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RAE Exhibitor Highlights: ASVM president talks latest visual merchandising trends

Asia Society of Visual Merchandisers (ASVM) aims to promote respect for the field of visual merchandising and recognition of visual merchandisers as key players in the retail world. The Society in now joining the Retail Asia Expo in Hong Kong, introducing visual merchandising and the society’s training programmes to the event audience. Retail in Asia caught up with Daniel Wan, President for ASVM, to learn about his view on the latest trends in visual merchandising.

RIA: What role is visual merchandiser playing in the retail world? How has this role been evolving?

Daniel Wan (DW):Visual merchandiser’s role isto create displays of merchandise in the store window and interior to entice prospective shoppers to stop and enter the store. Visual merchandiser then has to make efforts on how to turn the shoppers to become buyers via the impact of merchandise presentation and store ambience. He or she normallylooks around some promotional images, seasonal themes or special ideas which base on the upcoming marketing and promotional activities.

Accordingly, visual merchandiseroften works very closely with marketing and sales teams or the business owners to make sure the merchandisesare best presented in an enticing manner in the shop windows, in-stores areas as well as point-of-sale locations.

Visual merchandiser must exercise his or her creative skills to display all marketing and promotional messages; and communicate with the target shoppers via merchandise presentation. As such, visual merchandiser is always involved in identifying current and future trends, and reporting back on activities of business competitors.

As the operating scale of many current retail operators is huge, visual merchandiser needs to co-ordinate with various departments, contractors, suppliers to ensure the VM plan is effectively implemented. Also he or she has to conduct training for the sales staff in merchandising skills so that some of the VM works can be delegated to the frontline retail staffs.

For independent retail stores, visual merchandiser may sometimes be expected to produceartistic drawings and present ideas to the shop owner or store managers for the final designs.

The role of visual merchandiseris continuously changing because the retail scenekeeps on changing. In particular, the pace of retail business has been undergone significant changes over the past decade. The challenge for retailers is how to react fast to the evolving needs and wants of their customers whose buying decisions become heavily relying on their sensory emotions. Visual elements in a retail store are therefore very crucial in attracting and keeping customers leading to the success of sales. 

Therefore, visual merchandiser nowadays needs to take up the responsibilities in doing graphic design and props design. He or she is expected to possess knowledge of consumer’s behaviors, skills of management and design in other disciplines.

RIA: What are some of the current trendsin the visual merchandising area that Asian retailers should be aware of?

DW: Theworld nowadayschanges fast and so dothe cycle of business and trends of market. The trend of visual merchandising faces some the following changes in retail world:

  1. The requirement for retail environment tends to be more spacious. Accordingly, the overall fixture heights drop in many stores. By dropping fixture heights, customers can be enticed visually to explore other areas of the store.
  2. End caps of gondola are commonly used to promote new items and to inform customers of those items’ specific purposes or benefits. However, 20 years ago the visual merchandising trend was to bulk stack end caps promoting prices on single items. End caps today are more attractive.
  3. Visual merchandising trends have definitely influenced store signage. Retail store signs have gone from Styrofoam letters glued to a wall to colorful high impact three dimensional graphics.
  4. Visual merchandising in stores applies more digital effect. Flat screen TV’s are being utilised everywhere, not only presenting products in full color, but also communicating and in a very literal sense, selling. These digital signs just like having another salesperson on the floor.
  5. The styles of mannequins are more attractive and creative. Also they become lighter as a result of new product materials like polyester.

RIA: Do you think Asian retailers recognise the importance of visual merchandising, as well as visual merchandisers enough? 

DW: Yes, the importance of VM in the Asia retail market is increasing. For the past decades, the retail environment in Asia witnessed significant changes. The Asian market, especiallyChina and India, has already drawn attention from those high fashion brand operators from the West. They have brought the value of VM to the East, stirring up the momentum of desire for higher visual presentation standard across the region. But it is just the beginning; there is plenty of room for growth in the Asia market.Asian retailers are developing their own VM paths and meanwhile they have become more aware of the rising importance of visual merchandisers.

RIA: Can you talk us through The Asia Society of Visual Merchandisers?

DW: ASVM was established to promote respect for the field of visual merchandising and recognition of visual merchandisers as key players in the retail world. The headquarter is situate at Sydney, Australia and Hong Kong branch was formed in 2003 to conduct various VM training to public market and corporate sector. Recently ASVM develops its training service in China and works together with Tsing Hua University, Beijing, offering VM course on country basis.  

RIA: Can you comment on the current retail market in Asia?

DW: Retail Market in Asia would become the largest market in the world. China would be the core, catching the interest of all global retail operators. Other Asia countries like India, Japan etc., would also support this trend. From the eyes of visual merchandising, it becomes even more challenging. VM cannot just apply those current methodologies from the Western world to tackle billions of consumers whose sensory perception may differ from the Western norm. How to bring up effective "East meets West" sensory solutions would be a wonderful topic.


Asia Society of Visual Merchandisers founded in 2002, was established to promote prestige of visual merchandising profession and recognition of visual, merchandisers as key players in the retail industry. ASVM’s headquarters is situated in Sydney, Australia with the branch office in Hong Kong. ASVM is exhibiting at booth D10 at the Retail Asia Expo, the three-day event from 12-14 June at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.