Nurul Syuhaidah Mohamad Ali, 27
Visual merchandising executive at Pedder Group
What do you do?
Visual merchandising (VM) is quite hard to explain. When I say that I work for a store or I name a fashion brand, people think I’m a sales assistant. So I say that I do styling in the store: we design the store displays, the floor space, and so on. We also have to do some styling – it’s not just about putting stuff where they need to be.
How do people react when you say you’re a visual merchandiser?
They’ll ask me, ‘What is that?’ My grandma asked me what I do for a living and I said, ‘I style the mannequins.’ She replied, ‘Oh, you get paid for that?’
What’s a typical day for you?
It’s 9am to 6pm doing the same thing – unless there’s an event to set up. Normally, in the morning I’ll check the windows, the lights, the mannequins and after that I’ll start with the changes. You have to make changes every week and look at sales reports. I’ll approach the sales staff and ask what’s moving and what isn’t. From there, we’ll decide what to display on the highlight table. Visual merchandisers have to really work with the sales staff, because we’re only at the outlets thrice a week while they’re there all the time.
How do you start a new project?
We always have floorplans with us, so we can plot where we want to put things. Our shop closes at 9pm, and we start at 9.30pm. The latest I’ve stayed ’til is 5.30am. I had to wait for contractors to come down with props to build the sets. Some brands actually have guidelines but it’s more about styling. For Spring/Summer ’16, for instance, we need lots of colours.
What’s the most complex project you’ve worked on?
The opening of Pedder on Scotts was madness. We spent a week preparing – my Hari Raya Haji also burn because of that. Then when we worked on the Paul Andrew pop-up, it required fresh flowers at the window. It was quite difficult because we had hanging chairs with flowers in acrylic planters on them. The chairs themselves were really heavy, and we were afraid that the ceiling couldn’t hold the weight and that the wire would snap.
Any on-the-job disasters?
Glass trays that we normally put shoes on break – that’s normal. Customers come and touch the mannequin and, y’know, love to move the arms around. A few irritating people just come and change the hands to show the middle finger. It’s really annoying.
Which brand has what you would consider a stellar example of visual merchandising?
Lane Crawford. The way they use their mannequins is very interactive. They do a lot of styling and they’re very creative with props. – Interview by Andrea Cheong