Hi, I am Deepak Chakravarty. I am an achiever and goal oriented design professional with the drive and ability to work with all levels of an organization, so as to integrate my design and visual merchandising skills with the overall business operating strategy.
With an experience of more than 20 years, I am a design graduate from NIFT, New Delhi 98 batch. I have worked in senior positions across the industry. I was heading the design team at ITC’S LRBD division for the Wills Lifestyle and the John Players brands, Aditya Birla group, Adidas Collaborations with international agencies like Foliomoda London, Elemental Designs, London, Liganova, Germany. I am actively involved in academics as a visiting professor at premier design institutes like NIFT, Pearl Academy of Fashion, FDDI, DJ Academy of Design, IICD and many more.
Who is a Visual Merchandiser?
- A Visual Merchandiser (VM) supports retail sales by creating environments to further maximize growth, opportunity, educate customers, and easily stretch brand image.
- Visual merchandising is a retail strategy that maximizes the aesthetics of a product with the intent to increase sales. He/she helps maintaining the overall image of a retail store in consumers mind.
- The purpose is to attract, engage and motivate the customer towards making a purchase. Visual Merchandising focuses on various aspects of consumers, which include sensory pleasure, affective pleasure and cognitive please.
- Visual merchandising can also play a role in the look, feel and culture of a brand. Done well, it can create awareness while simultaneously increasing brand loyalty.
- The presentation of a store and its merchandise in ways that will attract the attention of potential customers and motivate them to make purchases is Visual Merchandising.
How it all got started for you?
I was always good in art and design since my school days, this led to d0 fashion designing at NIFT, New Delhi. Later when I started my career as a designer and while I was at ITC, I was given an opportunity to set up the VM department, which was the turning point in my career. Since then I have been in the field of visual merchandising and helped many brands create magic through VM.
What are your specific activities as a Visual Merchandiser?
In my present tenure, I am responsible for maintaining VM standards across all Bata stores in the country developing the concept for all seasonal campaigns and driving execution at floor level.
Additionally, I am also responsible for in-store product display with commercial relevance, selection of in-store visuals with brand marketing team, conducting training programs to educate internal and external customers on VM standards and developing vendor base for quality and faster execution. I have been involved in product design cycle for over a decade now, before getting into the exciting field of visual merchandising. Hence, it’s been a fantastic journey from the back end to the front end.
Implementation and execution of marketing plans for Bata, HP and Foot In Stores in sync with product launches and in-store promotions. Timely production and deployment of marketing POSM (point of sale materials) identification, selection and execution of media opportunities. New Store and Renovated Store Launches, BTL (below the line) and ATL (above the line) activation around stores, event and sponsorships and local tie ups for footfall inside the store, campaign roll out and impact analysis with feedback from retail studying competitors’ products and services and recommending local marketing opportunities.
Coordination with creative, media & visual merchandising agencies to develop suitable brand initiatives to position the brand in keeping with the brand goals and identity. Successful and speedy implementation of shop branding, glow sign board, point of sale materials and other marketing collaterals through various agencies/vendors.
Responsible for end to end retail promotion activities – visual merchandising, new Store launch, local promotions to generate footfalls. Ensuring brand messages are consistent across all stores, close coordination with retail head and marketing head on budget preparation and expense control. Liaising with other internal departments such as sales, distribution and finance. Managing rate negotiations for marketing elements and enrolment of quality service provides for PAN India execution. Development of local marketing calendar and regional store promotions like anniversary sale or store closing sale etc.
Ensuring high UPT (units per transaction) and ATV (average transaction value) for new and renovated store via colorful, story and theme display inside and on store windows Handling of Marketing Peripherals’ across Pan India and ensuring in time deliveries Addition of new retail elements, new vendors and new innovation in VM.
What drives you?
My motivation drives me to excel in the field of Visual Merchandising, to do creative displays which are innovative.
What did you learn about the career after you started your career?
During my time at college there was no information about VM or any career that the brands had embarked for VM. It is only in the last ten years that the brands have realised the importance of Visual Merchandising and now this is a very upcoming and exciting career.
What things would you do differently in preparing for this career?
By being more aware about VM in international brands.
What do you love about your current role?
- exciting job
- meeting new people
- doing creative things
Every day is new!
What are the challenges you face in your career?
Digital and online is putting pressure on brick and mortar stores.
What type of Visual Merchandisers will be high in demand in the near future?
The future is about customer experience and digital VM.
Can you please summarise your career journey?
- +2 – Science
- Graduation – B.Sc Plant Biology
- Graduation – Fashion/Apparel Design, NIFT
- Ph.D – VM education (pursuing)
- Fashion Designer – Ogaan India Pvt. Ltd (2 years)
- Brand Designer – Aditya Birla Group (2 years)
- Design Manager – LNJ Bhilwara Group (2 years)
- Chief Designer – Oswal Group, India (1 year)
- Head Visual Merchandising – ITC Limited (8 years)
- Head Visual Merchandising – Adidas Group (3 years)
- General Manager, Head Visual Merchandising and Retail Marketing – Bata India Limited (Present)
How can I become a Visual Merchandiser?
Anyone can become a Visual Merchandiser. There are courses in VM which can be done after school. NIFT has a fashion communication program which has VM as a module, as well as Pearl Academy of Fashion, Academy of Applied Arts, FDDI, etc.
I am 17 and I am planning for a similar career path like yours. What advice you have for me?
- Do projects in VM at school
- Gain first hand knowledge
- Do a course in Visual Merchandising from a reputed institute
- Keep doing industry VM projects and assist VM teams in brands to get a first hand feel.
What are some alternate career options for a Visual Merchandiser?
- Retail VM planner
- Window concept creator
- Retail merchandisers
- Instore communication
How do you like to spend your free time?
Photography, travelling, gardening, music and painting.
What do you think potential recruiters look for in a Visual Merchandiser?
- Relevant experience
- Positive attitude
Who do you think should take up this career choice?
VM is a unique career which is a blend of art and business. Therefore, someone with a flair for design, styling, creative and good communication skills will be a good fit for this career.
Any recommended resources for students who are interested in your area of work?
WGSN. Apart from that one can do market visits and read retail magazines.
What do you like to say to the parents based on their child’s career?
Allow the children to follow the passion and explore new career avenues, instead of the conventional streams.
How did product lifecycle knowledge help in the field of VM?
It helped a lot as I knew the design cycles and the themes behind the collections, which helped in conceptualising the designs for windows and a better connect with the consumers.
Any final thoughts?
There is an urgent need –
- To introduce a full time program in VM, keeping in mind the shortfall of qualified VM resources in India.
- To inculcate enthusiasm about VM as a great career option amongst the student and parent community.
- For brands to realise the importance of VM as a great pillar of retail.
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