Belfast window dressers named as UK's best

WE walk past them every day but two Belfast women are the best at making you stop and possibly enticing you to buy something.

That’s because Rachel Love Cameron and Sara Walsh are officially the UK’s top window dressers after seeing off the competition at the industry’s most prestigious visual merchandising competition, skillVM.

The Avoca staff from the lifestyle and homeware shop in Arthur Street beat their fellow artists from national retailers Gap and John Lewis in the heats of the competition before taking gold in the final at the In-Store show at Olympia, London.

Rachel and Sara built their window display in just three hours in the final of the contest, which is designed to highlight the amount of skill required to work in the retail sector.

Working under the full gaze of thousands of retail industry professionals and camera crews, the pair designed and built an entertaining ‘tea time’ display with blossom trees, tea and cakes, featuring themselves all dressed up as part of the design.

Taking the top award London was the culmination of months of hard work by the Avoca team, who first had to come through tough heats at Belfast’s CastleCourt shopping centre earlier in the year. But all the work paid off for Rachel and Sara who were delighted with the final result.

“We are so pleased and so excited,” said Rachel.

“We knew the standard of the competition was going to be high and we have been thinking about it for so long we just can’t believe it has actually happened. I have to admit we both had a bit of a Hollywood tear when they said that we had won.”

As well as being good news for the store and for each other she said the competition as a whole was good for the profession.

“VM is being seen more and more as a career and gaining recognition and it’s so good to see the profile is being raised and people are starting to see that it isn’t just window dressing – it’s the whole design of the store and not just making things look pretty. It’s very creative.”

Sara added: “I cant believe it. I’ve been beaming all day. I think our display got across what our shop offers. It’s not just the products – it’s the fun. People come in the store when they’ve had a bad day and it looks pretty and they feel happy.”

The win was also hailed as a boost for the retail sector in Northern Ireland retail as Skillsmart Retail national manager Noel Ferguson explained.

“The fact that a store from Belfast took on the UK’s finest and came away with first place really highlights just how good our retailers are and all I think that all of our retailers should be proud of what they have achieved. They built an absolutely fantastic display which would entice anyone into their store and I am absolutely delighted for them and for Northern Ireland retail.”