5 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Window Displays

IndependentsOct 02, 2019

5 Tips for Creating Eye-Catching Window Displays

Retail and design experts share advice on creating show-stopping windows in time for the holiday rush.

A crowd gathers in front of Saks Fifth Avenue’s New York City flagship store to see the retailer’s holiday window display. (Photo courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue)

New York—Elaborate window displays are harbingers of the holiday season, beckoning shoppers closer with twinkling lights and festive décor.

Every year, tourists flock to Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and other New York City shopping landmarks, to marvel at the winter wonderlands constructed behind glass.

The show-stopping displays are the result of a big team of creative geniuses, and an even bigger budget.

National Jeweler reached out to experts for advice on how smaller retailers can also get in on the holiday fun.

1. Prepare the window area.

Before getting to the fun part of designing the display, retailers need to do some leg work.

“A starting block of the utmost importance is meticulously cleaning and stripping back your window display area,” David Ewart, lead interior designer at Pavilion Broadway, wrote in an email to National Jeweler Tuesday.

The home goods retailer, based in Broadway, England, has two showrooms, in the counties of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire.

Ewart recommends polishing the windows, of course, but also cleaning the ceiling and the lighting, and removing any clutter from the background so retailers can begin with a blank canvas.

2. Build your tool kit.

Ewart shared what he keeps in his trusty, go-to toolbox: a tape measure, scissors, double-sided tape, a hammer, screwdriver, screws, tacks or nails, a pencil and a glue gun.

“Nine out of 10 problems can be fixed with the kit above,” he said.

The exact tools to have on-hand will depend on the theme, but retailers may also need invisible hanging wire, or super-thin nylon thread, a scalpel and a spirit (bubble) level.

3. Keep it simple and customer-centric.

After the area is cleaned and the tool kit is assembled, it's time to start designing the window display.

“The first thing you want to think about is, ‘How do I get someone who would otherwise walk by my store to stop?’” said Kevin Mullaney, CEO of The Grayson Company, a New York-based retail consulting firm.

A “Christmas in the City” holiday display in the window of Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue flagship. (Photo courtesy of Lord & Taylor)The Grayson Company’s client list includes Bulova, Citizen, Godiva, The Museum of Modern Art and several museums under the Smithsonian Institution umbrella.

Mullaney recommended retailers that have turning traffic counters turn them outward to see how many potential customers are walking past versus coming in.

“If you can get them to stop, that’s a game changer.”

He said windows are the most underleveraged asset small retailers

have, noting the most successful displays are focused on what the customers want to buy.

“Take the things you sell the most of and figure out what story they’re telling,” he advised. “Amplify that story back to the customer.”

Ewart, the designer from the English shop, said the biggest mistake retailers can make when designing a display is overcomplicating and cluttering the background.
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The more space in a display, the more value is given to the objects within it, he said.

Overly elaborate backgrounds and windows stuffed with goods convey a lack of confidence in the product.

“Be confident in your product and let décor and flourishes accentuate it rather than detract from its elegancy and beauty,” he said.

4. Create a focal point.

A jewelry store’s window is unique in that the items on display are fairly small and most likely need to be put away at the end of the day.

“When creating a focal point for delicate, dainty items such as jewelry, it is important not to crowd your background with overly distracting colors, shapes and figures, and to draw attention to the foreground,” Ewart said.

A Tiffany & Co. holiday window display recreates Rockefeller Center, accessorized with Tiffany watches. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany & Co.)

He pointed to legacy retailers, like Saks Fifth Avenue and London department store Harrods, whose displays often feature simple, minimalist background décor, with a clear focus on the product in the foreground.

For inspiration on how to showcase small items in a big way, Mullaney recommended looking to Apple stores, known for their creative display of small items.

Ewart also advised making sure the display is easily accessible so the jewelry can be removed at the end of the day without disturbing the scene.

“The last thing you want to do is recreate your display at the beginning of every day before opening,” he said.

5. It’s not about the money.

Department stores have big budgets to spend decking the halls, but a little creativity can make a small budget go a long way.

Mullaney noted some of the best displays he’s seen required very little to create.

He recalled a store in New York’s Grand Central station that filled its small display window with rows and rows of ornaments, creating a dazzling effect.

“Cheap and cheerful wins the day,” he said.
Lenore Fedowis the associate editor, news at National Jeweler, covering the retail beat and the business side of jewelry.

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