Shopping centre decorations are not just about the aesthetics

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  • Monday, 14 May 2012

FROM something as simple as a window dressing to an elaborate stage set-up to even a jaw-dropping dragon suspended from the ceiling, there is more to the art of shopping mall decoration than just the aesthetics. In fact, most shopping malls have a dedicated visual merchandising team to see to its mall decorations and displays.

StarMetro speaks to three shopping malls in the Klang Valley to get behind the scenes details on what visual merchandising is about.

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Pavilion KL director of marketing Kung Suan Ai described the visual merchandising (VM) team as the heart and soul of the shopping mall.

“Visual merchandising creates an exciting ambiance and adds an interesting physical dimension to the mall,” she said.

“A well-executed VM project creates greater awareness for the mall and makes a great marketing tool.

“Visual merchandising is very physical as it creates the personality and feel that we want.”

Pavilion KL is a 1.34 mil sq ft shopping haven with a vibrant and dynamic mix of 450 retail stores over seven levels.

Kung stressed that total engagement is very important when conceptualising a VM idea, as people enjoy a multi-sensory experience.

She said a marketing campaign for the mall encompasses advertising and marketing communications, mall decorations, and activities, which involves three departments — advertising and promotions, visual merchandising and events.

“Bigger festivals take six to eight months’ planning in advance, while an average campaign takes three to six months, as elements like the number of partners involved and guidelines have to be taken into consideration,” added Kung.

“The planning for a typical marketing campaign would involve research on the mood that we want to create, which are based on ideas the management has come across during their overseas travels or from the team themselves.

“From there, a concept board is developed and presented to the management, who will give their feedback and thereafter set the general direction of the campaign.

“The marketing team will then work with tenants and strategic partners to plan the activities and promotions for the campaign.

“The VM team will set up the visual displays based on a set schedule and order of components at the designated display areas. The main structural jobs are contracted out to a panel of suppliers and contractors who understand the mall’s safety requirements.

“Regular maintenance and adjustments also have to be carried out even after the displays are in place.”

Displays that are needed daily are kept at an in-house storage facility, while those used for seasonal or one-off campaigns are kept offsite at a rented warehouse space.

“The VM team also has to oversee storage of materials, safety compliance for display set-ups, and foster rapport with suppliers to ensure that requirements and timely delivery are met,” said Kung.

“The team practises creative recycling of basic structures or smaller props when it comes to its visual displays. However, everything for each campaign must be new in terms of feel, form, festival and delivery.”

Kung said Pavilion KL was designed to cater to larger than life experiences, and has facilities that were put in for the VM team to enhance the visual merchandising experience.

Citing 2011’s Christmas Wonderland campaign featuring an actual carousel and 2012’s Chinese New Year decorations with the 182m long dragon as some of the crowd favourites, she said: “Pavilion KL’s festival campaigns have come to be something shoppers look forward to.”

Last July, the mall made heads turn when it hosted the Liverpool FC team and turned the entire mall into a five-day fanzone with a “This Is Anfield” theme.

“Top of the mind recall is important for a mall, so once we have hit the wow factor, it will draw in the crowd,” she explained.

“Pavilion KL’s marketing budget started off with approximately RM8-RM10mil during its initial year, as we had to create high brand awareness when it was a newly opened mall.

“There was heavy advertising to highlight the mall’s unique proposition, store line-up and positioning as an international mall,” said Kung of Pavilion KL, which marks its fourth anniversary this year.

“In addition to presently being at a stage where we are building brand recognition and depth, Pavilion KL has been able to generate partnerships and sponsorships that add value to the marketing campaigns.

“Pavilion KL spends in excess of RM8mil annually, derived from its own marketing fund, sponsorship and partnership fee.”

“Our in-house stores and partners understand how to evolve with the shopping malls over time, and the value of investing to enhance the marketing experience.”

Kung concluded that a key challenge for Pavilion KL is to ensure that it remains relevant and innovative.

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