DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ha'aheo Zablan is in charge of visual merchandising for Macy's at Kahala Mall. Above, Zablan brought out and exchanged mannequins on display last week near one of the entrances to the store. He said he changes the fashions on the mannequins often, especially the younger types of fashions.
Ha'aheo Zablan helps Macy's make a good impression
Who: Ha'aheo Zablan
Title: Visual merchandising manager
Job: Creates and arranges product displays for Macy's at Kahala Mall.
Ha'aheo Zablan loves being creative, but he also keeps in mind that his goal as visual merchandising manager at Macy's in Kahala Mall is to drive customers into the store.
"Each person has their own style," Zablan said last week. "But with our displays and choice of mannequins, and how we present our products to our customers, we really need to understand that there are a lot of different styles out there. And that's really how we set up our stores."
Zablan joined Macy's two years ago after eight years with high-end clothing retailer Ralph Lauren, for whom he worked first in Waikiki, then in Las Vegas and finally in Palo Alto, Calif. He said he returned to Hawaii from the mainland in late 2005 to be near his parents, Darnell and Zane Zablan, whom he helped with home remodeling for a few months before going back to work, this time with Macy's, as a visual trimmer at its Ala Moana Center store.
He was promoted to his current position, at the company's Kahala store, in September 2006.
Zablan, 30, was born and raised on Oahu, though he graduated from Oakmont High School in Roseville, Calif., where he lived for a year with his father's sister and her husband, Maha and Ted Akana, and their children (his cousins) Jon and Theo.
Upon returning to Hawaii after his first time of living on the mainland, he worked as a cashier at a convenience store, then went into sales and ticketing for the Don Ho Show at the Waikiki Beachcomber.
He also attended Kapiolani Community College for awhile, until Ralph Lauren offered to transfer him to Las Vegas.
Zablan is single and lives with parents and his younger brother, Rambis, in Papakolea.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Zablan last week changed the decorative signs in one of the outside displays at the store. Ha'aheo Zablan says his goal as visual merchandising manager for Macy's at Kahala Mall is to help entice customers into the store and give them a good shopping experience.
What is your work title?
Ha'aheo Zablan: My title is visual merchandising manager.
Basically, as a senior executive in the building, we're tasked to create the best shopping experience for our customers. And what our function would be is to make the displays appealing, to really drive the footsteps into the door.
Q: Is visual merchandiser the same thing as a window dresser?
A: That is incorporated under our umbrella. What we have underneath the umbrella is visual trimmers, and depending on the size of the store, some stores don't have any, and some stores have one or two or more. There's a lot of different factors. It also can depend on the amount of buildings that we have. Like the Kahala store has two buildings, so we would have at least two: myself -- the visual merchandising manager -- and a visual trimmer.
Q: So what does it mean, "visual trimmer"?
A: It's almost like a sales associate. So that person would be more responsible for dressing the mannequins. In a smaller store, we do everything, but my trimmer acts more as a visual assistant. We split tasks.
Q: What's her name?
A: Leah Sakamoto.
Q: How many Macy's stores are there that you work on ?
A: I'm based out of Kahala, but right now we're bringing everyone on Oahu into the Ala Moana store, because we're doing some remodeling in our ready-to-wear areas. So we're bringing a lot of talents together to avoid having the process drag out, to get it done in a week and a half or so instead of four weeks. But basically I work at Kahala.
Q: What prompted you to go into this field -- watching Rhoda Morgenstern on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show"? Remember her? She was a window dresser, and had her own firm, "Windows by Rhoda."
A: (Laughter) Yeah. You know, I've been in retail about 10 years. I started in sales, and did different things in management, and I found that handling the product, merchandising and creating different things appealing to the customer is my passion. I've been with Macy's for two years, and with Macy's I found that in my current role I'm able to do all of that, in creating appealing displays for our customers, and in turn help drive sales in the stores.
Q: Did you start at Macy's as a visual merchandiser?
A:Yes. I started actually as a visual trimmer, at Ala Moana, in January 2006. Then in September 2006 I became visual merchandising manager at Kahala.
Q: What were you doing before you joined Macy's?
A: I worked for Ralph Lauren.
Q: In Hawaii?
A: In California -- Northern California.
Q: So what brought you Hawaii?
A: I'm originally from Hawaii. I was born and raised here. I moved away in 1998.
Q: Why did you do that?
A: With Ralph Lauren, I had the opportunity to grow, so I went to Las Vegas, stayed there for about four years, then moved to California.
Q: You started with them in Hawaii?
A: Yes. They used to have a store in the Royal Hawaiian. They still have a store at Ala Moana.
Are there a lot of visual merchandisers in Hawaii?
A: You know, there is, because each store, especially the boutiques, will have somebody that does that. They may not be called that; each company's structure is set up a little different. But I would say there is one person designated to do that. Especially if you look down Waikiki, most stores have windows, so I'm sure they each have at least one person designated to handle that, if not a designated team. And if they have more than one store, the team will travel to each of the stores.
Q: What are some of the skills you need to know? Sewing? Carpentry?
A: I wouldn't necessarily say sewing so much. I guess you could. In a larger scale, like Kahala, we work with outside vendors sometimes to create things like curtains or drapes. But familiarity with basic tools is good, with power tools. Also, I walk around with a tape measure. We also are responsible to make sure that our fixtures on the floor are gridded down, to make that we have clear aisles, and that our stores are neat, clean and easy to shop.
Q: What typically are your work hours?
A: Normally we try to get in fairly early in the morning. And basically we're a lot more effective in the morning because the store doesn't open until 10 during the normal times of the year, so we're not in the customer's way.
Q: You mean like you open earlier during Christmas season, for example?
Q: Do things get more crazy when there are special promotions? Or are special promotions pretty much the norm, from your perspective?
A: With us, we have consistent promotions throughout the year. Of course, the holidays or our fourth quarter is probably going to be elevated so far as the amount of work that needs to be done. But there's always special promotions, whether it be a cosmetics launch or introducing a new vendor to the floor.
Q: What do you think about how mannequins have changed in appearance through the years? Some of them these days, to me, barely look like humans.
A: Yeah, but what's gotten better over the years is their construction, and the composites they use are a lot lighter. They're easier to work with. Most times the limbs are magnetic, and also the actual frames of the body, weight-wise, are a lot better.
Q: But some have those funny faces.
A: Yeah, some have faces that don't look, you know, ... so depending on the vendor or the product we're using, we try to keep more traditional with our traditional vendors and we try to highlight more contemporary vendors with the more contemporary mannequins.
Q: Have you ever been criticized that the mannequins were dressed too risquely?
A: You know, at Kahala we're a pretty traditional store on the whole, and our typical customer is someone we see about once a week, so, yes, we have to be careful that the mannequin we choose and the way we dress the mannequin is appealing to our customers.
Q: What's the best thing you like about the job?
A: Every day is a challenge. Every day is something new. I'm a sponge, so I really try to absorb as much as I can on a daily basis, and this position gives me an opportunity to do that.
Q: Are you satisfied at Macy's? Do you miss the Ralph Lauren level of it all?
Q: I like Macy's because there's an opportunity to work with a lot of different types of vendors, whereas with a single, exclusive retailer you're challenged with how do you keep it fresh.
A: Are you involved in hiring at all?
Q: Yes, and not only for my particular area, because we're always looking for great talent. I'm a firm believer that you're only as good as the talent you surround yourself with.
Q: Are you looking for people with degrees in the field, or does that not matter so much?
A: We look, because we know it gives a fairly stable platform. But basically what we're looking for is an outstanding attitude and a passion for working with customers first. Everyone needs to understand that. That is the reason we're coming to work. Once we get that, everything else is trainable.
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