I'm nearly done all of the assignments for my Fashion Industry Essentials certification program and one of the things I'm required to do is the following:
"This assignment involves spending some time in your local retail outlets observing store layouts. Begin by doing a little reading about “visual merchandising” and store design. Then head down to the mall or other retail outlet and walk through the displays. Pay attention to the floor layout, the placement of items (especially sale racks) to the sides of the main walkways, and the composition and placement of displays. Take a picture of a particularly compelling display, then write a blog post about why you think it works."
For my retail outlet, I chose Express, the men's and women's clothing store. First off, let me say that the merchandise here is fantastic. As soon as I'm on my working business woman grind, I will be making some purchases here.
Walking into the store, I noticed right away that new merchandise for spring was in the very front of the store. There was also a "Buy One Get One 1/2 off" promotion going on for some of the pants to the right of the entrance. Also, the store is logically split into men's and women's clothing, with a wall dividing the two. As I moved toward the back of the store, I saw that the women's clothing in the middle was split into business wear and party wear, each occupying their own wall/displays. Moving further, more women's business clothes greeted me in some non-traditional colors such as mauve, cognac brown, and red. Personally, this is exactly the kind of aesthetic I'd go for in a career; keep it professional but still stand out from the crowd.
The back of the store is where the loungewear and sale items were located. Obviously, stores put the items they'll make the lowest margins on farther from the entrance.
I really enjoyed the displays in the store because the outfits used in them were a bit eclectic and untraditional, which is exactly what I like. I've included a picture of my favorite display below. It's only a single mannequin but I loved the look (I think I'd just change the shoes to match the bag and belt...y'all know how I am with matching those items). I think this display is a great addition to the store because it's simple but it's not bland - it's sophisticated. I think that idea matches Express's brand positioning. You don't need a lot (and you don't need to stick to neutrals) to look elegant. In addition, the mannequin's pose caught my eye and I think it's an important factor in the overall message of the mannequin. The power pose combined with the business suit definitely give me a "young professional woman bent on enormous success", which is exactly what I envision for myself.