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Reimagining Merchandising: O’More Students Design Goodwill Holiday Display

Wearing a red- and pink-striped shirt, a checkered newsboy hat, pink boots and a jumper, Savannah Lowe gave off elvish vibes as she perfected the geometry of a Christmas “book tree.”

Lowe was standing amid a holiday display every bit as eclectic as her outfit. It included baskets of toys and goodies, a festive piano and a garland-draped hat rack. It also featured the tree-shaped stack of paperback books atop a coffee table beside a plush red couch.

The display, entitled “Reimagine the Holidays with Goodwill,” was created entirely from Goodwill merchandise and was featured before and after Thanksgiving inside Goodwill’s retail store in the Bellevue community of west Nashville. It was the creation of Lowe and four other Fashion Merchandising students from the O’More School of Design at Belmont University — and it counted heavily toward their final class scores.

“I personally love thrifting, and I was real excited when we got to do this,” Lowe explained. “Most of the things in my apartment are from Goodwill. I like things that nobody else has that don’t cost a lot of money. It’s style on a budget.”

She said the potential for upcycling and repurposing of Goodwill’s merchandise inspired the concept of the display.

“You can find unique stuff at Goodwill, and we wanted people to see that your Christmas doesn’t have to be like everyone else’s — it’s your own, individualistic, and you can celebrate and decorate it the way you want,” she said.

Lowe said affordability was also a key message of the display, which was intended especially to capture the attention of millennials and other young people.

“For example, instead of using disposable boxes and wrapping paper for gifts, you can use reusable boxes like we did and decorate them with sequins or velvet,” she explained. “I know I have a big family and at Christmas we sometimes have lots of paper at the end of it — like three trash bags full. Reusable boxes are really a good way to limit trash and wastefulness.”

Jamie Atlas, chair of fashion for O’More’s School of Design in the College of Visual & Performing Arts, said the project taught her students to think about merchandising from the perspective of others — in this case Goodwill and its shoppers. She said the project was challenging because it required a lot of flexibility to represent Goodwill’s merchandise. Goodwill has millions of items in its stores, but rather than product lines such as found in a department store, the merchandise is often one-of-a-kind.

“Students typically only think of merchandising as it applies to a Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus or Belk, but there’s this whole other facet out there where their skills can be used,” she said. “And the biggest thing is filling the needs of others and giving back.”

Atlas said she liked the way her students selected vintage items to catch the eye of young people, and she thought the concept of repurposing items would have broad appeal.

“It has a little more emotion, and I think it’s more meaningful,” she said.

Goodwill store manager Nati Fulton said the display was extremely popular with customers and the only problem was keeping the pieces in place.

“Lots of people said it was beautiful, and then they immediately asked, ‘Is it for sale?’” she said, laughing.

Style with a purpose


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