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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 Rania Habib
Like New York, Dubai can now boast all the big international retailers, including luxury American department store, Saks Fifth Avenue. But the visual merchandising designs for these stores come from head offices abroad, something Jon Thompson, visual merchandising manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bur Juman, says posed a few challenges when the store opened its doors in 2004. “The challenge of trying to interpret what they’re doing in the US, to introduce the way we were doing things at Saks there and bring that to Dubai was new for a lot of people,” he says. “But once they started understanding it, they really liked it and we were successful.”
It seems they are not the only ones: a walk in any of the country’s malls will bring you into contact with windows which are by turns cool, glamorous, funky, classic, or sometimes just plain dazzling. But visual merchandising needs to be more than just easy on the eye.
Support the brand. “I think there’s plenty of room for it to be designed in such a way that it can be very creative,” says Jonathan Ford, creative partner at Pearlfisher, a London-based independent design partnership. “But it has to be in support of what the brand is about. And I think the most successful visual merchandising does exactly that; it allows the brand to breathe, but adds a certain level of freshness. Visual merchandising is very important, because if it is in conflict with what the brand is about, then it’s going to confuse people’s perceptions of the brand.”
Diesel, which has a reputation for its funky and sometimes outrageous window displays, knows a thing or two about matching creativity to both the brand and the marketing purpose. “I look at visual merchandising from a consumer’s point of view, but I also look at it from a company’s point of view,” says Khaled Abdel Majid, Diesel’s visual merchandising manager in Dubai. “As a consumer, I walk by and I see what catches my attention. What would make me want to go into a store and buy something that I see in a window? As a business person, how would I make sure that this consumer’s attention is grabbed immediately? You have to be very trend-oriented, and know exactly what’s happening in the market.”
One company which seems to have the art of visual merchandising down to a tee is British luxury department store Harvey Nichols. While their prowess may have gone to their heads a little, there’s no doubt they’ve got stunning window displays at their Mall of the Emirates branch. “Visual merchandising at Harvey Nichols is firmly based on one simple principle: luxury,” says visual merchandising manager Matteo Magnanini. “It’s a tool to enhance the appearance of the merchandise on the floor, a mechanism to communicate to a customer and ultimately can influence the decision to buy.”