Visual merchandise and retail has provided Fiona Heseltine with wonderful experiences, friendships and challenges. It’s never dull, you work hard and there is always inspiring stories, brands and experiences to share and learn from.
The future of visual merchandising is a hot topic at the moment due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and Fiona thinks, “It’s more important than ever to have an authentic story and product offer where you genuinely put your clients and credibility first through a sustainable lens. These must all be unwavering. Customer experience is key.”
Fiona teaches visual merchandising at Box Hill Institute and is the head of retail and visual merchandising at Viktoria and Woods, a clothing business that creates effortless wardrobe staples with a pared-back, contemporary feel. She said, “I am very lucky to work with a wonderful Australian brand that has great customer engagement and an excellent, ethical product. It’s easy coming to work when you enjoy what you do.”
A day in the life of a visual merchandiser is varied and relies on lots of different skills. It requires careful planning what needs to be done and prioritising. Fiona said the most important skills visual merchandising students need in order to be successful are time management, resourcefulness and an understanding of how visuals affect a business.
Fiona has spent 20 years in visual merchandising, which include the launch of Country Road in South Africa, launching other brands in Australia, recruiting teams, watching and assisting individuals to grow and move into amazing roles. In 2018, she enrolled in the Certificate IV TAE Workplace Training and Assessing so she could start teaching and give back to the industry she has enjoyed so much.
“I thought connecting and sharing with students at the start of their career, to make them as impactful and prepared to succeed, was important to me,” Fiona said. “We are very fortunate to have a great course at Box Hill with some wonderful teachers and students. I can’t wait for it to grow and for our reputation to develop with support from the institute.”
Box Hill Institute makes sure students are well equipped for the workforce by recruiting teachers with great industry experience, who have the contacts and knowledge to share with the students. Fiona said, “Teaching technical skills but also the soft skills – what employers want and need from their teams. Focusing on this, I believe, will make us leaders with this training as we get more exposure.”
Box Hill Institute’s visual merchandising team is relatively new and they have exciting ideas, energy and a passion for teaching. “Kate, our coordinator, has a lot of drive, understanding and, most of all, patience to get it right! For the students and teachers. Kate is most certainly the difference,” said Fiona.
“This course is a great base for so many industries: retail, events, visual merchandising, small business, interior design and set design,” said Fiona. Despite the current challenging times, she advises anyone thinking of enrolling in the Diploma of Visual Merchandising to “just do it”.