design:retail | Give Me a Summer Break

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Give Me a Summer Break
June 04, 2012

Summer season is here—for some that means taking a break from school, and for others it means jumping from a hectic spring semester right into a busy summer-school schedule. Whatever your plans are, you can be certain that the world of retail—like you during finals week—never sleeps. It’s a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week shopping world we live in and someone, somewhere, is always making a store or shopping experience look better, work more efficiently—and most importantly, sell more product.

So, what can you do during the hot daze of summer to make some progress towards a professional career in retail design?

Here’s a short list of some simple actions that you can do to help build-up your job skills, your confidence and your industry knowledge—while still allowing some time for a relaxing summertime break now and then.

1. GO SHOPPING: Seriously! If you are interested in the retail industry, what better way to stay informed then to schedule some serious shopping time. However, the goal here is to get out of your regular comfort zone and take a subway, bus, car, bike or walk to a new retail area that you don’t normally go to. And shopping does not mean you have to buy. The art of window shopping and “market research” is easy—and it’s free!

2. TAKE A PICTURE: Well, not just one. Take lots, all the time. Have your camera, smart phone or picture-taking device with you at all times and take pictures. Not just pictures of pretty windows, but take pictures of anything that catches your eye that has a retail design aspect to it. Architecture, art, street scenes, store displays, street carts, farmers markets—all of it.  Building up a reference image library is an easy and ongoing part of being a creative and knowledgeable retail pro.

3. JOIN-UP: Become a member of a professional retail organization or association. Some may have student memberships—oftentimes with discounted membership fees—such as the Retail Design Institute ( Social media and other professional networks, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and, can be great places to expand your interests and meet like-minded retail groupies within existing organizations—or start one of your own!

4. LEARN SOMETHING NEW: No doubt, a regular weekly class is the last thing you want to do during summer, but to keep your brain from becoming complete mush, consider attending a seminar on a topic that you find interesting and is related to retail, fashion or design. Many local museums, schools and arts organizations have excellent speakers and seminars on a full range of topics. Or checkout online seminar resources such as: Watch something besides mindless, random YouTube videos and re-runs of your favorite reality TV shows.

5). RESUME BUILDING: A good rainy day project. While you may not think you have much work experience, if you are a recent grad, or will be soon, having a good resume on hand is the key to getting your foot in the door with any prospective job. A little experience can go a long way if presented in a well-organized, professional manner. If you are a design student, you are most likely building-up a portfolio that documents your student and non-student project work. While this is important, it is your resume that will be reviewed first by prospective employers. You don’t need to have years of experience to have a resume—but rather one that will be sure to keep you in the “call back” pile on the Human Resources desk. Find out from your friends, colleagues, parents or schools about a resume writing resource and schedule some time to get it done.

6). THINK CHRISTMAS & HOLIDAYS: Its true! For visual merchandising folks its not really summer without a little holiday glitter or fake snow in your hair! Summer is when all the display companies and retailers are gearing up for holiday production. Also, retailers start to make plans for hiring seasonal sales and operations staff. So, think about what retail businesses in your area might be bringing on freelance or part-time help once fall and the holiday season hit. Be prepared in advance (see #5 above).

And finally, don’t forget to chill-out and have some summer fun while you are at it!

—Peter-Tolin Baker is the founder and principal designer of New York City based P-T B Design Services. He provides creative visual design solutions for a range of retails stores, designer brands, exhibitions and promotional events. Previously, during Baker’s tenure at Tiffany & Co., he was responsible for visual merchandising and in-store promotions worldwide.  

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