The Steps of Merchandising
Early Stages – A great merchandiser has a wealth of knowledge that can greatly benefit your project. The sooner you bring in your merchandiser, the better your final product will be. Once an architect has finished preliminary drawings, an interior merchandiser can critique the plans (red-lining) to spotlight any potential problems. Every aspect of these plans is analyzed to create ideal sight lines, function, “furnishability”, and appeal to the target market.
Presentation – With floorplans in hand, the merchandiser’s next step is to outline a design plan. A presentation is generally a complementary service in which the interior merchandiser showcases their ideas for your model. Some of the elements you can expect to see include color boards and binders displaying proposed furniture layouts, furnishings, paint and wallpaper samples, fabric swatches, finish samples, and elevations of built-ins and impact wall treatments. Additionally, a contract outlining a payment schedule, builder’s responsibilities, designer’s responsibilities, etc. is usually provided at this time.
Specifications – If the presentation is accepted and the contract is signed, the merchandiser begins assisting with specifications. Items to be selected may include flooring, cabinetry, countertops, appliances, hardware, lighting, paint, trim details, wallcoverings and wall tile. Many selections are ideally made in the builder’s design center from the available resources (so the models sell your products). A knowledgeable merchandiser may also recommend additional resources for your design center that reflect today’s trends. During this phase, you should also receive an electrical plan, a flooring schedule, and a paint & paper schedule. These detailed drawings and descriptions specify important information for the construction team.
Walk-throughs – This is a key service of the interior merchandiser during the construction process. A framing walk-through is scheduled when a model is completely framed. A typical framing walk-through might include the architect, builder, marketer, onsite salesperson, construction representative and merchandiser. At this time, every aspect of the model is scrutinized and reviewed (have a can of red spray paint handy). All lighting is checked for sufficiency and proper placement, taking exposures into account. Door and window locations are analyzed, as well as sight lines and room layouts. Specialty walls and wall details, such as headers and niches, are finalized. Electrical requirements are compared to proposed furniture layouts. This is also an ideal opportunity to review furniture scale within each room. After the framing walk-through, any necessary adjustments can be made. As a final review, a drywall walk-through can be scheduled close to the installation, giving everyone involved one last opportunity to examine the model. Now it’s time for the builder and merchandiser to choose an installation date.
Installation – This is where the “magic” happens. All the behind-the-scenes work comes together in 1½ days of hard labor and outstanding design. The interior merchandiser and crew arrives with all the furnishings that were selected to customize your model, and the merchandiser oversees the entire installation process. After installation, all that awaits is the final walk-through.
Final Touches – A merchandiser’s services are not finished with the installation. The next priority is a final walk-through (punch-out) with the builder and sales manager to ensure complete satisfaction. Any necessary changes will be noted and completed within a short timeframe. Once the model is finished, an inventory book is provided outlining all the specifications and furnishings utilized in your model. This book is indispensable for insurance purposes, visual reference, eventual disposal of furniture, and fielding design questions from homebuyers. As a final merchandising service, I offer my clients “Day with a Designer”, a special public relations event designed to generate new traffic and entice “be-backs”. This popular interior design event is customized to your community, creating an excellent marketing tool – a wonderful finishing touch to a successful collaboration.
When you hire a model home merchandiser, you should expect comprehensive, outstanding services. Don’t settle for anything less – your models depend on it.