Window of Opportunity for Best Retail Artists

The finest teams of retail artists in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will battle it out this month to be crowned the UK’s number one visual merchandiser.

The ten pairs of visual merchandisers (VMs) compete in student and professional categories, building full-scale window displays on the theme ‘Future of Retail: 2060’ at the grand final of skillVM, the UK’s only live window dressing competition.

Held at the In-Store Show (part of Marketing Week Live) on Tuesday 29th and Wednesday 30th June at Olympia in West London, the 20 finalists will create their windows in front of thousands of industry professionals, all looking for the latest and most innovative retail ideas.

In the student category of skillVM, organised by Skillsmart Retail, 17 teams competed at heats held in Cardiff, where they brought their designs to life by making scale models. The five teams to make the final are:

  • Kirsty Hoadley (18), Sophie Colborne (20) – East Berkshire College
  • Lesley Armstrong (26), Cora Kavanagh (24) – Hugh Baird College, Liverpool
  • Toni Becker (21), Emma Harris (19) – Hugh Baird College, Liverpool
  • Chi Ho Lai (26), Sze Ho Wu (26) – London College of Fashion
  • Polly Crane (21), Hannah Cook (19) – University of Glamorgan

In the professional retailer category, the finalists were chosen purely on the merit of their initial design submissions. They are:

  • Adele Marshall (30), Lisa Ward (28) – IKEA, Belfast
  • Lauren Corless (26), Suzanne Ball (26) – John Lewis, Trafford, Manchester
  • Christine Russell (38), Gillian Bennett – John Lewis, Glasgow
  • Lisa Fifer (33), Shelley Fifer (29), Marmalade, Axminster, Devon
  • Michelle Snelling (35), Sarah Chadwick (25), Peter Jones, Chelsea, London

The skillVM judging panel features former Big Brother housemate and professional visual merchandiser Kris Donnelly, who will help choose the winners alongside senior judges Alan Westcott and Neil Morgan.

Kris said:

“When I came into this competition I had no idea just how many amazing VMs there were, and to see them spread across the whole of the UK and not just in London, is also testament to the great strength we have in retail. All ten teams have produced eye-catching designs and I now can’t wait to see how they translate these ideas from paper into the real thing.”

Skillsmart Retail Chief Executive, Anne Seaman added:

“As well as creating shop windows, the contestants will be putting themselves in the shop window. Taking part in skillVM and performing in front of so many retail decision-makers is an opportunity that money can’t buy.”

skillVM, was created in 2008 by Skillsmart Retail, to show off the wealth of talent within retail, which remains the UK’s number one private sector employer with three million employees. The competition is part of WorldSkills UK and backed by a number of private and public bodies including In-Store Show, UK Skills, MockShop, EDI, City & Guilds, Scottish Government and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG).

Lesley Griffiths, Deputy Minister for Skills, Innovation and Science at WAG said:

“Skills competitions encourage people to reach their full potential and recognise the importance of craftsmanship across all trades and vocations. It is vital that our workforce has the very highest skills and we continue to strive for excellence across all sectors to compete on the international stage.”

Full competition details, images from the heats and last year’s competition, judge biographies and information on how to get involved, can be found at

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