Lord knows that my heart skips a beat when I get to do floorset and visual merchandising but dammit, it stresses me out. No wonder it’s an allegory for life.
When I left college close to ten years ago, I hopped straight into retail. When I first jumped into the industry, I never thought it’d be my crutch. Although I’ve tried office work and managed staff at a gym, my heart couldn’t stay away from a job full of selling stuff to people. I give retail credit for being the world that broke me out of my shell, allowing me to learn how to speak to others. I gained the confidence to look someone in the eye, to speak with clarity. I learned how to express kindness in a way that I learned from my Dad.
My Dad had such a kind soul. He expressed that kindness through the interactions he would have with the people he encountered on a day-to-day basis. I would always be in awe with how my Dad would be greeted in love by every last person in the supermarket, from the guy behind the deli counter to a check out lady. They would almost be overly excited to see my Dad. I think it’s because he didn’t look at them as just employees he’d interact with when we were low on lunch meat. He treated them as if they were people with lives outside of where they worked, with families, dreams and ambitions. He valued the work they did even more than their employer probably did. His “please” and “thank you” would be numerous. My Dad was eternally grateful for their time.
In turn, we’d get extras of everything. Dinner would be covered at restaurants. I remember when one of my Dad’s favorite restaurants removed a dinner entree from their menu but still made it because he would ask for it. Extra pizza? You got it. The manager at the Pizza Hut would call him “Mr. Bill!” every time he came into the shop. Ownership knew my Dad’s name at the hoagie spot. He’d always introduce his daughter because he talked about me. I was as much of a part of his conversations with them as their lives were to my Dad.
I’m thankful for the way my Dad taught me God’s love. He taught me through the way he treated others. My Dad sure did love him some Jesus in that way. I try my best to carry that energy — and his legacy — with me. I just happened to float into the industry where people test your energy and ability to be a witness every day of the week.
Through retail, I fell in love with visual merchandising. I remember working my first retail job and the visual merchandising lead taking me under her wing. I thought about going to arts school to learn color theory. There was something about building floorset, utilizing product to build stories that spoke to me. I was already a creative child, visual merchandising spoke to me in that way. But as I worked on a floorset today, I realized how much this work is an allegory for life.
You come in with a plan. You’re giving a list of what you need to execute that plan. But then you don’t have the product you need, you cannot find the set pieces you need to make the display look just it should in the picture. You’re awaiting product but have no idea when it will be in your store. You’re interrupted when others with pressing issues need your attention. You grow frustrated because if you had enough time in the day, you can execute the floorset by deadline. You’re also lowkey frustrated by the fact that what you need to pull together is months in advance of when you think you’ll actually need it. And when you take product off of the floor, it’s still product that you need, product that will sit in sale for what feels like an eternity.
We come into life with a plan and make a list of what we need to do in order to execute that plan. But then life happens. You don’t have the degree or the credentials. You don’t have the time to give it all of the energy. There’s the job you hate but pays the bills, the kids you love but stopped everything to raise, the life partner that doesn’t understand the vision, there’s friends and family you think you’re not being practical. You’re coming up on your 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th birthday. Time is running out, there’s only so many years left to your body. Sometimes what you want to do comes at you fast and you’re not ready. You’re overwhelmed and wondering where you’ll find the strength to do what you love. You think you’re not smart enough, skilled enough. You think you’re too broke to make an attempt.
Floorset and life, man. They are all one in the same. As much as I love to work on floorset, I grow frustrated when it doesn’t come to plan, when I’m missing product or signage. I especially grow weary when I’m giving a chance to come up with a floorset from scratch. But then God gives me order and structure and instructions.
I may have a vision but God has a plan. Even when the vision doesn’t work, I have to trust that God has given me the plan. So in a way, God is a visual merchandising product guide. I just have to execute and trust. Even if it’s July and I’m already placing product for Thanksgiving.
This is my attempt to write every day in July. To read more, follow the hashtag #wedj2019!