“Creativity comes out of panic.”
Those words were shared by Bevan Bloemendaal, senior global director, The Timberland Co. (Stratham, N.H.), as he and co-emcee Joe Baer kicked off the Iron Merchant VI: Visual Merchandising Challenge at this year’s IRDC, held Sept. 7-9 in San Francisco.
As a twist to this year’s competition, which pitted five teams against each other to create a visual merchandising display in one hour’s time, Baer and Bloemendaal canceled the original design brief that had been send to team leaders weeks before the event. Instead, they handed participants a new directive and an unusual secret ingredient: water.
All five teams had the same tools and products – including Timberland boat shoes and clothing – and the opportunity to dress a mannequin (a first in Iron Merchant history), donated by Mondo Mannequins. Other supplies included Water Gems (from Panacea Products Corp.), fishing netting, boat rope, white fabric, buckets, paint markers (from Studio Image Inc.) and clear plastic trays.
The final displays were judged by IRDC attendees on how well they told the slip resistant attribute of the Timberland shoe line and successfully incorporated the secret ingredient.
“This year’s ingredient was the most challenging we’ve ever had,” says Baer, who heads Columbus, Ohio-based ZenGenius Visual Merchants when he’s not leading the Iron Merchant Challenge.
The Yellow Team, led by ChadMichael Morrisette, owner of CM Squared Designs in Los Angeles, took home the coveted Iron Merchant sashes. “I’m not used to such a quick turnaround on something creative,” Morrisette says. “We worked so well together, and maybe that’s why we were the winning team. Using water was like telling someone to use fire. It’s so raw.”
The winning team’s key to success? “Keep the brand first and all the other ingredients second,” Morrisette says. Some of the winning window elements included a life preserver made of boat shoes and shoe tread outlined in blue tape on the back wall of the display cage.
“The Yellow Team had a great strategy from the beginning, and kept their display simple and focused,” Baer says.
Other teams showed creativity under pressure, too. The Red Team created rain drops from filament and hot glue. The Green Team glued shoes to the window, while the Blue Team utilized cutout shapes of shoes made from the product boxes. The Purple Team used colored tape to write “Test the H20” on the Plexiglas window pane (supplied by KDM POP Solutions Group).
Iron Merchant returns next year when IRDC heads to Chicago, September 5-7, 2012. “Oprah ain’t there no more, so look out!” warns Bloemendaal. And Baer says he already has a few ideas up his sleeve: Maybe more time to complete the challenge. And for inspiration? “Gangstas or the Blues,” he says. “And maybe we should let Bevan compete, but with his hands tied behind his back.”
For more reviews of IRDC 2011, click here. Also check out VMSD’s November issue.
Iron Merchant VI Teams:
Yellow Team (winner)
ChadMichael Morrisette, owner, CM Squared Designs (team leader)
Johnathan Sanders, vp, Chippenhook
Dave Ewald, design director, Fiction
Damon Johnstun, creative director, LIT Workshop
Kathi Melworm, senior account executive, MG Concepts
Michael Hale, president, Retail Rehab
Nicole Grauman, consultant, SJDC
Kris Engle, sales consultant, Visplay Inc.
Ken Rooney, visual manager, Yankee Candle Co. (team leader)
Joe Fiorello, retail interior designer, Fad Studios
Marlene Stiles, senior designer, Jarob Inc.
Brent Schilling, director of retail sales, Marlite
Marjorie Lee Wood, vp, Embrace Design (team leader)
Kaitlin Kabrich, visual merchandiser, Kaitlin Kabrich
Jim Gavigan, account executive, KDM POP Solutions Group
Nicole Rehfuss, senior visual strategist, Little
Elizabeth Kokotajlo, senior design manager, Luxottica
Eugen Remensperger, director of shop systems, Marlite
Jackie Glanz, vp of sales and marketing, MG Concepts
Todd Taylor, director of design, Darden Restaurants (team leader)
Michelle Bush, vp of creative services, LIT Workshop
Shannon Paris, visual merchandising manager, Ten Thousand Villages
Kimberly Passmore, lead designer, Triad Mfg.
Robert Perilstein, sales manager, Visplay Inc.
Laura Koberstein, visual merchandiser, Whole Foods Market
George Flamik, senior account manager, Belaire Displays
Mare Weiss, associate, Bergmeyer Associates Inc.
Rachel Zsembery, senior associate, Bergmeyer Associates Inc. (team leader)
Eric Feigenbaum, president, Embrace Design
Ned Clark, national account executive, Mondo Mannequins
Nancy Clark, national account representative, Mondo Mannequins
Keith Ottaviano, national account executive, Pattison Sign Group Inc.
Eric Allen, director of operations, Riot Creative Imaging
Kerry Little, head teacher, TAFE NSW
Iron Merchant Suppliers:
Plexiglas panels: KDM POP Solutions Group, Cincinnati
Mannequins: Mondo Mannequins, Hicksville, N.Y.
Chalk Markers: Studio Image Inc., Austin, Texas
Water Gems: Panacea Products Corp., Columbus, Ohio
Clothing: The Timberland Co., Stratham, N.H.
Tool boxes, miscellaneous supplies, sashes: ZenGenius, Columbus, Ohio