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Monday, December 15, 2008

Retail Window Displays Matter

Two weeks ago, I received an inquiry from Annie Karni, News Editor and Senior Writer for The New York Post's Page Six Magazine. She was working on a feature story on Bergdorf's and Barneys' holiday window displays for and had come across my post about Engaging The Consumer... Via Store Windows! and Linda Fargo. Would I answer some questions, she asked?

More specifically,

+ Why are talked about window displays important to a store?
+ Do they help drive sales?
+ Do they help establish a store's reputation?
+ Aside from creating beautiful street art, why is it important for these department stores to invest time and money in their windows?

Here is how I answered.

Stores bring people and products together. Stores lead to shopping, and possibly to a decision to purchase. The most successful stores engage all of the senses to seduce shoppers into becoming buyers.

Store windows start the romance between shoppers and the products within the store. They start a conversation, generate curiosity and excitement about what's happening inside the store. They communicate to passers by the store's soul, its brand and personality. They set expectations about the store -- 24/7 and for all who pass by.

Store windows are critically important and need to change frequently [Paco Underhill says approximately every 2 weeks; Linda Fargo says every 2 to 3 weeks] to encourage people to return and revisit. Keeping the windows updated and fresh signals how much the store cares, how passionate it is about what it does, and that it is alive and engaged in interacting with shoppers.

Look at comparable examples around us. Newspapers have fresh headlines every day. The Huffington Post does so several times a day. Effective blogs post updates several times a week. A flower store or farm stand makes sure that only the freshest, newest items are showcased. Imagine the message that wilted flowers and rotten tomatoes would send to those shopping! These are the equivalent of retail window displays.

Finally, look at stores like Anthropologie or Urban Outfitters that disavow direct selling. Instead, they have created engaging retail buying experiences - starting with window displays and every other element within the store - that encourage the consumer to 'sell' herself into purchasing something.

Annie translated that input into the following:

'The success of these windows, which can cost millions of dollars in planning and execution, directly affects a store's profits, says Christine Whittemore, who studies consumer trends for manufacturers. "Store windows start that romance between the potential shopper and the product within," she adds. Many retailers stock the same merchandise, and reaction to the windows can determine which store shoppers decide to spend their money at. "The more the windows appeal to the senses, the more successful they are at making people become purchasers."'

Annie Karni's article titled The War of the Window Dressers is a mesmerizing read whether you are fascinated by Barneys and Simon Doonan or Bergdorf Goodman and Linda Fargo, or not. I am honored to have been quoted in an article that highlights retail window displays and their ability to create conversation between shoppers and products...

So, tell me, when is the last time you updated your store windows? I hope recently...

[Note: I'm scheduled to 'do' the New York City department store Christmas windows next weekend with my daughter.]

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