Course Details

This Visual Merchandising and Retail Display online short course will develop your understanding of the key concepts in visual merchandising. Delivered over 10 weeks, this practical course will help you build the skills needed to create a portfolio for visual retail display.

Start Date
5th July 2023
QQI Level 5
Portobello Institute
Course Duration
10 weeks


Designing product displays and shopping experiences is an essential element of fashion marketing and visual merchandisers are key members of the marketing team employed to maximise sales.

Portobello Institute’s QQI Level 5 Minor award in Visual Retail Display gives a comprehensive overview of the practical techniques and methods used in industry today. This visual display course is part of our popular Business of Fashion portfolio of courses and is available to study as a single module.

This module is run over ten weeks, during which you will attend 4 interactive webinars scheduled at different points during the programme. You will learn to apply all the core skills of visual merchandising, from using colour and arrangement to capture attention, lighting techniques, use of graphics, styling mannequins, point of sale displays, seasonal displays, and sale and clearance promotions.

Once completed, you can choose to progress onto one of our many other courses in the business of fashion. Or you can choose to complement the skills you will acquire during this course with the business skills of fashion buying and merchandising which is available as part of a booking package.

Why should I study this course?

This course is ideal if you have an interest in the creative skills needed to deliver imaginative visual retail displays. It is suited to those seeking to explore the role of a Visual Merchandiser, learn to create their own stunning visual displays, and to anyone looking to find a way in to this interesting and rewarding career.

The award you will achieve upon completing this course, can form the academic basis for continuing your learning journey to a degree or if you already hold a degree, to a postgraduate certificate in Fashion Buying and Merchandising. This course is also an excellent choice if you are interested in adding new skills to your existing role. It is also suited to you if or you are interested in exploring a possible career change and would like to gain more insight before committing to a longer programme of study.

“Fashion is about something that comes from within you”

- Ralph Lauren

Who will recognise my qualification?

Upon completion of this course you will hold a QQI Level 5 minor award in Visual Retail Display (5N1861).

What will I study during this Visual Retail Display – QQI Level 5 – Starts July ’23 course?

During this course you will learn the skills essential that underpin required as a visual merchandiser.

You will learn the key characteristics, processes and terms involved in visual merchandising and display.

This module also investigates the purpose and activities of promotion in the fashion industry and you will develop a promotional display for a fashion retailer.

During this course you will cover the following topics;

  • Interpret key terminology and features in relation to display and presentation of products for sale in the retail environment
  • Examine the key principles and theories relating to merchandising and product display design.
  • Analyse the characteristics of a range of materials and retail display components available to the retail sector.
  • Analyse the impact of a range of factors on the design of a retail display to include customer needs, retail ethics, location, type of goods, stock rotation and retail environment.
  • Analyse key legislation in relation to retail display to include public liability, sale of goods and consumer rights.
  • Evaluate the use of lighting and background colour in merchandising.
  • Discuss the impact of marketing and branding on retail display.
  • Analyse the health and safety implications of a retail display.
  • Suggest health and safety initiatives aimed at improving safety in relation to a retail display.
  • Design a retail display to include appropriate materials and construction.
  • Create a thematic display relevant to a specific retail context and product.
  • Employ the use of a range of graphics to communicate pricing and offers to customers of a retail outlet.
  • Assess the impact of security considerations on the design of a retail display.
  • Assess the suitability of various locations within a retail unit for positioning of product displays.
  • Suggest suitable display types for a range of retail contexts to include self service, self selection and personal service.
  • Retail (Visual) Display

    This module explores the fundamentals of visual display. You will learn the principles of design, basic composition inducing spatial design, modular display systems and the finished artwork presentation of mood and sample boards. During this module you will learn the techniques of in–store displays including the effects of lighting, appropriate signage, store design and layout, short and long term displays and points of sale. You will learn how to create eye-catching and innovative displays that will draw the customer into the retailer and prove the success of your window design. You will also learn how to tailor visual displays to reflect seasonal promotions.

Who will I learn from?

Programme Manager

Anne Marie McAuley

‘I absolutely love what I do and genuinely embrace supporting a person to develop and grow. I encourage and promote people at all levels to maximise their potential and hopefully instill a sense of purpose.

The are many careers one can pursue when completing a Portobello Institute fashion course. Part of my role is to help and support you to find the best path.’


After graduating from college in the USA with degrees in Business and Psychology, I initially worked as a milieu counsellor with young adults presenting with social and developmental difficulties – I was all about saving the world and think I still can – which was fantastic and the insights I gained in that role have helped me through my own journey to this day.

I always loved fashion, when I was small and then through my teenage years. I always wanted the latest trendy gear, constantly adapting my clothes myself to be a bit different. I was the first of my friends to have a pair of drainpipe jeans (known as skinnies these days!). I always had a part-time job in retail through school and in college at stores like Macy’s and Lord and Taylor.

My first job in a department store was at Christmas time and I was tasked with selling cashmere sweaters, the only section that the full time and staff with tenure would allow me to work in as I was the ‘blown in college student’. I soon figured out that my best customer demographic was the panicked husband looking to purchase a gift for his wife and willing to spend ‘whatever to make her happy’ and of course who does not love cashmere – Cha-Ching! I did more in sales than anyone in the department and as we were commission-based, I was a very happy student. I was destined for a career in retail and fashion and I never forgot the importance of knowing your customer.

I then secured a job in Saks Fifth Ave as an assistant – really just running around New York picking up samples for photos, answering telephones, dressing mannequins, and doing whatever I was told to do, all the time absorbing and learning as much as I could. Back then being around designers like Michael Kors, Diane Von Furstenberg, and Ralph Lauren was an everyday occurrence.

I worked hard and soon became a junior buyer and then senior buyer, I loved my job. I move into the retail operations at Saks as I wanted to develop my skills and I found that leading, coaching, and developing people to also do well was one of my favourite parts of the job. I soon was heading up new store opening teams and one of my greatest achievements was the opening of the San Fran Store. It takes a huge team effort to train several hundred new staff and merchandising the store for opening. I travelled all over the country and enjoyed every day at Saks.

I moved back to Ireland where I secured the role of Retail Operations Manager of The Body Shop Ireland. I had always loved the product and admired their business ethos and not testing on animals. It soon became clear that there were huge challenges within the group around staff training and development which I embraced and was thrilled to be able to use my American experience to influence major decisions in changing the direction of The Body Shop. I also attended any training sessions that the company had for senior management to consistently develop my own skills in leadership and management. While at The Body Shop, I looked at how we could develop the business and came up with a body shop concession concept for pharmacies. We started with one and now there are 150 and the concept has been copied across Europe.

I decided to step away from the role when we were adopting my beautiful girl from Vietnam. For the next few years, I worked as a consultant in retail, so my schedule was flexible, and partnered with companies like Claire’s Accessories, New Look, The Health Store Group, I also became a qualified trainer as helping, teaching, and supporting people were always top of my list.

I applied for the role of a tutor at Portobello Institute and started with delivering QQI level 6 business planning and then an opening came up in the fashion department to teach the buying and merchandising module. Wow, to be able to combine my qualifications, my fashion and business experience with my love of helping people to become successful while still being there for my daughter – fantastic. Of course, because it is in my nature to be a leader, yet still embrace inclusivity, I became the programme manager and have developed the fashion programme to be the number one course in the country. I am also on the panel of mentors of Enterprise Ireland, on the panel of trainers with the Education Training Board.

Why did you choose to work in education?

I understand that to be a teacher is truly a calling of not just the mind, but the heart as well. I believe that great teachers are good at explaining content, are patient, yet firm with students, are always fair, set high expectations, know how to motivate, and use humour appropriately. Being an excellent communicator who has a command of the subject matter is really important. I have forged my own style of teaching that draws on my strengths, knowledge, skills, values, and experiences yet fully realising I still have much to learn and develop and I am always learning from my peers and my students.

I have chosen education as a career because I believe that education is perhaps the most important function performed in our culture, or for that matter, any culture. I believe that teachers individually and collectively can not only change the world, but improve it, and in the process find personal and professional renewal. I love being to be part of this noble profession and hope to continue to inspire all the students I meet.

Empathy is of huge importance to me and understanding that no matter how someone presents themselves to you there are always things going on behind the scenes. I know this from experience and have learned the importance of understanding that everyone learns differently while at the same time a tutor must balance that with the demands of the professional industry that the students want a career in.

The fashion industry is demanding and challenging. It is my role to fully prepare students for the reality of those challenges.

Your experience as a Programme Manager

As a Programme Manager, I can develop the course content, so that it remains up to date and relevant. I can utilise my connections in the industry to connect our students with the best companies to fulfill their dreams of a career in fashion. I can ensure we have the best team of tutors who are all on board with our philosophies, and I can share my experience and learn from everyone on the team. I get to inspire and I enjoy every day that I am part of Portobello.

Why Portobello?

I have chosen to work at Portobello because I am afforded the opportunity to bring my unique style to the classroom. I get to work with a super team of individuals. I am respected and valued for my input. Yes, we have policies and procedures like any strong organisation has but I get to have fun at work.

We have smaller classes in Portobello which allows us to connect with each student as an individual. We have a holistic approach to education and can balance the academic content required while putting our students’ emotional and psychological needs to the fore.

We have a team of people here at Portobello who all want our student base to succeed, from the academic team to the support team in the office. We are always thrilled to share great news stories about our students especially those who have overcome many obstacles before they arrived at Portobello and during their time with us.

A student should choose to study with us because they will have the journey of their lives while being supported the whole way through and beyond.

Check out our Business of Fashion department here.

Follow @fashionportobello on Instagram to watch Anne Marie McAuley Instagram Live interviews with tutors and students.

What Students Say

Stephanie Burns – Fashion Buying & Merchandising

“Anne Marie has the rare ability to make learning both interesting and enjoyable. Through the amazing stories of her first-hand experience in international business and her unique and fun teaching methods, she was able to inspire me in a way of wanting to be the best student that I could be. I was scared of going back to education after a long absence, but Anne Marie made the transition so easy.  She encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, helped me recognize my strengths, and gave me the confidence that I needed to go forward and pursue my dream career in the fashion industry. She is both encouraging and inspiring, and I feel so lucky to have been one of her students. She truly changed my life.

Mpho Morwaeng – Business Planning

“Being a student of Anne Marie’s has been the best experience in my tertiary education. I enjoyed each and every single class with her. Being an international student, coming all the way from Botswana to be in her class was worth it and it’s an experience I will cherish forever. She was always supportive, positive, and patient with me, in and out of class she was available to assist me with my studies. She did not criticize, she encouraged. She motivated and inspired me to do my best. She treated us equally in class and it made me feel free to ask questions and participate in class. Not only did she teach theory, but she was also very practical and demonstrated how everything applies in the real world. I will carry with me the knowledge and skills I gained from her forever.”


  • Bachelor’s Degree Psychology
  • Bachelors Degree Business
  • QQI Level 6 Train the Trainer
  • QQI level 6 Supervisor
  • Currently completing MA in Counselling

Research / Industry Participation

  • Developed the Student Internship Programme partnered with Industry leaders Primark, Brown Thomas, Arnotts, Pamela Scott, Lifestyle Sports, Diesel etc.
  • Mentor for Enterprise Ireland
  • Mentor for Meath Partnership
  • Panelist of Trainers for ETB


Personal Academic Tutor

Each student is assigned a personal academic tutor to support you throughout your learning journey. They are available to offer you telephone and email support at any time. You can arrange to meet them for further one to one guidance at a time convenient to you.

Many of our past graduates have found it is the opportunity to ask a simple question, seek direction and submit a draft of their assessment that supported them most to successful completion. Emailing your tutor at any stage during your programme to ask a query or submit a draft of your assessment supports you to achieve your personal best throughout your studies with Portobello.

This level of one to one support is a particular benefit to choosing Portobello as your Institute of choice to complete your studies.

How will I learn?

Delivery Mode

This QQI Level 5 award has been specifically designed for delivery by blended learning. It is very suited to you if you want to study from home whilst gaining this qualification.

The practical workshops are delivered by interactive online webinars delivered by our experienced tutors. These webinars are designed to support your practical skills development. There are four webinars which take place on the dates detailed below. These are recorded should you miss a date, you can catch up later.

During the induction, you will be given your log-in details to the online portal,  “ePortobello”. Here you will find course notes, reading lists, articles of interest and assessment guidelines. The content is structured in an easy to “find and follow” format. You will need basic computer skills such as searching the internet and typing a word document.

There is one to one expert tutor support available to you throughout your learning journey. You can upload your assessments and your tutor will give you feedback on whether you are on the right track.

Blended learning allows you to study at your time, in a location convenient to you, with support available when you need it.

Course Structure

Portobello Institute’s Visual Merchandising and Retail Display course is a blended learning course, a mix between online learning and webinars. The content is all available on ePortobello and is in an easy to follow “week by week” format. The practical element of this course is delivered by interactive webinar.

What is a Webinar?

A webinar, in the context of online learning, is a lecturer delivering a presentation or class online to a group of students. We use specifically designed e-learning software so you can participate in the class just as if you were present in the same room. You can ask a question of the lecturer at any stage during the class. The software is designed with “break-out rooms” where you can discuss a topic or complete a group exercise with a smaller group from your class. You will need a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone that has an internet connection, an audio facility so you can hear and speak during the class and a camera so your lecturer and fellow class participants can see you. The webinar is a secure online environment and only those permitted entry by the lecturer can gain access to the “classroom”.


Academic Calendar

This course is delivered over 10 weeks starting 5th July until 6th September ’23, with classes held by interactive webinar from 6.45pm – 9.30pm on the following evenings.

  • 5th July ’23
  • 26th July ’23
  • 23rd August ’23
  • 6th September ’23

Webinars are recorded so you may catch up later if you are unable to attend.

How will I be assessed?

A variety of assessment methods are used to support students with different learning styles. These vary from practical displays, skills demonstration and short reports.

Speak to an expert

Choosing a course that will lead you to your career of choice is a significant decision. Understanding the delivery modes, supports available, career opportunities and further study options are all key considerations when making your choice. Our course adviser team are experts in the courses Portobello offers, the employment prospects and possible progression routes to other programmes – they will guide you through the detail and support you with any queries you may have.

It is important you make the right choice for you and choose the Institute and course that will best suit your needs.

Your Consultant

How do I apply?

Entry to this course is by direct application to the college.

Application Process

Step 1

The process for applying for this programme is straight forward.

Step 1 – Complete the online booking form and pay the appropriate deposit.

Step 2 – You will receive email confirmation of receipt of your application, payment of fees and confirmation of a place on the course.

Step 3 – Three days before the course commences, you will receive further information such as log-in details for our virtual learning environment etc.




Fees & Payment Options


Course Price

Per academic year.


Full Payment

Total amount payable.