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”

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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!

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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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More to VM than Fashion.

I started my Visual Merchandising career at Harrods as a Junior and quickly progressed to VM Manager.  The department was then known as “Display” as oppose to the new title of “Visual Merchandising”, which is widely recognised now.  Within the department you were known by your expertise, so you were either a “Fashion” or a “Pots & Pans” person! So basically, Fashion or non-fashion.

During my long and established career, rising to Head of Visual Merchandising at Tangs in Singapore and now Founder/Owner of Creative Download, I have worked with many product mediums from Fashion, Food, Interiors, Gifts, Homewares, Beauty, Stationery through to Luxury Brands and Accessories.

It is always a delight to work with non-fashion items as you have to use your creative talent when merchandising tables, shelving fixtures, gondola’s and windows.  Not forgetting to be artistic when creating a strong focal point which will make the customers stop and say “WOW!

So, for those Fashion stylists who think dealing with plates and crockery is boring, here is a selection of photographs that hopefully inspire you to branch out and work with other product mediums. Have fun and be creative! Visual Merchandising is so much more than dressing a mannequin.

From the regimented layout of Bloomingdales and Fortnum & Mason through to the Emma Bridgewater shops to The Portmeirion Group Exhibition stand at trade fairs, to the mish-mash of Anthropologie, to Merci in Paris, to the most famous China & Crockery shop in New York, Fish’s Eddy.

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The Art of Colour Blocking

Colour blocking has been a daring and transformative trend since Piet Mondrian’s early 1900s debut of neoplasticism. In its evolution through the 1960s mod style and Andy Warhol’s classic Pop Art, colour blocking has become most widely known as an artistic tool that utilizes bold and bright colours in many of the store windows.

Today, colour blocking of products in the stores is one of the simplest ways to add visual impact and one of the basics in Visual Merchandising. From shirts, towels, fruit and tins of paint, products can be displayed in an eye-catching and practical way. Here’s a selection of photographs that certainly make an impact with the use of bright bold colours.

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Explore the World!

As we fast approach the holiday season, many retailers will be focusing on a travel concept for their windows.

Through the power of imagination, your travel concept can whisk your customer away to far flung and exotic destinations. That’s after they have shopped in your store!

With clever use of Signage, Graphics, World Globes and even Ice Cream, this can be fun concept to put together and install. A travel theme can work for so many different types of merchandise from Fashion, to Jewellery to Stationery through to the obvious Suitcases and Travel Bags.

Here is a selection of ideas of push your imagination.

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The Chelsea Flower Show

Last week in Chelsea, London saw the World-renowned, glamorous and quintessentially British, RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This truly unforgettable event that draws huge crowds to see the spectacular show gardens.

Many visitors to the show arrive by tube at Sloane Square. To create a visual feast over 90 shops/restaurants and stores in Sloane Square and the bustling Kings Road adorn their windows with stunning floral window displays for The Chelsea in Bloom Festival.

Here is a small selection of photographs from this superb British event.

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