Visual merchandisers design and construct interior and exterior commercial displays such as department store windows, tables at trade exhibitions, and mannequins. In larger retail chain stores, the work is more involved due to the necessity to maintain a coordinated image from store to store. In these situations, visual merchandisers email designs to individual stores, which are then downloaded into design software, adapted to the store's dimensions, and implemented accordingly.
Visual merchandisers must have well-developed artistic abilities and a desire to create. They need to have self-discipline, imagination, and persistence. It is also important for them to be able to work independently and to effectively communicate their ideas in written, verbal, and visual ways. Problem-solving skills are essential, as well as sharp business and sales ability for those who start their own business or do freelance work. Above all, a strong esthetic sense is the most important trait a visual merchandiser can possess.
In 2002, visual merchandisers earned a median annual salary of $22,550. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10 percent, who earned less than $15,100, and the highest 10 percent, who earned more than $40,020. The median annual salary was $22,130 in department stores.
Training and Education
Most entry-level positions do not require a bachelor's degree. Some candidates receive certificates or associate degrees from 2- and 3-year professional schools. Graduates of 2-year programs usually qualify for assistant positions or go on to enter bachelor's degree programs. For those interested in freelance work or business ownership, courses in business management, marketing, and art are recommended.
Out of the nearly 532,000 design jobs in 2002, about 77,000 people were employed as visual merchandisers.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of visual merchandisers is expected to increase about as fast as the average, due to replacement needs for workers who retire or change careers.