DDi - August 2011 - (Page 16)
16 | Visual Perspectives
Organizing the organizers
ne significant component in the visual merchandising equation is the science of organization. Mix the natural ability to see and organize things—in your head and in real-time space—with a big dose of obsessive-compulsive behavior, and you’ve got one good visual merchandiser!
I discovered as I advanced in my role from visual implementer to leader that in order to be successful in leading the function and the team, I also needed to be able to organize the organizers.
To me, this needed to be done in a similar fashion to organizing products in space. It needed to be highly logical, and easy to understand and communicate. It needed to be productive and efficient. And it all needed to work together collectively to be effective. I started out by defining the areas in which visual merchandising needed to interface, and then defining the roles and relationships that would be critical to success. The list looked something like the box at left. This list represents the areas that a viVisual Interfaces sual organization lives in daily and/or | Brand Strategy touches routinely. This broad view helps | Store Design to position visual as a proactive entity | Fixture Strategy & Design | Product Strategy within an organization. When visual is | Merchandising Strategy thought of as a department rather than a | Product & Packaging Design core competency within an organization, | Assortment Planning merchandisers are simply left to react, | Product Distribution | Marketing Strategy run cleanup and band-aid or fix what | Promotions & Campaigns otherwise could have been more success| Graphics & Collateral ful with their inclusion—from the beginDesign & Placement | Product Visual ning—at the point of inception. Merchandising Plan I next defined what the visual function | Store Operations should own, what the team would support | Standards | Implementation Communication and also where visual merchandising skills | Field Teams and understanding would provide insight to inform and/or collaborate to achieve the desired outcome. That list looked like this: Own: Fixture Strategy & Design, Product & Collateral Visual Merchandising Plans, Visual Field Teams S upport: Brand Strategy, Product Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Product Distribution, Store Operations, Field Teams I nform: Product & Packaging Design, Assortment Planning, Graphics & Collateral Design/Placement HighCollaboration: Merchandising Strategy, Store Design, Promotions & Campaigns, Standards, Implementation Communication Okay, to some of you this might look like empire building, with visual as the center of the universe. Not so. This is simply a smart way to define the competencies needed to successfully leverage visual merchandising as a standard business practice. The size of the team needed to deliver this competency will be driven by the size and strategies of the individual company. I use four primary buckets to organize the expertise and focus areas that will
Ann Fine Patterson
help to define the specific roles and responsibilities required for the visual team itself: 1) Visual Merchandising Planning & Programming; 2) Visual Fixtures & Merchandising Tools (fixtures, displaywares, signholders, etc.); 3) Visual Communications (implementation—planograms and schematics); and 4) Visual Program Implementation Support & Training (field teams). Organization and collaboration across a visual team is critical. Think of a group of jugglers, where well-orchestrated teamwork and trust is not only required—it is essential. Without this, someone is likely get hit in the head (figuratively, that is). Now, let’s look at where the visual function sits within the broader organization. Be it through first-hand experience or retail lore, the function of visual has been noted to report in under any of the following umbrellas: marketing, merchandising, retail operations, the president, the CEO, the CFO; I have even heard of one reporting in to the director of purchasing! In my own career, I found my function and team constantly being horse traded. As my organizational brain was trying to understand why this happened, I determined that it wasn’t at all about logic—rather, my theory is that it was about the power to control the visual expression at the store level and who owned it. Ideally, visual merchandising would be a standalone function whose leadership is on par with that of merchandising, marketing and retail operations. Larger, more successful organizations recognize the visual function and ensure the voice and expertise is at the leadership table. Other organizations fumble through and unfortunately do not set the visual merchandising function up for success. We can only wish there was a clear industry-wide standard for this function, but there are certainly far too many variables from company to company. If you are in visual working to organize the organizers, and your company does not fully understand the value the visual merchandising function can contribute, make your case. Use the organizational framework model above to create a common language to communicate the value of the function and where the functions should live to be successful. Determine what division in the organization best understands the benefits of visual merchandising and can help bring your case and your voice to the table. And, lastly, make friends with all divisions and division leaders—you never know who you may be reporting to next. —Ann Fine Patterson, principal of Ann Fine Patterson LLC, is a 20-plus-year career professional in visual merchandising. She shares her insights in this bi-issue column. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of DDi - August 2011
DDi - August 2011
From the Editor
From the Show Director
Channel Focus: Green
Big-impact visualShopping with Paco
Store Windows Showcase
Shopping with Paco
DDi - August 2011