In the hottest week of the year so far, the visual merchandising and display industry once again returned to the Business Design Centre in Islington for the 2018 VM & Display Show. The show welcomed the first ever Retail Focus Forum, providing a stellar line-up of key industry speakers, sharing their thoughts and insight into the world of visual merchandising, store design and understanding your customer.
Students from London College of Fashion, Hertford Regional College and Hugh Baird College went head-to-head in the graduate challenge, following a strict design brief set by luxury department store, Harrods. The undergraduates were tasked with creating a window design showcasing a luxury brand sold in the Knightsbridge store. Here are the participants and winners winners:
Gold - Brooke Riddle, Hertford Regional College
Silver - Kirsty McLaughlin, Hertford Regional College
Bronze - Chiara Malvoni, Hugh Baird College
The other two participants taking part were Rebecca Weston from Hertford Regional College and Kate Hill from Hugh Baird College.
SDEA Best Stand winner
Replica was awarded the SDEA's Best Stand Award. Angus Morton, vice president of SDEA, presented Replica with their award.
Replica created a stand shell using raw pallets, and mounted a Replica gallery on the walls to showcase a selection of props.
A number of key themes stood out for us this year on the show floor. Here are our take aways from the show...
One key theme was pretty evident this year – flamingos. From Hello Flamingo in the Designer's Showcase to County Display's giant bird on the main exhibition floor, there was an array of pink feathered friends around the show.
The lovely ladies at So... Visualise created a fun display of flamingos by water.
Solus Lighting also opted for flamingos dotted amongst the company's illuminated trees.
Giant animals were also a key theme, from a penguin and walrus to a giraffe, cow and elephants.
Charlotte the orange cow greeted visitors on the SDi Displays stand, and provided the perfect opportunity for a selfie.
Elsewhere, VGL opted for two beautiful elephants made from cardboard.
Echo House made a statement with its giant gold walrus and silver shark.
A giant giraffe dominated the Cutfoam London stand.
Mirrors and reflective surfaces
There were several mirrored surfaces throughout the show, and the sunshine certainly helped to bring out the best of these surfaces.
Pennant created this beautiful stand backdrop made from coloured acrylic.
VGL's silver cardboard elephant played on reflection.
VMG combined reflective surfaces with hanging flowers.
Mannequins peak out of this structure by IDL Colourlink.
Sequin walls by Shimmerwalls reflect light and provide gentle movement.
Sustainable materials/raw wood
Several exhibitors built their stands using sustainable materials, including pallets and recycled plastics.
Make-it London created a scheme made from recycled plastic, inspired by Leger. The design was sponsored by Duret.
Replica's stand was made from pallets, and the company also exhibited a range of sustainable glitter.
Barthelmess opted for a wooden structure on wheels.
It was great to see young companies such as creative VM agency Bright Leaf return to the show with a bigger stand. Bright Leaf's 2018 build was made from raw wood with different coloured ribbons and cords, inspired by the colours of Sharpie pens.
Riot of Colour showcased wood, metal and glitter finishes in an interesting workshop-style environment. Part of the company's ethos is to prevent, reduce or control the creation, emission, or discharge of any pollutant or waste that has an adverse impact on the environment.
'One of the key aspects we revealed to those who attended our So… Visualise stand was our re-use, recycle ethos' says Lisa Borrie, founder & creative director, So... Visualise. 'In a world where we are becoming increasingly aware of the waste we create, our focus on being able to reuse and re-hire certain props and creations was one of our USPs.'
Universal Display launched the Bamboo mannequin range made from bamboo fibres.
There were plenty of bright and bold lighting solutions around the show, including LED and neon options.
New exhibitor Carousel Lights generated plenty of interest with its range of customised neon lighting, fairground lights and light boxes.
Brilliant Neon's fun display.
Applelec's LED Light Sheet can be used to create an array of shapes.
The unicorn and mythical creature trend of recent times is still going strong, and the VM & Display Show saw a few unicorns pop up.
Prop Hire's giant unicorn was certainly a showstopper on the Gallery level.
Brilliant Neon's unicorn.
Bold colour palettes
There were plenty of pops of colour around the show.
Display Logic greeted visitors with a bright and bold colour scheme, with stand-out props.
The team at County Display sported some awesome outfits – sunglasses at the ready, these shirt and shorts combos were bright!
PLANarama invited visitors to grab a shopping basket and enter their brightly coloured store.
'Shoppers' were encouraged to pick up items in the store and read about the many projects PLANarama has been involved in.
There was an increase in sports mannequins at the 2018 show, including ranges by Tradelines and HOL Group.
Forming Reality returned for a second year with a beautiful array of mannequins and hands, as well as a competition to name their dog.
HOL Group showed off the new Farringdon collection, including a plus size mannequin (size 18).
The new Ultra mannequin range by Univeral Display. The company is also moving into 3D printing.
Vibrant green Ava Torsos by Universal Display.
Universal Display also unveiled the Profile 2 Man.
Several exhibitors encouraged visitors to take part in games and interact on their stands.
MAD About Design encouraged visitors to get creative and colour in the back wall of their stand.
Meanwhile, Graphica Display challenged people to a pitch and put competition.
Visitors to Event Prop Hire's stand could hook a duck.
As well as giant animals, the show was full of interesting props.
Event Prop Hire's seaside themed scheme, complete with giant chip cone, icecream, and bucket and spade.
Fun giant teeth by Kosa.
Retail Focus Forum
Brand new for this year, the Retail Focus Forum offered a comprehensive line-up of industry experts, from visual merchandising experts to creative and experience agencies.
On day one, Simon Hampton, head of visual merchandising at Harrods, hosted the keynote session on Wednesday morning.
Hampton gave the audience an insight behind the windows of London's famous luxury department store.
Next up was Katie Mitchell, client services director at Seen Displays, who asked the question, 'Are you effectively understanding your audience and securing true connection?' Mitchell discussed getting to know your customer and their way of thinking and shopping, and also ran through the needs and expectations of Gen Z and Millenials.
Suzanne Tanner, senior retail project manager at Visual Thinking, took the audience on a journey behind the story of a new VM look for New Look's flagship London store.
The last session on Wednesday was a panel discussion, moderated by Lisa Ronan, managing director at Prop Studios and FormRoom. Ronan was accompanied by Treasue Evans, retail visual & creative manager at MissGuided; Alice Sheriff, founder & managing director of Black Rabbit; and Andrew Patterson, founder & managing director of Mynt Design.
Tom Philipson, co-founder and managing director of YourStudio, opened day two of the Forum and shared how to create a truly immersive experience, discussing the experience design agency's recent work for Topshop's Splash! VR campaign and the Pandora Hive concept in Sydney.
Tim Radley, founder of VM-Unleashed, followed, discussing making and saving money from new store concepts, VM & display. 'It's time to build fun and excitement back into physical stores, for everyone!' said Radley.
Rounding off day two at the Forum, George Gottl, CEO of FutureBrand UXUS, and Shimon Kalichman, marketing & communications director at L'Occitane, took us on a journey of the new L'Occitane Regent Street store – a store to tantalise all five sense.
Speaking to exhibitors and visitors, bricks and mortar retail is very much alive, and if there is one thing we can take away from the Retail Focus Forum, it's to get under the skin of your customer, really understand who they are and implement store concepts, VM schemes and experiences that are true to, and reflect, your brand. Until next year!