Eastern Michigan introduces innovative virtual technology to retail merchandising program

Students use interactive software to create animated store experience

by Jeff Samoray, Published January 21, 2013

Imagine you're creating a high-end retail clothing store. Since you'll carry items by well-known designers, it's important to optimize your floor plan with the right fixtures and create enticing displays. You could take photographs of physical mockups and spend endless hours adding and removing product images. Or you could use a computerized, modeling tool to create a three-dimensional virtual retail layout, changing fixtures and merchandise with a simple mouse click.

Students in Eastern's Apparel, Textile and Merchandising program are doing the latter using Mockshop, a cutting-edge software program generously donated by Visual Retailing LLC, a U.K.-based visual merchandising company.

Julie Becker, assistant professor in the School of Technology Studies and director of EMU's Textiles Research and Training Institute, says it a snap to create complex animated store experiences with Mockshop.

"Students can quickly and easily build interactive three-dimensional stores of any size, complete with fixtures, garments and graphics," she says. "They can create and test concepts and floor plans virtually, without having to fold a single garment or disrupt any actual floor space. This software has brought our students up-to-date in the technology world."

Becker began researching visual merchandising products for the program before choosing Mockshop. Then she contacted Visual Retailing to request a licensure donation.

"I felt our program lacked a way to perform virtual merchandising," Becker says. "Mockshop is very robust-companies like Macy's, Target and Calvin Klein use it regularly. Eastern is one of the few universities in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana that offers Mockshop. That gives our students a competitive edge."

Visual Retailing recently donated a 50-user Mockshop license valued at $300,000 to Eastern. Additional licenses and software upgrades are available at no charge. In addition, Visual Retailing provided extensive software training to five Eastern faculty members before Mockshop was placed in the classroom.

"One of the best things about this wonderful donation is that it makes our program graduates very marketable," Becker says. "Since our graduates will already know how to use Mockshop, they will be very attractive to companies like Nike, Adidas, Columbia and others."

Becker will also use Mockshop in a research project comparing virtual and in-person retail experiences.

"I'm interested in learning if virtual retailing will change consumers' buying habits," she says. "Would you buy more from a virtual store if you could save time and money? Could a retailer become more profitable by maintaining virtual stores instead of brick-and-mortar stores? Software like Mockshop is quickly changing the way we shop and opening up exciting new areas for research."

For more information, go to the Apparel, Textiles and Merchandising Program homepage.


This story originally appeared in the 2012 Eastern Michigan University Foundation Annual Report.

Geoff Larcom



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