Visual merchandising, also known as merchandise display design, is a creative career that requires a well-developed visual sensibility, ingenuity and the ability to work well with others. Visual merchandisers may develop retail store display windows, as well as interior displays and decorative seasonal sales display designs. Clothing and accessories retailers often employ visual merchandisers, but other types of retailers and wholesalers also need the skills of this professional.
Visual merchandisers use design training and talent to develop and execute window and interior displays at retail establishments. They may also develop tradeshow and roadshow displays. Interior displays are typically designed to promote products and/or pricing. Some displays are basic and informative while others, especially at holiday time, may be more elaborate. Visual merchandisers may be called upon to develop their own ideas or to implement the designs of others.
Visual merchandisers can complete their training in as little as two years with degrees or certificates from junior or community colleges. Four-year Bachelor's degree programs are also available. Some design colleges offer substantial career guidance and placement support to help graduates secure their first entry-level position. Visual Merchandising programs offer instruction on aesthetic principles, as well as the technical and sales aspects of retail design.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, opportunities in the field are expected to grow "about as fast as average" from 2008 to 2018. Though clothing and accessories retailers tend to spring to mind when it comes to visual displays, retail and wholesale grocery, wine and spirits and paper product sellers also offer visual merchandising positions. Among the top-paying industries, according to the BLS, are luggage, leather goods and jewelry retailers, as well as pharmaceutical wholesalers.
Entry-level visual merchandising positions typically pay $21,000 to $32,000, according to Houston Community College. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the mean salary nationally as of May 2010 is $28,480. The bottom 10 percent of workers earn as little as $17,410, according to the BLS.
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