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Visual Merchandising

High Street Regeneration

Lynda Murray, founder of International Visual, explains how independent retailers can entice customers through smart signage and great visual merchandising

With over 20 years’ experience in retail, including a stint as visual merchandising director at House of Fraser, Lynda Murray is well placed to advise independent retailers and town planners on the all- important subject of high street regeneration. With partner, Phil Hill she founded International

Visual in 2007, a consultancy specialising in low cost, high impact visual solutions for retailers in the UK and overseas, advising on interior concepts for retail, leisure and home interiors too.” Speaking at the Retail Design expo earlier this

year Lynda said: “We are passionate about design and nurturing creative talent within the industry. We create stunning window schemes and provide creative ideas for store interiors, along with visual communication and training for retail staff. “I was a Saturday girl in an old fashioned

department store in Dundee,” says Lynda, explaining how she began her long career in retail. From the cosmetic department she became a fashion manager with Dorothy Perkins, a company she stayed with for 17 years, opening 100 new stores in the early 80s and producing a blueprint manual on how to make stores look good. From that major high street brand she moved

onto an even more illustrious position at House of Fraser, where she was in charge of visual merchandising for 14 years. “I then founded my own business”, says Lynda,

“and as I like travelling thought having an ‘International’ in the name would help me win business overseas” This did indeed prove to be the case and the first contract was in Kuwait, followed by projects in Turkey, Germany, Greece and now extensive work in the UK helping town councils with high street regeneration programmes. “My first British project was with Rochdale

Council, which needed help making the high street look better and training retailers in how to create better Christmas displays. I am now known by many other councils and spend a lot of my time coaching independent retailers across 20 regional councils around the UK. I am very keen to support small retailers and most of our work is with independents rather than the big guys.” “So, what do I look for in a town centre and what

kind of advice to I give to these retailers?” Considering the bigger picture, Lynda says that “visual unity is achieved [on a high street] by looking at the roof tops, awnings, signage and windows and

encouraging neighbouring stores to work together to create a unity. This is about team work and there are funds available from councils for retailers that team up.”

“Think of yourself together as a big department

store and trading commodity. Is there a good mix of products and services, do you work together to provide the local community with exactly what it needs?” Using a shop window as the starting point, Lynda

points out that it’s “actually very difficult to see inside a shop from even a small distance unless you really light up your display, so try to bring some of your messaging outside. Planters can add interest, make a place look cared for and classy, they’re inviting and a good indication of what you’ll find inside. You might also look at benches for men to sit on while they’re waiting for their wives and girlfriends to do their shopping. Animate your store from the outside in.” “You can

also use the glass itself to give a message, decorate the windows with letters, fonts and vinyl decals, especially if you want to create something seasonal and fabulous. Stunning typography can work wonders. You could even get a gold-leaf glass window sign or a 10 year decal. “When designing signage try to think about the

architecture of the building and make it suit. Also use the proper area for signage and don’t take up your window space unless you really need to. Put the sign where it is meant to be. Also make sure you let people know when you’re trading by including your opening times somewhere.” There are different kinds of signs, from the

modern, sans-serif, clean font type through to on- trend vintage, modern-classic and very traditional. “Independents can afford to be different,” she said, “and a unique hand-written sign not only costs as

16 Giftware Review & Home Interiors November / December 2015

little as £350 a day to produce but also helps keep an artisan trade alive. “Make sure your shop ‘does what it says on the

tin’ through the messaging on your signs and awnings, and it also helps to include a shop number. I’ve even got a campaign going to bring back high street numbers” “Awnings give increased visibility and protection

from the elements for people looking into the window, although there can be restrictions on putting them up so you’d need to look into that first. If you can get permission for awnings they’re especially good for food stores, florists and gift shops and Dutch canopies in your company colours can look wonderful as well.” “Another thing I love is interesting shutters. A lot of the towns I work with have regeneration funding and this can be a good way to spend it, especially if security is an issue – as it often is. If you have a shutter make sure it says something about your shop or lets you see through. The way I see it you pay rent for 24 hours so don’t close to the public completely for 12 of those, you could still promote your business out of opening

hours. One way of doing this is to print onto your shutters, which makes great night-time advertising and looks fab.” Ghost signs, placards and side-appraisal signs are

also worth looking into according to Lynda, and you can update them. Alternatively, you could get together with other shops to find a space to promote your businesses and help drive footfall to the high street with something witty and original. Last but not least, take a leaf out of garden centre

books and run special events. Try to work in cooperation with everyone on the high street, do a mega promotion, invite local residents and most importantly get schools involved: “If a bunch of primary school children are up on a stage then all the mums, grannies, sisters and aunties will be there too” Lynda concludes.

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