Guest blog by Joe Baer, CEO & Co-Founder of ZenGenius, Inc., a visual merchandising, special events and creative direction company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Joe's experiences and love for all things visual have allowed him to travel the world teaching and inspiring others on the power of visual merchandising.

Throughout my career as a visual merchandiser, I’ve often encountered clients, managers, team members or associates that seem to have an endless amount of excuses or roadblocks that can prevent you from bringing your vision to life. A great visual merchandising program takes risks, experiments and tests new ideas to see what the ever-evolving customer responds to. Getting everyone on the same page and all on board at once can be a challenging part of your job. Especially when you are presenting new ideas, something unexpected or risky.  

For example…does any of the below sound familiar? 

“We’ve tried that before…”

Ever hear this one? I hear this one quite a bit. I get it and often it is true. It’s difficult to try something that you did before and failed. It’s no different than getting back up on that bicycle or horse. You might have tried it but it may be several reasons that it wasn’t successful. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right…or things didn’t arrive on time…or the marketing didn’t connect with the in store experience. Whatever the case don’t give up. Don’t be afraid to try something again and look at it from a new perspective.  


“I’m not sure if we should move it.” 

I’ve enjoyed long conversations and debates over re-arranging something. So long, in fact, that we could have moved something to test it and already moved it back if we didn’t like it. The truth is there are always lot’s of ideas and opinions but sometimes you just have to move something and try it before you know. Sometimes it just feels right and you know it.  If it doesn’t….move it back. At least you tried something. Experimentation leads to innovation, discovery, and success. 

Sometimes you just have to move something and try it before you know. Experimentation leads to innovation, discovery, and success.
“You’re blocking my camera.” 
Security and loss prevention is a support to the retail process but should not be a block to creating a great store experience for the customer. If you have a seasonal display or a sign that blocks a security camera, be courteous enough to move it but do not let it derail your plan or vision. Be creative and persevere. Loss prevention teams are motivated and hired to prevent theft versus promote positive sales. When I really get upset, I call them the “sales prevention” department. But, ultimately, we must learn to work together.  

“It’s too hard.” 

Visual merchandising is hard work. It’s physical, requires problem-solving and all types of skills. It also takes time. Often, when I tell people what I do, they say “Oh my god! Your job sounds like so much fun." It’s true. It is fun. It’s one of the best jobs in the world. However, it does take a lot of hard work, physical labor, stamina, patience and teamwork to make it happen. Hard work comes with the territory. Sometimes you may want to just move one thing but it causes a domino effect. Keep working it until ultimately everything falls into the right place. It’s a part of a Zen merchandising philosophy that everything has the right place, at the right time for the right reason. Enjoy the journey.


“You can’t do that.”

Often, we can be limited by our own rules. It’s great to set company directives and standards. It’s also great to train the entire team on those directives and standards ensuring everyone is on the same page. Occasionally, you may encounter a situation or opportunity that may require breaking a rule or treating it more like guidelines than firm rules. Breaking the rules can be ok and sometimes it can lead to new things or you might find you just need to bend them for a short time. Every situation is new and our decisions can be influenced by many things. The product, the fixtures, the space, and the opportunity can all be influencers in the decision to break or bend a rule. If it leads you to greater sales, then you’ll know you’re on to something. The key is getting the whole team on the same page again. 

If it leads you to greater sales, then you’ll know you’re on to something. 

“We’ve never done it that way before!”

New things can often be scary. We know change is often frightening or intimidating to people because there are many resources for coaching people through change. There are times in visual merchandising where you might just want to try something. You want to move something…add something…change something from the way it’s always been done. This can be met with all kinds of objections that may limit your ability to try it because you seem to have lost the patience to fight your way to victory. Choose your battles, right? Remember just because it has never been done that way does not make it wrong. It’s good to try new things, experiment and learn. Try it. Stand back and observe or watch how customers or associates respond over a few days. If we don’t test new ideas, we won’t discover new things. Besides….if you don’t like it there is no harm in stopping the test.   

As you can see, my best advice is to persevere through the roadblocks. Don’t let them deter you. Remain creative and willing to try new things. Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and keep driving those sales!



Joe Baer is the CEO and Founder of ZenGenius, Inc., a visual merchandising, special events and creative direction company, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio. Joe's experiences and love for all things visual have allowed him to travel the world teaching and inspiring others on the power of visual merchandising. Find out more about ZenGenius and Joe's upcoming speaking engagements by visiting their website and social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Select images from pexels.com.