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Hot Retail Career: Visual Merchandiser and Stylist

An inside look at a career in visual merchandising and how to move up the retail ladder

Hot Retail Career: Visual Merchandiser and Stylist

While there are a variety of opportunities for working in retail, seasonal jobs or part-time sales associate positions are usually the ones that ring a bell.

Though these positions can be a big stepping stone to advancement within the company, there’s much more out there for the more creative minds that have a knack for decorating and design.

Nordstrom’s Erica Warner on Visual Merchandising

Erica Warner, a visual merchandiser and stylist at Nordstrom, loves her role because it’s one of the most creative positions in retail. Visual merchandisers are responsible for in-store merchandise displays and for customizing the feel and look of a store to attract customers and increase sales. 

“I really like putting my own twist on the merchandise and I love that my role is to inspire shoppers,” said Warner, who styles mannequins, merchandise products and adds visual elements to store windows, displays and signage.

Her favorite part of the job is that every day is different. Some days she’ll be moving fixtures in a department and some days she’ll be re-merchandising their product in order to increase traffic sales. Warner describes her job as being a “secret sales person.”

These positions, which prefer a degree in business, advertising, marketing or a related field, usually oversee visual display, inventory management and training employees on merchandising.

The median salary for retail merchandisers is $24,204 per year, with the highest-paid earners making $38,342.

How She Moved Up the Retail Ladder

Though she originally studied music at Berklee College of Music, Warner always had an interest in fashion. Before working at Nordstrom, Warner had been a general manager and stylist at Cream Vintage, an assistant manager at The Body Shop and held various customer service positions at other companies.

Constantly looking to grow, Warner applied for a sales associate position at Nordstrom and was hired in one of the trend departments.

After working in this position for a few months, Warner noticed an opening online for a visual merchandiser position. She sought to increase her chances of getting noticed by putting a unique spin on fashion displays on store mannequins that would inspire customer to buy Nordstrom products. Warner was hired.

This winning strategy came from doing research on her own to better understand what it meant to be a visual merchandiser and stylist. Warner would walk around New York City and take notes on window displays she found intriguing to set herself up for success.

Advice For Working in Retail

Warner suggests, “I would advise someone interested in this field to do some homework.”

“Take a walk through your city and look at the store windows. What do you like about them? What don't you like about them? Really start noticing store mannequins and the way products or props are set out. Once you know a few things and some merchandising language, you will be able to interview confidently for the job,” she said. 

Apply for visual merchandiser jobs in retail stores around you or see other positions available at Nordstrom

Monster Wants to Know: How have you moved up the retail ladder? What successful tips would you share? Share with us in the comment section.

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