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The Aesthetics of Business


A lot has been written about the whys and wherefores of (VM). After all, it’s all about how you display what you want to sell – be it garments, fruits or pulses – with the sole objective of attracting a buyer. See the local fruit seller – it’s amazing how he makes a neat pyramid of the shiny apples and oranges. Or the roadside florist – no body would look at his shop if he bundled up all the flowers. No rocket science this, but VM has developed into a formal course of scientific study including an examining of the human psychology (your customer), aesthetics (your shop interiors), and mathematical precision (the planograms and your shop fitouts).

Plus, a good VM gets you brownie points from customers who would tend to linger on and maybe pick up a few more items, simply by virtue of the fact that you drew attention to them, maybe through creating colour and contrast, by using a prop, through spotlighting… Visual merchandising in a sense that has more to do with understanding and seducing customers through clever marketing. It moves beyond merely creating and designing a retail space. It is how the space is perceived. By employing smart and creative VM tactics you can convince customers about the value proposition of the product on display, and thereby silently urging them to buy it.

In the Western and European countries, retailers give VM the highest priority during the commercial planning of their stores and the product(s) that they are dealing in. The merchandise collections and planograms are changed with every new season, and at the time of announcing a new arrival. The stores, therefore, always appear fresh and appealing. This concept is yet to catch on in India as many retailers still think that visual merchandising is simply dressing up the store window, and an unnecessary expense. In fact, Indian retailers need to treat VM as a long term investment.

Shopfitters Pin Hopes on FDI

With the Indian government opening up the retail segment to FDI, India’s retail sector is gearing up for an influx of investments and business opportunities. India is seen as a land of opportunities as saturated markets and economic downslides in developed markets drive companies to explore new territories.

The growth of Indian shop-fitting industry is directly proportional to the new retail dynamics that are emerging. While new players are still taking a ‘look and see’ approach before stepping ashore, the existing ones are busy consolidating.

India’s shop-fitting industry is still largely unorganised. The handful of organised players in the shopfit industry are equipped to provide complete shop fitting solutions to retailers, and meet their varied requirement in terms of proposals, designing, prototyping, material specification, finishing, fit outs and roll outs. They work in close collaboration with retailers, retail designers and other shopfitters.

However, they continue to be dogged by operational challenges such as lack of adequate infrastructure, rising cost of capital, power outages, increasing raw material prices, production and transportation costs, lack of research and development facilities, shortage of trained professionals and manpower. This is curtailing growth of the industry. All of this coupled with competition coming from cheap imitations from the unorganised market has put additional pressure on their already stretched margins and strained sales. In such a scenario, the entry of big, international retailers will give the much desired and long awaited boost to the shopfit industry.

Setting the Stage for Retail

Store design is a very crucial factor in determing the store’s success as measured by the footfalls and sales. A well-planned retail store layout enables the retailer to maximise sales for each square foot of the selling space in the store.

Companies are also urging designers to think out of the box to create designs that set the brand apart, as retailers look for ways to keep shoppers interested and excited. Even service oriented retailers are making their stores not just functional but aesthetically pleasing as well. A distinct Indian identity is also emerging as retailers seek a more apt setting for their ethnic products. Graphics and other visual aids are being deployed to add a sense of excitement while communicating with the shopper. Innovative use of technology is creating interactive stores that keep the shoppers engaged.

In the following pages, we present several such store designs that make merchandise more interesting, or even more glamorous, simply through the art of display, enhanced by the overall ambience created by the store’s lighting, music, smell and atmosphere. For instance, a retailer of footwear uses mood shots for each shoe category to depict the end use and re-inforce the product’s positioning. A designer of a store selling ethnic wear has used traditional stone floorings, Indian fabrics, traditional door elements to form an amalgamation of tradition and contemporary.

Although retail design in India is still in its nascent stage, it is set to evolve as modern trade grows, and retailers realise the potential and benefits of retail design.