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Merchandising and Buying Operations


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What to Expect

Students in visual merchandising arts programs learn to create attractive window and store displays that will draw customers in. Grads of these programs may also create displays for commercial photography.

"It's not as easy as it sounds," says Kelly Hubbard. She took the program at a community college. "I was really surprised by the amount of technical knowledge you have to have to be successful. There really is an art to it.

"The course should take a lot of work, but it really is what you put into it. All the work you do is photographed, and that is what you'll be showing your potential employers, so if you're serious, you'll want to do a good job."

Hubbard says the work experience component was the best part of the program. "It is a great chance to make contacts."

Hubbard has also taken courses in fashion retailing and costume design. She says that the visual merchandising arts program combined all of her favorite things: fashion, costuming, drama and art.

Following her graduation from the Fashion Institute of Technology's (FIT) display and exhibition design program, Jennifer Ferris worked on her bachelor's degree in industrial design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Ferris says her classes at FIT "were three hours long and every day was different -- sometimes three classes, sometimes two."

She adds that there was lots of homework. "It is a matter of how much time you're willing to put into a project," she says. "They manage to consume your life, especially for the first semester."

Ferris says a good work ethic is important. "The most difficult aspect of the program is to remember to always challenge yourself and not settle for the least amount of work you can get by with," she says.

In the end, she says, all the hard work pays off. "Seeing my work come to life was definitely the best part of the program," she says. "It is very rewarding to walk into a room that you designed from scratch."

How to Prepare

"Take art, drama and English," advises Hubbard. "Do a lot of communicating. Creating a window means creating a story. Join some fine arts clubs, local theater groups and get some experience in a retail environment co-op program."

"Get some experience with any type of drawing and computer experience, especially working in Illustrator, Photoshop or Quark," says Ferris. "If you get a head start, you will benefit greatly.

"Decorating for homecoming and other events sounds kind of cheesy, but it helps. These are the same ideas in planning, organization, sourcing materials and construction that you will use in the program. Find a way to work with your hands."


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