5 MINUTES WITH…Keri SheehanFounder of Tribe Creative London

Meet Keri. The VM extraordinaire who will be kicking off an exciting new residency at the Retail School.

Following a 15 year career in visual merchandising with brands such as H&M, Burberry and Arcadia, Keri applied her wealth of expertise and founded Tribe Creative London; a leading retail design and VM agency. With many different ventures now under her belt, including build concepts for garden retailer Wyevale, delivering four flagship concessions at Debenhams and interior styling for Hello! Magazine, we know the real icing on Keri’s cake is her new partnership with The Retail School here at WBC (or so we like to believe).

When did you first know you wanted to be a part of the world of interiors?

I developed my love of design and home interiors from my mum. She has a really good eye for creating a scheme, and loved decorating at home. Growing up I spent most of my spare weekends following her up and down the wallpaper aisles of DIY stores, as she held lampshades and fabric swatches against different prints until she found the one she was happy with. I loved it, because I would leave with my own offcuts and then happily tear them all up to cover schoolbooks, create new patterns or make paper clothes to stick on top of my Fashion Wheel crayon creations!

What can someone expect from a consultation with you?

Above all expect to leave enthused and excited about your project. I love talking through creative concepts and processes with clients. I enjoy the journey that an idea can go on in just a few hours together; sharing thoughts, listening, sketching and absorbing all the information they are eager to share and receive feedback on.

What are clients normally looking for when they book that initial meeting?

Some clients come to me with a very clear picture of what they want for their brand, and are simply looking for an experienced team of visual merchandisers to understand and deliver their vision for them. Others have a concept but need design support and direction on props, POS and equipment to take the concept from a “sketch up” or rendered drawing to 3D reality.

Then there are the clients who really know their brand or product, and are looking for an agency that can create a concept that they feel is right to execute at a PR show, trade stand or within a window or in-store campaign, for example. This is where Tribe Creative London and our three services ‘create, design, and deliver’ come to life.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Without sounding cliché, I am genuinely inspired daily by most of what I see around me. I use an Instagram hashtag on some of the pictures I snap called #iseepatterneverywhere, because I literally do! My husband is a real food enthusiast and loves Borough Market. When I go to with him I drive him mad slowing him down while I photograph the stalls; it’s the colour, order and uniformity of the rows of produce that interests me. The pattern and texture humble vegetables create are captivating! I use the photos I take and turn them into surface designs.

Borough Market

Borough Market

Without a doubt though, travelling to countries that expose you to new sights and sounds really is the best inspiration. Morocco, Costa Rica and Vietnam in particular stood out for me when I saw how they could take basic building materials and use them to create innovative and sharp looking displays and shop fits. I would love to travel to India next, but I think my brain would go into sensory overload and melt down!

The Tribe Creative Team in Marrakech

The Tribe Creative Team in Marrakech

Visual merchandising is very tailored to the retailer or business in question, but is there any advice that you can give in general to those wanting to improve their space? What are your top dos and don’ts?

Lighting, lighting, lighting! It’s key in creating the right environment, setting the ambiance and showing your product in the best way. So do consider the way in which you are lighting your retail space and do try to create different lighting zones.

Carry out a customer journey on a daily basis – walk your space through the customer’s eyes, it’s vital to ensure that the vista and sight-lines are inspirational and engaging as the consumer navigates their way around the space. Retailers often use zoning to identify these areas in their stores. Once recognised, they can be used for promotions, seasonal campaigns or eye-catching displays.

De-clutter and create order. This is a must to make any space work for you. Align fixtures, balance heights, and keep your sight-lines from front to back open. Also establish a kit of parts that is made up of 3-5 components to create an identity for your space, and draw the eye to the product, rather then to a sea of mixed retail fixtures, props or stands; all fighting against each other for visual stand-out.

Wyevale Garden Centre

Wyevale Garden Centre

Don’t think that flooding your space with POS to highlight a campaign, reductions or new collections will improve the store look and drive sales…it really doesn’t. It confuses the customer and too many offers, discounts etc. with excess POS devalues your brand. Keep POS consistent, clean and balanced. Don’t overkill and don’t block sightlines. See WBC’s new range of POS products to help you create the right look and feel for your store.

Do you have any favourite spots to eat and shop?

Well if money, time and travel wasn’t an issue I would start every day with a cream cheese bagel at Katz’s Deli on Ludlow Street in New York, then head to the High Line area for shopping at the Chelsea indoor market, finishing at Artists and Fleas. It’s a really inspiring space seeing the way in which independent retailers and artists thrown together in one space use VM and displays to make their brand and product stand out. Lunch would be at the Café Clock in Marrakesh. This is an amazing place with great music and art – it’s a real creative hub with a blend of old Marrakech magic that meets the new emerging scene that’s constantly evolving there. Obviously this would be followed by hours of bartering and shopping in the medina at Jemaa el Fna Square. Then back to London for dinner at the best pizza ever at Santa Maria Pizzeria, which is just walking distance from my home in Ealing.

Santa Maria Pizzeria in Ealing

Santa Maria Pizzeria in Ealing

 Talk us through a day in your busy life?

My days are varied, but the first thing I have to do once I’m awake is put some music on – I can’t function without it! What to play is my first decision of the day!  I’m ashamed to say that within 5 minutes of being awake I also check Instagram to see what’s been going on overnight.  I follow lots of NYC based brands and agencies so there are normally a quite a few posts to review. Then I catch up on emails.

That’s the only part of my day that is consistent… I can be working from home one day, taking care of all the agency admin, booking travel for the Tribe Creative London team, processing invoices or working on projects.  Other days I am out and about, meeting clients, manufacturers, discussing projects or visiting trade fairs, retailers or museums. I’m always looking for new ideas and am forever taking photos.

My favourite kind of busy though is on site with my visual merchandising team. I love the practical side of the Tribe Creative London agency and I am still a VM girl at heart. Working with the team is so satisfying and standing back after a long nightshift, admiring our work gives me huge satisfaction. Especially when the clients arrive and are thrilled with the results, that always gives me a real buzz.

 What brand/retailer/space would you most love to VM?

That’s really tricky as I love so many, but I think my home interiors and textile passion would win over fashion retailers, and I would chose Designers Guild on the Kings Road. The store is like a global journey through colour, texture and print – it just makes me smile. Ultimately to visual merchandise for a home interior magazine like Elle Décor – styling and dressing room sets for various brands and lifestyle features would be great…. as long as I could still run Tribe Creative London though, I wouldn’t want to give up that.

Keri's dream VM job - Designers Guild

Keri’s dream VM job would be Designers Guild on London’s Kings Road

 Are there any exciting projects you are working on you can share with us?

I have a five year plan for Tribe Creative London and am currently in year two. Ultimately it will involve a retail space for Tribe products, one of which I am working on now is a scented candle range featuring fragrances that remind me of my travels.

I also have Tribe Marrakesh in the bag, and am planning two more travel locations I need to find the right fragrance blend for. I have the packaging and branding ready to go, so I’m excited to see them through to completion, and then think about what the rest of the Tribe product mix will look like. I think if you want to stand out in the crowd as a retail and visual merchandising design agency then you should put your money where your mouth is and open up a retail space that sets the goal for VM and retail design excellence. There is no greater measure of your success for a client then to practice what you preach, and I intend to do just that in the next few years.  This doesn’t impact on my agency work though as I am a real night owl, so the day job is all about the client and in the evenings I work on my goals and projects for Tribe Creative.

 What interior trends will we see emerging this season?

Luxe continues in home adornment and copper hasn’t lost its momentum. If anything it is becoming even more mainstream; it’s not just in the design showrooms or high end stores this season, its everywhere and I love it. Gold is still strong and rose gold is also slowly creeping in to the interiors scene.

There is also a reincarnation of the up-cycling look. This season it has lost its shabby, vintage feel and has more of an industrial, warehouse loft-living vibe. Very much like the BRIX displays at WBC, so well done guys, you are bang on trend!

WBC's BRIX modular retail display system

WBC’s BRIX modular retail display system

Houseplants and greenery are also key for 2016. How you display them is what will set you apart from the rest. Non-traditional ways of displaying houseplants (upside down in planters or hanging in Macramé for example) are featuring more and more in contemporary interior styling. However you wish to work this look in, there are many different techniques out there.


Macramé plant hangers

 Any favourite brands or designers? We heard you love using BRIX hint, hint.

Yep, BRIX of course, especially now there are some great new copper lines in the fixtures range, they caught my eye straight away!

When it comes to my own personal style, I’d live in jeans and denim shirts if I could, but my wardrobe is mostly full of Free People, Zara, H&M or charity shop/vintage market finds. I switch from boho to sports luxe depending on the weather and my mood, so these brands always have something I love. I also have a bit of a trainer addiction, which I need to keep in check due to wardrobe space!

 Do you have a motto?

I have one that I stole from my husband. It’s so perfect for anyone with a busy manic life and it was like an epiphany when he first threw it at me. I use it all the time now and even preach it to my team when we are up against it on jobs.

“Focus on what you can control or influence and don’t waste your time worrying about what you cant”

Prior to that my motto was “Shit Happens” so his is far more inspiring!

 And finally, how would you spend your perfect day off?

A lie in with my husband, followed by browsing around vintage fairs in the sunshine, a lunch and cocktails with family/friends, and then on to an outdoor festival to listen to live music as the sun sets over London.

Catch Keri at her next training course – keep an on the Retail School page at wbc.co.ukNew dates added frequently

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *