product story buying & merchandising

It’s not uncommon for retail buyers to get so familiar with their product that they find it very difficult to view it from a customers’ perspective. Even the best assortment will not achieve its commercial potential if it is not displayed and communicated in a way that presents a clear, powerful and irresistible proposition to the customer.

The integration of buying and merchandising with visual merchandising lays at the heart of presenting these powerful propositions and transforming merely product groups into product stories with emotional connections to customers.



Buyers and merchandisers are becoming more aware of their role in “buying for space” – buying with not only commercial but visual considerations. The overwhelming trend is to work with smaller story blocks but the pressure this brings in buying the correct options relies on more experience and skills than ever. Depending on the sector, for each product story the buying & merchandising team must consider the balance of different categories, the balance of image makers, best sellers and basics, the architectures of size, colour and price, the fashion positioning and end-use, attributes of the product from functionality to fashion.

Combining these into traditional coordinated themes has never been easy to buy for or indeed to translate into store displays. As a result there has been a development to buying other product story groupings where a simplicity of store display can more easily be combined with commercial considerations but without any lessening of store visual impact or emotional connection.

Working more imaginatively with categories can deliver “killer category” displays where the visual power and authority of the pure category cannot fail to impress and inspire sales. Within this “power proposition” those all-important architectures of price, size and colour add commercialism and structure to drive sales and margin.

Coordinating categories in a logical and customer focused way has long been a tool of casual fashion retailers loosely displaying t-shirts and shorts, or blouses and skirts together, suggesting coordination without dictating a defined look. In buying terms this facilitates a broader perspective concentrating on colour palettes and styles within categories with only appropriate considerations of others. Across all sectors this evolution of category coordination through to cross-merchandising is seeing returns in everything from electrical businesses combining consoles with accessories, through to health and beauty retailers displaying haircare with skincare, and in every sector in-between.

The more structured “combined category” approach has the potential to create very powerful and attractive displays where different assortment features can deliver a populated visual matrix where one story runs horizontally along a display and another one vertically. Any combination of brand, theme, fashion position, colour, size and sub-category can be combined in eye-catching simplicity and absolute clarity of proposition – used to display everything from stationery to candles, baseball caps to lingerie cups, bed linen to exercise weights.

The reduction in option numbers has also added power to the simple silhouette where a few carefully and creatively coordinated pieces can create a powerful proposition for the customer. This simplicity of story can be used to communicate colour, or fashion, or value or whatever message is important for a retailer, in a way that is relatively easy to buy for and relatively simple to display. Inspirational hotspots in non-fashion again command high inspirational impact from a few carefully combined options.

The extreme of simplicity in product stories is the impact that a single “hero” product can have. “Heroes” punch higher than their weight but their instant and important message can significantly impact on the customers’ perception of a retailer’s proposition and assortment focus. Every retailer has “secrets” and the conversion of these into “heroes” through simple bold displays can be dramatic. Find a space for “heroes” in your store and with the help of visual merchandising, let them do the rest.



A final consideration of “product stories,” whichever stories any particular retailer delivers, is the need for clarity. Confusion to clarity is an ambition of many stores so the type of product stories you chose to buy for and display, and how well you explain the logic, the segments and the complexities behind those stories is an essential ingredient to your overall brand proposition.

For sure, visual merchandising cannot create this clarity in isolation from the buying and merchandising strategy, whilst buying teams themselves can be easily frustrated by store displays that have little understanding of the assortment structure planning.

Integrate buying and merchandising with visual merchandising to present clear & powerful product story propositions and your customer will thank you many times over with their patronage, their loyalty and most importantly their hard earned money.


Our expert workshops:
Product story development & buying & merchandising workshops:

VM-Unleashed’s 1-day workshop discusses all areas in the delivery of attractive & profitable stores through best practice product story development and buying & merchandising and the integration between these functions.

It is personalised to the audience, to the sector and to the job function and objectives of the retailer team present, however most benefit is achieved from an attendance from across retail departments and essentially buying & merchandising, visual merchandising, marketing, space planning, commercial, sales and store operations teams.

The workshop process can also include a day of client store visits and discussions leading to a review in the workshop of the client’s stores, as well as reviews and reference to competitors and current international best practice stores. The workshop itself is a combination of visual stimulation and process insights.

Every workshop is written and delivered to be as relevant and productive for each client as possible including both individual and team exercises and discussions.

The typical agenda is as below, waiting your personal additions and requirements:

  • Principles of buying, merchandising and assortment planning
    • Visual criteria in assortments – colour, size, style, fashion position and end-use
    • Product stories related to colour and other architectures – price & size
    • Translating assortment into store product stories
    • Product story grouping:
    • Categories, heroes, collections and silhouettes
    • Killer categories
    • Combined & coordinated categories
    • Lifestyle inspiration stories
    • Combining the commercial & the visual:
    • Using image makers, best sellers, basic and high/low margin product
    • Creating display patterns for end-use and fashion
    • Product stories that work with every store situation
    • Looking at product stories from a customer perspective
    • How to segment, explain and communicate category stories
    • VM stories adding value – price and prime promotion

Different modules can be combined to create personalised workshops.

For more information:
+44 (0)7967 609849


Our specialist services:
Assortment end-use & fashion positioning reviews

“How do I know if my assortment proposition is in-line with my customers’ profile & fashion position, budget, price tolerance and taste?”


A focused analysis and quantitative audit of how best and worst selling products align in relation to key parameters such as fashion position, end-use, colour and design

    • Getting the value from “turning the qualitative into the quantitative!”
    • creation and assessment of fashion position & end-use matrices
    • customer research into preferred matrix positions
    • best seller and worst seller reviews related to matrix positioning
    • identifying opportunities in a shift in assortment positioning
    • quantification of colour and design, plain or pattern – “taste index”
    • referencing assortment “taste index” to sales “taste index”
    • identification of best seller “taste” attributes


    • Clear identification of best seller clusters related to fashion position and end-use to buy for
    • Identify colour and design attributes related to customer preferred product clusters by category and feed into buying process
    • Identify differences by sub-brand in relation to customer preferred clusters and identify the attributes within those clusters
    • Quantitavely assess the parity of an assortment related to customer taste with the “Taste Index”
    • Identify where and how to focus the image products and best sellers of new assortments


    • Interviews with HQ and buying & merchandising team
    • Focus groups of customers identifying attributes of best sellers and positioning in matrix
    • KPI analysis by department, category and sku
    • Best seller and worst seller product reviews and fashion position analysis
    • Comparison of buyer and customer focus group product positioning

For more information click the link
Assortment end-use & fashion positioning analytics
+44 (0)7967 609849


Our specialist services:
Product added-value attributes analysis

“Which design features, enhancements and adornments to my product assortment add value and drive my sales & profit?”


A focussed analysis of best seller and worst seller design attributes for specific categories and ranges

    • analysis of shape, size, colour, design features, quality, safety, comfort, adornment and pattern as reasons to buy or not to buy
    • bestseller and worst seller reviews
    • ranking and prioritisation of attributes – “Attribute Index”
    • cumulative analysis and cross-referencing of sales against “attribute Index!” of individual products and ranges
    • Creation of design hierarchies enabling focus on most important product attributes in the correct order
    • relationship between “Attribute Index” and price tolerance of customers
    • comparison with competitor product attributes against pricing


    • Identify in priority order the most important product attribute from a customers’ perspective and to build these into the design process for new product assortment focus on product design additions that only relate to increased ROI
    • removal of design attributes that reduce the added-value of the product
    • ability to relate the added-value attributes to an appropriate added-value price point
    • ability to add margin through inclusion of appropriate added-value product attributes
    • ability to deliver higher comparative value on categories and ranges than competitors
    • deliver store displays and best sellers presentation based on “showcasing” products with high “Attribute Index!”


    • Interviews with HQ and buying & merchandising team
    • Focus groups of customers identifying attributes of best sellers and worst sellers
    • KPI analysis by department, category and sku
    • Best seller and worst seller product reviews focused on adornment
    • Best practice analysis of product enhancement against pricing


For more information click the link
Product added-value attributes analysis
+44 (0)7967 609849


Whether you are an established player, or a new kid on the retail block, we can probably help improve your efficiency, your expertise, your store delivery and of course your sales performance and profitability.

I look forward to hearing your questions, whether large or small.

Always expert and easily accessible.

Thank you.
+44 (0)7967 609849


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