Keeping the Visual Merchandising industry alive!

As we are all aware, Retail & Visual Merchandising is going through quite a tough period at the moment in many parts of the world.

The British Display Society has certainly seen many ups and downs in the retail economy over its 70-year history. We are here to ensure Visual Merchandising remains a recognised profession and that VM does not become a dying art, despite the current economic climate.

As well as being Chairman of The British Display Society, I have worked in the VM industry for over 20 years working at stores such as Harrods, Selfridges and as Head of VM at Tangs in Singapore. I have worked 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 VM Consultants. Although we are based in the UK, our members are global!

We recently opened a new category “Corporate Members”. This is open to companies that supply goods/services to the Retail & VM trade. This includes Graphics, Signage, Shop Fixtures, Mannequins etc.

Members are backed by the Society’s ‘Pathway to Professional Recognition’ through which affixes are awarded to members 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 (colleges from Ware UK, Dublin and Singapore) and the BDS team.

Take a look at our website ( and learn more about the BDS, our VM Courses, Membership and Benefits.

I look forward to welcoming you on board, let’s get Visual Merchandising a great industry again!

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


Liberty of London Christmas Shop

Step out of the lift onto the 4th Floor of this iconic London department store and be greeted in true Liberty style with the Christmas Shop. Resplendent in all its glory with its sumptuous and opulent array of decorations and baubles which cater for every style of Christmas.

Fixtures are well merchandised according to style of decoration with baubles on prongs and in crates underneath.  Garlands run along the top are dressed with eucalyptus for that festive smell. Christmas lights adorn the wooden ceiling beams so you can imagine shopping there at dusk.

In addition to this, they have a section for Gift-wrap, Cards, Advent Calendars, Stocking Fillers, Puzzles and Games. Plus, a stunning selection of Food Gifts, perfect for that food lover.

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Autumn 2019

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.

The new Autumn/ Winter 2019-2020 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.

If you’re a fan of Scandinavian design, then this is something you should try and experiment with as woven textures are often used to bring softness into Nordic interiors.

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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Christmas World at Harrods

Having worked in the VM team at Harrods for many years, I have certainly worked on many Christmas Shop set-ups. It was hard work but good fun working behind the hoarding in order to create this magical department.   In true Harrodian style, the Christmas Shop with lit garlands, sumptuous array of decorations and baubles was the start of the Festive period.

On a visit to the store a few days ago, imagine my disappointment in seeing this year’s Christmas World. In previous years, the department was spread over 2-3 rooms. Now it’s confined into just one room.

While the Christmas trees were beautifully dressed and accessorised, sadly Christmas World was lacking in retail theatre. There was the usual demonstrator selling fake snow by adding water, but where were stunning mini room-sets creating that special ambience? There was one fireplace, but blink and you would miss it

There was an excellent range of baubles and other decorations on the various fixtures and slat wall, but I can’t help thinking, who is going to buy Leopard Print Baubles at £18? Other baubles included Hot Mustard, Coca-Cola, Soya Sauce and a Chinese bauble complete with chop sticks for a staggering £24.

I am not sure who their target market is. With a single Christmas cards at £6 and rolls of gift-wrap at £9, they are certainly not catering for the London tourists.

Now I’m looking forward to the launch of the Christmas Shop at Fortnum & Mason. This will certainly be a visually stunning feast for the eyes.

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Back To School

Although the schools and colleges have recently finish for the summer holidays, retailers should be installing their Back To School windows. As with any concept, VM teams should be thinking and planning 6-9 months in advance.

Here are some excellent inspirational window concepts from my files. Anything from fashion to chairs to over-sized pencils. The concept does not always have to relate to kids and stationery products. Back To School windows should be fun and a riot of colour and props. These windows should be inspiring and creative, as kids hate going back to school!

Given the strength of On-Line shopping retailers, with the help of the VM teams, stores should be stepping up a gear to ensure that all important ‘wow factor’ with creating retail theatre with both the window concepts and in-store presentation. It’s very much like the phrase “You Don’t Get A Second Chance To Make A First Impression”

Check out: for further information

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The other side of Retail.

I thought this week’s blog would be slightly different. As you may be aware, I have worked in the Visual Merchandising for over 20 years and my career spans working at stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London and more recently as Head of Visual Merchandising for Tangs in Singapore.

I am now the founder of Creative Download and over my career I have had the wonderful opportunity to work on some fantastic projects where I have lived and worked in New York, Shanghai, Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Switzerland and Singapore. It is quite satisfying to know that retailers outside of the UK, like the British approach to Visual Merchandising and Store Presentation.

I am extremely passionate and enthusiastic about Retail & Visual Merchandising. So much so that someone recently said to me “It will be difficult to find someone more dedicated to the industry than you. You are the Alex Pollizzi (Hotel Inspector) of retail”. I think they may be right

Indeed, I am an avid fan of taking photographs of anything to do with retail, whether it’s good or bad.

So, while we all stop and look at fantastic window displays and VM sites within a store, here is a selection of photographs that show the other side of retail. These images give Retail and Visual Merchandising a bad reputation and it saddens me when I see these sights. Anything from cardboard signs to inappropriately dressed mannequins to boxes of stock and rubbish left on the shop floor!

First impressions are paramount, and customers should not be subjected to seeing these sights. With scenes like this, retailers wonder why business is bad and customers are not shopping in their stores!

For further information about how Creative Download can help you drive your business forward, take a look at the website:

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Let’s Get Tropical!

Tropical is by no means a new trend in interiors, but it’s certainly picking up pace this season and is definitely one of the key looks for Summer 2019.

Think lush tropical greenery and palm trees with colonial rattan and then add splashes of colour with vibrant cockatoos and mix it with gold pineapples and insects for a real dazzle of sunshine.

Fruity, tropical prints are all over the Spring/Summer catwalks this year and it hasn’t taken long for the trend to be picked up in interiors. Everything from palm leaves, pineapples to exotic flowers and flamingo’s are serving a reflection of the unsettled storm-to-sunshine weather we have been having.

So visit the local shopping malls and local stores for some Summer inspiration. It will be far more exciting than browsing on-line! Keep out High Street and stores open for business.

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Afternoon Tea is so English!

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.

Now we see the VM concept of Afternoon Tea in many stores from Home to Fashion to Food.

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Boots in Covent Garden

Boots has opened a concept store featuring a beauty hall with its own YouTube studio as part of one of the biggest makeovers in the retailer’s 170-year history.

The health and beauty chain’s new outlet, in Covent Garden, central London is the first of a string of revamped shops to be rolled out.

The white marble-tiled beauty hall hosts more than 300 beauty Brands. It is set to be the most sustainable store with environmentally friendly toiletries.

There is a Beauty Kitchen refill station, so you can get a top-up of your face cleansers, shampoos, hand & body wash without contributing to the country’s single use plastic waste problem.

There is also a greater selection of vegan friendly products together with a Rehydration Point where customers can refill their water bottles for free. Not forgetting the introduction of unbleached brown bags at the checkout.

The 28,524 sq ft store is on a site where a Marks & Spencer outlet closed last due to soaring business rates, in a prime central London location where footfall is driven by high tourist numbers as well as local workers.

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Scale new heights with ladders!

As we know, retail is going through a tough period in certain parts of the world, particularly here in the UK. This has such a knock-on effect with budgets for the Visual Merchandising Departments budgets. The days have gone when you could spend a small fortune on bespoke props. Now we have to cut back and upcycle what we can, while retail rides this bump in the road.

Even the simplest of props such as a pair of ladders can create theatre in your windows and make the customer look and stare. It creating something quirky, different and eye catching.

Give your customer something to remember your window as they walk past. The use of ladders is fun, quirky and very inexpensive.

As you can see from the photographs, ladders have such a variety of uses from displays homewares, low to high end fashion even through to jewellery.  These ladders can be seen at the most iconic department stores, fashion houses through to your independent gift shops.

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