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View from the shop

View from the shop

Unfortunately, mom may have lied to us: looks do matter, especially in the world of visual merchandising.

April 23, 2009 8:14 by



Never judge a book by its cover, as the saying goes. Try telling that to a visual merchandiser; the old adage doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny in the marketing world. The truth is that, ultimately, the way to win a consumer’s heart and mind is all too often through their eyes. So books and their covers be damned; the frontline of the retail world is all about looks – and lust – at first sight.

The UAE is a country now dominated by the mall experience, and as this phenomenon spreads every retailer recognizes that visual merchandising is more important than ever. Shopping (or window shopping in tough times) has become both a national pastime and a tourist attraction, and Dubai’s stores are upping their visual merchandising game. Where you part with your hard-earned cash is a matter of personal taste and brand preference, of course, but it also depends on how a retailer presents itself in an environment filled with competitors vying for your attention.

“It’s the first impression that the customer will take of the store and the last impression at the same time,” says Mustafa Abed, visual merchandiser for Mont Blanc at The Dubai Mall. “It’s a journey for your customer. When you have an attractive window display, it’s going to attract the customer inside. You give them an invitation letter to enter your store. As long as they’re in the store, they need a guide inside, and that’s what happens with the way you lay out the furniture. Basically, you control them from the time they enter the store to the time they go back out.”

Bear essentials. One of the masters of visual merchandising was Gene Moore, Tiffany’s vice-president for window display. For 39 years, Moore operated on New York’s Fifth Avenue, turning heads with his creations for the Manhattan store’s famous five windows. His The New York Times obituary, printed in November 1998, offers a glimpse of how his creativity made Tiffany’s the most talked about shop-front in the world. It said, “[...] it was his window displays, especially at Tiffany’s, that established his reputation for zany creativity. He used broken glass as a motif so often that alarmed passersby were forever calling the police, and once, during a local water shortage, he insisted on replacing the water in a fountain display with gin. [...] When he was stumped, as he was when it came time for his last Tiffany’s windows, in December 1994, Mr. Moore knew where to turn, in that case to his favorite teddy bear, Porridge, which explains why Mr. Moore filled all five windows with teddy bears.”



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