Store Windows over the years.

Walk around any town and city nowadays and you see an abundance of store windows attracting customers into their stores.

The staff that look after the window concepts were originally called Window Trimmers, however that was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Visual Merchandising may be a modern term, but its application has existed long before there was ever a set of words to describe it.

Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, there is not much to report concerning the world of window displays, for their beginnings seem to trace back to the arrival of department stores in the 1850s. It is so interesting looking at photographs of “old” window displays. In the early days, it was very much a case of “stack it high” when it came to non-fashion merchandise. Terms such as Focal Point and Lines of Sight just weren’t used. As for fashion being displayed in the windows, as you can see from the photographs in this blog, times have certainly changed, not only with the fashion itself but the style and pose of mannequins. Some stores would not have the budget for mannequins so they had to adapt by wiring garments.

Marshall Fields & Company, which opened in 1852, is considered to be the birthplace of the display window layout. The layout was unveiled during the 1870s. It is accredited in part to Harry Gordon Selfridge. He introduced a variety of innovative and, at the time, radical methods for displays and marketing. Selfridge, in addition to creating window displays, also is known for the creation of the display department of department stores. The term Display Department was soon changed to The Visual Merchandising Department.

I recently visited an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery in London and was intrigued to see a mock-up of a store from the 1900’s. In 2009 Selfridges celebrated its centenary.  Each window depicted a particular year, and the style of dressing was in keeping with that time. The Creative Team put a twist on the windows by adding one colour – Pantone 109C – The famous yellow of Selfridges.

The race to create the biggest and best window concepts is still apparent today to attract those all-important customers. It is very much as case of giving the customer something they won’t find while shopping on-line. With Christmas just around the corner, many stores will be installing their Christmas concepts ready for the excitement and curiosity of the public.

Given the current economic climate that retailers in the UK are facing, let’s hope business is brisk with the run up to Christmas. Retailers need to continue their fight in attracting those on-line customers back into their store. You don’t get retail theatre and a pleasurable shopping experience from ordering on-line.

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Lets make Visual Merchandising great again!

Following the recent Annual General Meeting of The British Display Society, I am pleased to announce that I was elected as the new Chairman of the Society. This is a great honour for me and I am proud to represent The British Display Society and ensure Visual Merchandising remains a recognised profession and that VM does not become a dying art, despite the current economic climate.

I have worked in the VM industry for over 20 years working at stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and Tangs in Singapore. I have had the opportunity to work on projects in New York, Shanghai, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Switzerland. I now run Creative Download Visual Merchandising Consultancy. (

Established in 1947 the British Display Society was created to encourage and promote the highest standards of Visual Merchandising, Design & Display. Over the years the Society has constantly maintained its professional standing and adapted to changing times within both education and the retail world it seeks to service and enhance.

Former BDS students work throughout the U.K. and indeed throughout the world are now VM Managers, College Lecturers and Consultants. Although we are based in the UK, our members are worldwide!

Members are backed by the Society’s ‘Pathway to Professional Recognition’ through which affixes are awarded to members whose work and achievements. I am proud to say that I am a Fellow of The British Display Society and have the affix “FBDS” after my name.

Here’s a selection of photographs. These include archive photo’s, students work and the BDS team.

Our website will shortly be revamped but do take a look at the website ( and learn more about the BDS, our courses, membership and benefits.

I look forward to welcoming you on board, so whether your expertise is fashion or non-fashion, let’s Visual Merchandising a great industry again!

You can find The British Display Society on Facebook and Linked In.

John Lewis Christmas Shop

John Lewis has opened its Christmas shop, complete a festive forest and rainbow bauble wall. The company has branded its yuletide space its “most colourful and flamboyant Christmas shop to date”.

The Christmas forest features 55 real and artificial trees, filling the room with an earthy scent of pine, and a selection of over 400 different baubles. Shoppers can also take a break in the makeshift wood cabin.

Other highlights include the a twinkling walkway called The Rainbow Avenue of Light, which has been created with over 136,400 lights – an excellent Instagram opportunity if ever there was one.

The range of merchandise is excellent with a superb selection of tree decorations, games & puzzles, through to a wide selection of food and alcohol gifts.

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Autumn Home Interiors

Where has the Summer gone? It only seems like yesterday when we were Spring cleaning of our homes and buying Spring/Summer items to accessorise our homes. Now we see new trends for Autumn and Winter appear in many stores. Many home retailers are following the trends of animal prints. This is also reflected in many fashion stores where tiger, zebra and crocodile prints roam free! This will certainly be evident at this week’s London Fashion Week.

The new Autumn/ Winter 2018-2019 colour trends from the runways are available to dazzle. The richness expected from Autumn is definitely on trend, but unexpected shades are changing how people consider their looks for Autumn and Winter. The rich tones, colour blocks and animal prints as what’s to come this season, mixed in with intense hues of berries and bark.

From the rich autumnal shades, on the runway to home interiors and accessories that transfer a ray of summer to the gloomy days of Autumn/Winter.

Here are some of ideas of Autumn home interior merchandising for your store.

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Autumn/Winter 2018/19

It’s that time of year when the new trends for Autumn and Winter appear. Python, zebra, cheetah, croc and more animal prints roamed free and wild across the catwalk shows this season.

The new Autumn/ Winter 2018-2019 colour trends from the runways are available to dazzle. The richness expected from Autumn is definitely on trend, but unexpected shades are changing how people consider their looks for Autumn and Winter.

From the rich autumnal shades, on the runway to home interiors and accessories that make an effort to transfer a ray of summer to the gloomy days of Autumn/Winter, the new cold seasons have it all!

Look out for next week’s blog for Autumn Home Interior Merchandising for your store.

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We love our animals…..

Most of us are huge animal fans, whether it’s our dogs or cats or whether it’s the excitement of seeing a giraffe or lion.

It’s interesting to see how animals (as display props) have moved into our windows and in-store VM sites. As we all know a window concept should be bright, themed and catch the eye of the passing potential customer. Louis Vuitton has certainly captured the imagination with various concepts over the years using dogs through to elephants. Window concepts are retail theatre and given the current economic climate, retailers are using their windows to make us stop and look.

The store Level Kids in Dubai used Flamingo’s in their summer scheme while Fortnum & Mason used wicker animals in their windows as well as in-store.  Graphics now include animals which has included a Back To School concept at Paperchase. Sometime ago, I remember seeing a huge whale hung over a china & ceramic table at Anthropologie at their store in Regent Street. That was quite a focal point and something totally unexpected.

In my previous role as Head of Visual Merchandising at Tangs in Singapore, I devised an Octopus for a concept entitled “I am not a Shoe Addict”.  Made from polystyrene, its feet were actual pairs of shoes and we gave the octopus a winking eye to attract the customers attention.

And naturally when Christmas arrives, this is when the fun starts. Probably the best concept using animals was the redoubtable Selfridges with their Pantomime concept. A brilliant concept and well executed, and  having worked as a VM Manager at the store, I would expect nothing less.

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The Harrods Christmas Shop

In true Harrodian style, the Christmas Shop is open for business. Resplendent with lit garlands, a sumptuous array of decorations and baubles which cater for every style of Christmas.   In one section they have created The Harrods Gift Shop, mixing Christmas with merchandise from The Harrods Shop. The main section has stunning mini room sets with feature fire places and beautifully dressed Christmas Trees give elegance, luxury and opulence.  The fixtures and gondola’s are superbly merchandised which makes it easy for customers to browse and shop. And yes, customers were buying and the tills were ringing!


Anyone for Afternoon Tea?

Afternoon tea is a long-standing British tradition and a must-try on any visit to London. From themed meals to traditional styles, this ceremonious event is steeped in history and can be enjoyed at some of London’s top hotels, restaurants and department stores, all offering their individual take on this quintessentially British occasion.

It all started in the 1800’s when Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford who, at the time was a close friend of Queen Victoria and a prominent figure within London society complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon.

She wanted something small to satisfy her hunger, nothing too large just something to see her through till dinner time.

From this want, the afternoon tea ritual was born. However, it was traditionally only a small bite of something, not the big celebration it is now.

This tradition has reached the retail stores in Britain, none more so than Fortnum & Mason in Piccadilly. Their window concepts are superbly styled beautifully which is synonymous with this fine English store.

There are many places in London where you can indulge in Afternoon Tea. Now we see the VM concept of Afternoon Tea in many stores from Home to Fashion to Food.

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A Sign of the Times.

Have you ever noticed how much signage, ticketing and graphics are now an integral part or Visual Merchandising?

Whether it’s a graphic panel in a window display or ticketing promoting a new product or a branding block, these elements enhance the store image and the appeal of the merchandise.

Graphics play a vital role in the design of the store and in the communicating a promotion or Brand message.

Gone are the days when stores used no signage, nowadays it all about creating theatre. Large graphic panels in windows or the signage on the doors will guide you into the store, while in-store signage/ticketing do more than inform you as the price of an item. A ticket will educate the customer about the product, reinforce a promotion and will ultimately make the decision as to whether the customer buys the merchandise.

In this digital age in some stores, you are now able to scan your smart phone on the QR Code and receive information about the product.

Apart from having an in-house VM team, many large stores will also employ a team of Graphic Designers who role is to devise new and exciting graphics and tickets for the shop floor. Coupled with this, many stores will have facilities to print all ticketing, signage and graphics in-house.

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Ho Ho Ho…..Merry Christmas!

With temperatures in London hitting over 30 degrees, you’ve probably forgotten Christmas is only 4 months away. But Selfridges has launched Christmas, well a soft launch, predominately promoting London themed Christmas merchandise. The store will hit peak stock in September when shoppers will be able to purchase from the full selection of Christmas as the shelves will be packed with garlands, trees, baubles and Christmas goodies!

Naturally customers will have divided opinions, but I know from experience from my days as VM Manager at Selfridges that sales are driven by early Christmas shoppers and tourists. Given the volume of Christmas merchandise that Selfridges purchases from suppliers, it makes commercial sense to launch Christmas now.

Retail is all about creating the wow factor, creating retail theatre and more importantly educating customers as to what’s new in merchandise. While in Selfridges yesterday, shoppers were certainly happy to browse and the tills were certainly ringing which has to be good for revenue.

Harrods will be the next to launch Christmas which is usually within the first two weeks of August. This is closely followed by Fortnum & Mason which is usually early/mid-September.

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