In Marko's opinion, how has the Visual Merchandising landscape evolved over the years? What are some of the advantages of the current technological evolution?

Our claim for the collection presentations is to carry the brand language from the design to the store; here, a lot has changed in product presentation in recent years. Today, we use adaptive shop fitting systems and planning software to best use a store’s space.

Because each collection places different demands on the presentation, tremendous flexibility is required and our adaptive shop fitting system accommodates this. To give a concrete example: A store on Sylt has a different size than a store in a central city location. So it requires precise planning as to how many spaces are available to optimally fill the modules: The system has to be controlled in such a way that shopping matches the areas in the store. At the same time, the merchandise is attractively presented over 360 degrees. Using the latest technology and standardizing processes, this is always the case with us: the adaptive shop fitting system adapts precisely to the respective size of the shop, the location, and the significance of the brand.

We have also further developed the sustainability concept of our stores and presented it comprehensively for the first time in our retail locations in Utrecht, Düsseldorf, Bertrange, and Salzburg. An environmentally-friendly LED lighting system ensures a better CO2 balance in the store. The use of wood as a particularly sustainable and low-pollutant building material provides excellent energy benefits. The decorative fabrics and in-store materials are TexBlue® certified and made of fibers from plastic waste from the sea and coasts. The mannequins are the most sustainable on the market and are made of lightweight paper-mâché and recycled plastic. The flexible shop design will change seasonally with new products and technologies.

In a nutshell, we are setting standards in technology, sustainability, and design with our new store concept.

2. What according to Marko are some of the challenges plaguing the Visual Merchandising landscape and how can they be effectively mitigated?

The requirements in the field of visual merchandising (VM) have changed. Of course, there are still the “folding machines on four wheels”, i.e., VMs that travel from store to store or customer to customer. However, the winners are those who are more broadly positioned – like us at Jack Wolfskin. With our “Train the Trainer” concept, we are taking a different, intelligent approach. We look at who has talent and an affinity for product presentation on-site and then train them in a very targeted way. This way, the knowledge stays in the store, the employees can change the store on their own, and it is no longer necessary to be hands-on at all time. Last but not least, we know from experience that this increases the motivation of the employees. The future concept for us is pretty straightforward: train the trainer.

“Conceptual work for communication is more critical than ever in the VM sector. Good communication is needed for consistent implementation”

And one more point is crucial for us: Conceptual work for communication is more critical than ever in the VM sector. Good communication is needed for consistent implementation. I mean good guidelines, clear work instructions, and tools that standardize processes. Here it is a matter of preparing the work instructions in such an understandable way that employees in the store can also quickly implement these activities. This requires a sound knowledge of various computer programs such as Illustrator, Photoshop, Excel, and PowerPoint. Creativity often shifts from the sales floor to the desk. Nevertheless, never losing sight of the point of sale is essential.

The basic rule is that the collection architecture specifics must also be conveyed at the point of sale. The storytelling must be coherent. This means that the story of our products must be told credibly and also be understood by the customer. This is ensured, as already mentioned, by our adaptive shop fitting system and technological trends.

3. Which are a few technological trends influencing Visual Merchandising today? What are some of the best practices businesses should adopt today to steer ahead of competitors?

Digital signage is a central theme. You can use it simply as a sales tool or for image building. Or, as we do at Jack Wolfskin, use it for both objectives. With moving images on LED walls or screens, brand messages can be conveyed more impactfully than with a poster, for example. People who come to our stores see highlights from the collection. Together with this, we show matching equipment and footwear - the collection is clearly explained. This way, customers get specific suggestions on how to combine a product perfectly. And the technology will continue to develop and create new possibilities.

For brands, brand-building stores - preferably in high profile locations - are essential because they pay off for the brand's image. Nowhere is a brand more visible than on the street. Whether stationary or digital: our omnichannel strategy means that Jack Wolfskin is always uniformly present. Unity and consistency is the strength of our brand.

Does Marko have any advice for industry veterans or budding entrepreneurs from the Visual Merchandising space?

My advice for the VM sector is to broaden your horizons. Look to the right and the left, observe trends, keep your finger on the pulse, look at your competitors and be open to new things because communication is critical.