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In Memoriam: Martin M. Pegler (1923 - 2020)

Martin M. Pegler, one of the retail industry’s most prolific writers and speakers on the subject of store planning, design, and visual merchandising, passed away on January 17, 2020. Pegler, an author, editor, educator, and lecturer who had turned 97 on January 11, was an established expert with more than 50 years of experience reporting on the creative aspects of the retail industry.

Pegler was the author or editor of some 80 books and numerous trade journal articles. He was a familiar face to decades of retail audiences in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the United States, and a professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the Display & Exhibit Design department for 30 years. The seventh edition of his book "Visual Merchandising and Display," co-authored by Anne Kong, FIT associate professor, was published in February 2018.

Said Kong, “Martin was an exquisite writer and lecturer. He could perceive details and design thinking with incredible accuracy. After examining a window display or store design, he was able to put a name to the concept or style that he observed. He coined so many of the professional industry terms and references we still use today.”

Martin Pegler loved his work, Kong continued, “He was always photographing a window or storefront on his international journeys to use in his next article or book. He had an incredible collection of sketchbooks from each one of his trips. He recorded architectural elements, places, and people and was inspired by different cultures.”

Kong met Pegler in 1984 as she began her teaching career at FIT. “Martin was an esteemed colleague, he was a professor, my mentor, a collaborator, an author, and a father figure. I loved him dearly. He was the needle on the compass."

In short, Pegler was, Kong observed, an influencer before the term became commonplace. "I will miss his honest frankness, his sharp wit and warm spirit, but most of all -- the twinkle in his eye," she continued. "Martin will be missed by a community of designers that spans the globe.”

Retail Design International Publisher John Burr commented, "There are scores of leading professionals throughout the industry who can thank Martin Pegler for the knowledge and inspiration that he provided them for furthering their careers." Burr added, “There is no one in our industry who has written so (much) on the subject of visual merchandising and store design. I worked with Martin for more than 25 years when he was editor of "Views & Reviews" as well as "Store Planning and Design."

Before beginning a second career in 1978 as a writer and educator, Pegler started out as an assistant to an assistant (washing paint brushes) in the art department of a company that made props and decoratives for department stores. He went on to become a partner in another similar business, which he sold in 1973.

During his long career, Pegler was recognized for his many contributions. He received New York State’s Chancellor Award for Excellence in Teaching. He was honored with Lifetime Achievement awards from both the Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE) and the International Housewares Association (IHA). Pegler worked with IHA Global Innovation Awards (GIA) from the beginning of the gia program in 2000 as an expert juror, and since 2016 as an honorary member of its Expert Jury. To honor Pegler’s leadership with the program, the GIA Top Window Award was renamed the Martin M. Pegler Award for Excellence in Visual Merchandising.

Additional honors included 1978 Display Person of the Year recipient from the National Association Display Industries. Memberships included the Point Purchase Advertising Institute, Institute of Store Planners (now Retail Design Institute), Society of Visual Merchandisers and American Society Interior Designers.

He is survived by his wife Susan, daughter Lysa, and son Adam, many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter Karen, who died in 2015.

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