelves. It’s their job to create a compelling story using colours and textures from the range. This can be enhanced by the physical props and merchandise inside the store, which can further help to create a unique experience for a shopper.

Is a Visual Merchandising career right for you?

As you can see, the role of a VM is a highly visual and creative one. While your ideas will have to be in line with a brand’s overall vision, you’ll have a relatively large amount of autonomy when it comes to creating and executing a plan for a store environment. Therefore, it might be best suited to you if you’re highly creative and have a visual mind and a keen eye for fashion trends and are eager to explore your practical skills. Team work is an essential part of the course, sharing ideas and assisting each other while installing a window and styling mannequins is good practice. It also helps if you’re a self-starter with plenty of initiative, to ensure you can undertake big store design projects and get them completed on time.

It’s an added bonus if you’re good at drawing, as you may be required to sketch out your ideas to share with the rest of the team. In the same way, those with Adobe software experience will find that this comes in useful when planning and presenting store lay-outs. It’s worth noting that this role can be fairly physical – on any one day, you might be painting walls, assembling window displays, hanging decorations or arranging flowers. While this can be demanding, it provides a refreshing hands-on approach that’s often missing from other roles.

Finally, a VM should have a keen eye for detail. Every aspect of a store should contribute to an overall theme or idea, from the colour-ways of different sections to the graphics behind the till. If you love exercising your creativity and getting every little thing just right, a career in Visual Merchandising might just be the right path for you. So – how can you get started?

Our Visual Merchandising course

Here at the Fashion Retail Academy, we offer a number of courses designed to equip you with all of the theoretical knowledge and practical experience you’ll need to not only secure your first Visual Merchandising career, but to thrive in it. Additionally, our courses are designed to help get you into your dream job more quickly and cost-effectively than a traditional university degree.

Level 4 Visual MerchandisingThis exclusive course takes place over one year, delivered two days per week. You’ll learn all about the significance of Visual Merchandising to the overall fashion retail industry, the key principles of window display design, aspects of retail management, how retail signage and graphics can support a brand identity, and the importance of architecture and store environment. You’ll have the chance to attend a range of insightful masterclasses from leading brands such as Alexander McQueen and Bicester Village, as well as undertake a three-week industry experience. You’ll also get hands on with dressing your own mannequins and making props.

Your Future career

So, after you’ve had fun, worked hard and graduated from the FRA, what happens next? Throughout your course, you’ll have the full support of a mentor, and we’ll help you to understand the career opportunities open to you and how to find them. We’ll also assist you with creating a compelling CV and portfolio, to put you head and shoulders above the competition. The best part? Over 90% of former FRA graduates go on to full-time employment or to further study with us, so you can feel confident that you’re in capable hands.

You may choose to become a Visual Merchandiser in London, or to travel further afield. Entry level Visual Merchandising positions include Creative Assistant, a member of the in-store Visual Merchandising team, Mannequin Dressing Specialist, Prop Maker or Graphic Designer.

Where are they now?

Many of our alumni have gone on to do great things in the world of Visual Merchandising. Here’s what just a few of them had to say about their time with us.

Ella Taylor graduated from our L4 Visual Merchandising course. “I thought the course was brilliant,” she tells us. “It was challenging and fast-paced, but always exciting. There was never a moment I wasn’t pushing myself or learning new things, and the opportunities given were more than I would have expected.”

Jade Azhar, who graduated in 2010, now works for Burberry in Dubai as a Visual Merchandiser. “I was fortunate enough to be employed by Burberry, whom I’d completed work experience with as part of my course. I began as a VM Assistant, and quickly thereafter was promoted to Visual Merchandiser, based in the UK and working in Europe when necessary.”

John Muleba graduated in 2014 and is now responsible for all the windows and in store VM for Alexander McQueen. His job takes him all around the world ensuring that the brand vision is promoted correctly across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Your dream job could be just one course away. If you’re interested in finding out more about Visual Merchandising or would like to have a chat with us about any of our courses, visit our course pages:

Level 4 Visual Merchandising