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Iain Kimmins

An Organization for Visual Merchandisers?

There’s a lot happening behind the scenes at The British Display Society.




WHO WOULD HAVE thought that there would be such a thing as an organization for those who work in visual merchandising?

Well, there certainly is: The British Display Society.

Established in the 1920s as The British Association of Display Men, in those days, VM was a male-dominated field of work. By 1943, the name was changed to the British Display Association as more women entered the profession. And in 1947, the name was changed again to its current name, The British Display Society (BDS).

The organization was created to encourage and promote the highest standards of visual merchandising design and display installations throughout commerce. This embraced many areas including retail, retail windows, point-of-sale, exhibitions and museum displays.

Over the years, BDS has developed and constantly maintained its professional standing within both education and within the retail world.

Former BDS students still work in the VM industry as display managers, college lecturers and heads of VM departments with many retailers and brands and as freelance designers.


I studied the BDS course at a college in Coventry, U.K.,in the early 1990s and received my Certificate of Recognition in 1993. I continued my membership during my VM career and eventually became a Fellow of The Society.

Several years ago, I was invited to join the team that ran BDS and within a short space of time, I was elected as Chair and Director, which is an honor.

Under my leadership, The British Display Society continues to grow with new members who work in the VM industry. The BDS management team comprises experienced visual merchandising professionals and experts in the industry who volunteer their time to manage BDS. You read that correctly, we are all volunteers!

It’s our passion and enthusiasm for VM and store presentation that drives the industry to maintain high standards and ensure visual merchandising remains a thriving art. And although we are U.K. based, our members are worldwide.

We also operate membership for companies that supply goods or services to the VM industry. Retail is a tough business, so it’s paramount for everyone in the to work together, utlizing each other’s strengths.

All BDS members have the opportunity to showcase or promote their work across our social media sites as well as in our bi-monthly VM Spotlight magazine which has a circulation of 1.9 million readers around the world. So, you never know who is reading it!


In addition to this, the British Display Society offers colleges/training establishments that operate VM courses a “Centre of Excellence Award.” This is completely free to colleges and, in return, the VM students sign up for student membership, which is a great starting point for their VM career. Our current list of “Centre of Excellence Award” colleges includes Nanyang School of Design in Singapore and Seneca College in Toronto, and closer to home, we have colleges in Ware, Windsor, Dublin, Liverpool, and London College of Fashion.

At present there is a great deal happening behind the scenes at BDS headquarters! While we are encouraging new members to sign up, we are developing a new marketing strategy, a new VM support package for independent retailers and a revamped website to be launched soon.

Recently we launched an updated online VM course that has been comprehensively rewritten by highly experienced industry experts. This new version covers all aspects of creative, windows and visual merchandising and their vital part within a brand’s identity. If you’re a student or a newcomer or just want to update your skills, this course will enable you to be a success plus give you a more comprehensive understanding of this industry.

So why not join us as a member of The British Display Society today?

Iain Kimmins is a creative visual merchandising professional with experience working for stores such as Harrods and Selfridges in London to Tangs in Singapore. As the Owner/Founder of consultancy Creative Download, as well as serving as the Chair of The British Display Society, Iain has worked on projects in Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, New York, Dubai and Shanghai, among others. Iain’s passion and enthusiasm for retail is not only about being creative, but being commercially aware as a key driver for the retail sector. |



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