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Decorating Windows Meant for Peeping Into


COSTA MESA — Some would consider decorating an entire home for Christmas a daunting task. But imagine decorating a three-floor department store.

That's what Pamela Fry, visual display manager at Nordstrom's South Coast Plaza store, does every year. From windows to tables, she is in charge of creating ambience inside and out of one of the county's largest retail stores.

From 7 p.m. until 7 a.m., Fry directs her six-member staff and 100 assistants in hanging Yuletide banners, Christmas trees and ornaments the day before Thanksgiving. The 12 hours they spend decorating is not a typical day. But according to Fry, there is no typical day. That's one thing she likes most about her job.

"The variation on a daily basis is very appealing," says Fry, 39. "One day I might be up to my elbows in paint and another day I'm dressing a mannequin or working with mangers doing fixtures and lighting. You never know what you'll be doing next."

Fry started at Nordstrom four years ago after working for other major department stores in Southern California. A keen sense of color and style helped propel her through the ranks and she was promoted after working for the company only six months.

Fry creates and decorates seven of the store's windows. Each display can take as long as six weeks to assemble and is displayed for three weeks to a month, with a fashion change in between.

A native of Eureka, Fry first worked as a visual merchandiser for a small store in Northern California. After a month, she decided to make visual merchandising her career.


OCCUPATION: Visual Merchandiser

* What's involved: Creating and designing windows and in-store merchandising displays.

* Qualifications: Most visual merchandisers begin at small stores and work their way up to positions with large department stores. At a department store, they advance by demonstrating a sense of style and fashion. They also must have a knowledge of how to use colors and lighting and how to create an attractive setting. Experience in merchandising is also crucial.

* Outlook: By 1998, the number of visual merchandisers in Orange County is expected to increase by 16%, to 1,160 positions.

* Salary range: Starting pay at a major department store ranges from $8 to $12 per hour.

* Pros: Opportunity to use creative talents and imagination.

* Cons: Normally work more than a 40-hour workweek. Particularly before holidays, when visual merchandisers may work up to 60 hours in a week.

* Advancement: Visual merchandisers can move up from decorating and merchandising for a single store to becoming managers responsible for many stores.

* Quote: "We're like the fashion police. (Our displays) set the tone for what you expect to get in the store."

Pamela Fry

Researched by VALERIE WILLIAMS-SANCHEZ / Los Angeles Times

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