An interview with Allan L, Visual Merchandiser at a luxury retailer

Age:  Late 20s

Location:  Melbourne

Not all career paths are linear - in fact most people's career paths aren't linear at all! Allan's career is one such example. Although he's always been a creative guru, he's explored a few different roles and learnt more about what interests him at each step of the way. 

Tell me about your career path leading up to your current role.

I studied Multimedia Design followed by a Graduate degree and Masters in Graphic Design.

Prior to this role I was working in Retail as a sales associate and doing Graphic Design part time AND doing freelance photography. I'm also co-creative director at a collaborative creative agency in the fashion field.

I left my Graphic design job as it wasn’t what I was after and was looking for a role more related to the fashion industry. This led me to Luxury Retail and it went from there.

What does your role involve?

The role of a Visual Merchandiser involves many aspects, from visual displays in store, window changes to reading sales reports to track the impact of positioning and highlighting products. It also involves taking directive from worldwide, to ensure a clear message is communicated, no matter whether you step into a store in Italy, China, Australia or anywhere else in the world.

There’s a lot of reporting and communication involved between stores, merchandising, buyers and head office both in Australia and overseas.

What are your favourite aspects of the job?

My favourite part of the job, compared to previous roles, is the ability to work in many different locations. It involves a lot of travel, which is good for a change in scenery, not always looking at the same thing, as well as the challenge of different markets due to location and demographic.

Be honest – did you know what a visual merchandiser was when you were in uni? How/when did you first find out about it and what drew you to the role?

I learned about Visual Merchandising whilst in uni, as the course ran in the same building as where I was based; however it wasn’t my intention to pursue a career in this field. In my previous job at a high end jeweller I would regularly help out with Visual Merchandising duties, which led me to consider this part of retail.

What type of person do you think would enjoy and do well in a Visual Merchandising role?

The type of person who would enjoy this job is someone who has attention to detail, is open to constant change, is willing to be adaptable and flexible with time, as well as work odd hours (some days you will start really early and finish really late). Someone who enjoys travelling around and always being hands on.

What are your interests/projects outside of work? Have any of them helped you to get to your current role? What other things/people have influenced you?

Outside of this job I work with a creative agency that runs events during Melbourne Spring Fashion Week, and also produces fashion films/photoshoots.

I also do photography, both personal and fashion. This has helped me in my role as visual merchandising requires photography skills too.

What’s your advice for people who are considering a career in visual merchandising?

Visual merchandising varies vastly depending on the company. Some companies require a degree related to fashion or Visual Merchandising to be considered for the role, whereas others rely on proven skill (i.e., actual experience in visual merchandising).

I know successful Visual Merchandisers who didn’t study visual merchandising, yet have managed to progress to senior Visual Merchandiser positions – it’s all about gaining experience and working hard.

The best advice would be to get a job in a retail store to understand the impact of product placement and customers first, and from there, work your way up.