This post is also available in: DE
Marketing Manager at the Woha department store in Donauwörth and with the company for 28 years.
Jürgen Raab and Woha, that basically belongs inseparably together. For nearly 30 years the visual merchandiser, born in Aalen, has been working for the Donauwörth-based department store. “I moved here in 1992 from Kaufring Kaufhaus in Aalen,” recalls the 53-year-old. “But I was already involved in designing the new opening in the fall of 1991, following a two-year conversion and expansion phase. I am still impressed by the concept and the store today. When the owners, the Kißling family, made me the offer to take over the advertising and decoration department, I accepted it gladly and without hesitation,” enthuses Jürgen Raab.
Wide range of tasks throughout the company
After many years in the company, the trained showcase designer, who began his apprenticeship right after secondary school at the age of 15, is primarily responsible for the areas of visual marketing and advertising. In recent years, however, tasks such as social media and PR have also been added. “My area of responsibility is very diverse. I am responsible for the internal and external image of the company, for the staging and presentation of the goods, but I am also actively involved in the purchase of goods. Basically, I’m the contact person for pretty much everything that happens in a department store every day, whether it’s dealing with customers, suppliers or craftsmen,” explains Jürgen Raab and adds: “I discuss with the Kißling family what I’m planning and what my thoughts are. A huge plus is that I have a completely free hand. It is a very trusting basis on which it is great fun to work”.
Customer loyalty through extraordinary projects
Over the years, the company’s marketing manager has implemented many exciting ideas. As one of the “craziest projects” he names an autumn campaign some years ago. The planning for it began in spring and in connection with it a field was even leased: “Back then we sowed and grew pumpkin plants in the department store. When the weather was right for the planting, my team of eight people and I stood in the field to plant the pumpkins. We looked after our plants until the autumn and then harvested many, many pumpkins to give them to our customers to take home to shape. Afterwards there was a huge exhibition of the pumpkin artworks. We turned it into a big event on a Saturday. With raffle and pumpkin treats. The response and the frequency were incredible.”
To animate the customers to a visit at Woha, Jürgen Raab and his team focus on emotional relationship, extensive service and the creation of a pleasant purchase atmosphere: many companies try to reach their customers above all with favourable prices. Especially now. We do not do that. Of course there are offers now in the Sale. We also advertise our offers, but the shopping experience, exciting presentations, brand selection and advice are right at the top. That’s what we are known for and I think our customers also appreciate that”.
The future of retail and visual merchandising
As far as the future of the retail sector and above all of privately managed houses is concerned, according to Jürgen Raab, they are currently at a kind of crossroads: “I think customers really appreciate having department stores and stores in their city that are unique. In other words, stores that clearly follow one line, namely their own line. In future, many chain stores will continue to present their span and three mannequins in addition. Of course, there are exciting exceptions here as well. And it is of course something completely different whether I design and implement ONE appearance or whether the appearance I design has to be duplicated 150 times. I think that in the future the issue of costs – in terms of staff and material – will play an even greater role. This circumstance encourages some people to be more creative. For others, creativity unfortunately falls by the wayside”.
An important point in the context of perspectives for the visual merchandising sector is the education of VM junior staff. Visual merchandisers are also trained at Woha in Donauwörth. Even after many years in the business, Jürgen Raab still places great value on solid education and broad professional knowledge: “This means that my apprentices keep a perfect report booklet, know how to wallpaper and cover, know technical terms and are able to react flexibly to design requirements. I try to convey and encourage a ‘think around the corner’ approach,” says the experienced instructor, who defines his own creative trademarks as follows: “Clear lines and graphics. No frills. Clear visual statements. […] I try to combine the usual with the unusual, such as bathtubs at the bottom of the sea in which mannequins stand and shower.
Regarding the mannequins used, the experienced designer has no clear preferences here: “Depending on the theme, I use different types of mannequins, from egg-head to naturalistic, to concrete look or painted black and white. We also have a wide variety of manufacturers in our range. I try to use mannequins for a very long time. A regularly new finish works wonders. There are indeed mannequins that have been in my team for 28 years,” reveals Jürgen Raab with a smile.
Photos: Woha, Donauwörth