Visual Stylist Job Description
Ever wonder who puts together the outfit for that well-dressed mannequin in the store window? That would be one of the responsibilities of a visual stylist, also known as a visual merchandiser. These professionals set up all in-store displays on counters and in windows, promote new products, arrange seasonal exhibits, and gather props to be used in displays. Visual stylists are typically creative, artistic individuals capable of drawing shoppers to stores and increasing sales. They also possess knowledge of fashion and interior design. Visual stylists work mainly for chain retail department stores or clothing boutiques, but can also be independent contractors. Those working for large stores work full-time and can enjoy health, vacation, and retirement benefits. Weekend hours are common for this occupation.
Visual Stylist Duties and Responsibilities
Visual stylists work in a variety of establishments. Specific duties and responsibilities may vary, but there are several core tasks associated with the job, including:
Set Up Window Displays
Merchandise displayed in store windows must be created in a way to attract potential customers, and it’s up to visual stylists to design these presentations. Visual stylists apply their knowledge of fashion, marketing, and design to create appealing window displays to generate interest in a store’s brand.
Arrange In-Store Displays and Fixtures
Visual stylists set up merchandise throughout a store by arranging fixtures, racks, and shelves to display products in a way to draw the interest of shoppers. Visual stylists typically draw or sketch layouts to make sure they are optimizing space before setting up displays. This responsibility would include dressing and undressing mannequins, setting up shelves, and putting together display racks, sign holders, and tables.
It is up to visual stylists to secure proper stock of merchandise used in store displays. They will review inventory reports, order merchandise as needed to replenish products, and track sales of displayed products to ensure the effectiveness of window and store displays.
Order Display Supplies
Visual stylists place orders for the supplies needed to create strong displays. This includes props, racks, tables, display cubes, countertop display accessories, gridwalls, and shelving. Visual stylists also dispose of old or broken accessories as needed.
Visual Stylist Skills and Qualifications
Creative individuals with a strong head for marketing and promotions and an awareness of consumer behavior patterns can make successful visual stylists. After reviewing several online job postings, we found that employers tend to favor candidates who demonstrate the following abilities/skills:
- Design skills – a strong eye for color and fashion, the ability to draw and use computer design packages are crucial for visual stylists
- Physical fitness – visual stylists must be able to lift and carry boxes of merchandise, display cases, display accessories, and other material used in setting up window and store displays; visual stylists also kneel, stand, stoop, and bend for long periods of time
- Computer skills – it is helpful for visual stylists to have knowledge of basic computer operations and visual merchandising software
- Time management – in many cases, stores need to display their merchandise, particularly sale or seasonal items, under time constraints and it is up to visual stylists to produce quick results
- Attention to detail – creating attractive displays calls for a strong eye for detail
- Organizational skills – keeping adequate inventory of merchandise and display supplies, and arranging products in various types of displays involves strong organizational skills
- Multitasking – visual stylists are often involved in more than one project, such as setting up both window and in-store merchandise, while also monitoring inventory and reviewing sketched designs
Visual Stylist Education and Training
In many cases, only a high school diploma or equivalent is needed to become a visual stylist; however, an examination of job postings for this occupation reveals that some employers will prefer some post-secondary study or an associate’s degree in an area of design. Some schools offer a degree program in visual merchandising or fashion merchandising, which includes coursework in merchandise planning, product merchandising, interior design, branding and marketing communications. Visual stylists typically receive on-the-job training; such training is usually short-term.
Visual Stylist Salary
As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), visual stylists earn an annual median salary of just over $27,500. Those in the 10th percentile are paid about $20,000 per year, while those earning top pay make more than $47,000 on average.
Visual stylists working for clothing and general merchandise stores make an average yearly wage of just over $30,000, the BLS further reports. Those employed by merchant wholesalers earn slightly more at about $32,000. Visual stylists working in the District of Columbia earn the highest mean annual salary in the US for this occupation at $41,000, followed by Oregon and Washington, both at just over $39,000.
The employment growth rate for visual stylists is expected to be three percent through 2026, slower than average compared to all occupations, the BLS states. The number of new jobs in this field over the 2016-2026 time period is expected to be 4,600.
Do you see yourself working as a visual stylist? Take a look at the list of resources we’ve provided below to help put you on the path to this satisfying career.
Experiential Designers and Producers Association (EDPA) – since 1954, EDPA has been providing educational, networking, and advocacy opportunities for a wide range of design professionals, including visual stylists.
Visual Merchandising – from buyer behavior to constructing props, this book thoroughly covers the responsibilities of a visual stylist. Text is supported by photographs, layouts, and a glossary of terms. It also includes case studies and tips from professionals in the field.
design:retail – visual stylists can access this online publication to get news on current industry trends and reviews of projects in specific areas, such as retail, supermarkets, and apparel and non-apparel stores.
Retail Design Magazine – an online publication giving a current pictorial review of designs in various retail settings as well as hotels and restaurants around the world.
Zen Merchandiser Blog – mannequins play a huge role in the world of visual merchandising, and this blog explores types of mannequins, how to use mannequins to display different kinds of merchandise, and so much more.
Visual Merchandising and Store Design Workbook – visual stylists can use this book to learn how to set store displays targeting specific customers, use visual merchandising tools and supplies, understand design principles, and develop budgets for store design.
Window Display: New Visual Merchandising – review the latest techniques used to create effective window displays for stores. This book features inspirational photos and a study of what makes a window display successful.
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