Mike Strato, Western Canadian Visual Merchandiser, Vans
Find out what a Visual Merchandiser does, and how Vancouver’s Mike Strato got in the game.
How long have you been with Vans?
Since 2010, I started the second week of the Vancouver Olympics.
So what do you do?
I’m the Western Canadian visual merchandiser for B.C. and Alberta. I take care of most of the independent retailers for this territory by keeping in-store and window visuals up to date, telling product and brand stories through seasonal P.O.P., making sure our fixtures are merchandised properly and sections are in order while adhering to the Vans standards. Recently, I also took on some new responsibilities, becoming the Lead VM for Vans Canada. As team lead, I am a communications link between my VMs and management, as well as dispersing information to the team. I also am continually trying to develop the crew to ensure we are consistently delivering high Vans visual standards and best practices.
“The most rewarding aspects of this position are working with the amazing independent shops we have in this country, and all the different characters that hold it down on the front lines.”
How did you get this job?
After reading about the position online, I called a good friend who had recently been hired as the new Alberta rep and asked him to put in a good word. I then applied online and got in touch with the marketing manager. He informed me that he’d be attending the KnowShow (the year it was out in Alberta). I then flew out to introduce myself, which turned into an interview from which I believe sealed the deal. Having a background as a rep for other footwear, snow and apparel brands was a strong asset.
What background was required for this role?
Most of what I do was learned on the go, as I had very little previous merchandising background, but I’m sure my past job as a rep helped immensely. Bobby Gascon helped me learn the ropes through his marketing expertise and my counterpart in the East, Bob Lasalle, helped me become somewhat of a vinyl wizard, as he has a background in wizardry.
What are the rewarding aspects of your job?
The most rewarding aspects of this position are working with the amazing independent shops we have in this country, and all the different characters that hold it down on the front lines. Canada should really feel special to still have a lot of Mom-and-Pop type shops and cherish these. Without them, our scene would lose a lot of flavor. Support your local businesses, kids.
Tell us about the not-so-exciting side of your job.
The biggest bummer would be having to leave on the road for such long periods of time and being away from the family. On the upside, with tech advances such and FaceTime and Skype, it doesn’t make things quite so bad.
Have you seen the industry and the retail environment change over the past few years? How has it affected your job?
Well, of course there’s the obvious, like all the big-box stores coming into our environment, but I only concentrate on independent shops, so this hasn’t affected me so much. The bat and ball sports companies invading the skate world have also been happening for a minute now, but it just helps the fire burn inside to keep doing what I’m doing for the right reasons. I want to help fly the skate flag higher for all the other true skate brands out there. Wear what you want, but at the end of the day always remember skaters, snowboarders and BMXers all created our own scene and will ultimately decide how it pans out.