Merchandising courses teach students methods for designing window and in-store displays, as well as strategizing store layouts. Stand-alone courses in display design and visual merchandising are available for professional development purposes. Relevant courses can also be taken through visual merchandising undergraduate certificate programs, which can often be completed in a year or less.
Students who would like to participate in a degree program that explores merchandise display concepts may look to associate's or bachelor's degree programs in apparel or fashion merchandising. Studies can be completed at fashion schools, community colleges, 4-year colleges and through college continuing education departments. Common subjects might include the following:
- Fibers and textiles
- Apparel producers
- Brand imagery
- Case studies
List of Common Courses
Introduction to Apparel Merchandising Course
Prior to learning the specifics of proper design techniques and merchandise display, students will take an introductory course in apparel merchandising. The course will cover common terminology used in merchandising and the fashion industry to better prepare students for a career in retail. The primary goal of this initial course is to familiarize students in the design process, which includes production, buying, marketing and selling the product.
Visual Merchandising Course
The visual merchandising course combines classroom learning with hands-on training in merchandise display. Theories of display and design principles will guide students in effectively planning and creating window and in-store displays for promotions. Topics of study include planning and budgeting, coordinating several pieces of a display and increasing sales.
Part of setting up a display may include dressing mannequins to show off apparel for sale. In order to attract customers to the product, the form must be dressed properly. A draping course teaches students proper techniques for draping clothing on a 3D form to create proportion and balance. Other topics of discussion include developing patterns and creating silhouettes, but these are more directed toward students interested in designed their own clothing in the future.
Drawing customers' eyes to a particular display is what brings in a sale, so the product must be displayed in an appealing manner. As an extension of the visual merchandising course, some programs offer a course in aesthetics that focuses on color and design theory. This may be important for students interested in visual merchandising and display because it demonstrates how to use aesthetics to decide what products should go where for a promotion in order to attract the most attention.
Merchandising Planning and Control Course
Although it does not directly deal with merchandise display, a common course for those interested in apparel merchandising or management is merchandise planning and control. Students learn about the purchasing process, budget planning and inventory management. These topics help retail workers to successfully plan and execute seasonal promotions, sales and markdowns through the use of signs, fixtures and lighting in the merchandise display.