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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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Anonymous said...

Hi Christine,

When I worked for Wet Seal, my favorite thing to do was create the window displays and do the visual merchandising. There is something about a well-designed window that entices people to walk into a store.

CB Whittemore said...

Maria, I'm not surprised that you created window displays. It is an art, but also takes a special affinity for customers. Thanks for visiting and congratulations on your new blog!

Blank Space said...

Hello—I just found your blog and this wonderful post. We are always looking for window design resources and research. We have been doing window displays for local retailers in the Northwest for 2 years now. We really love the work.

Check out our latest bunnies and foil installation at Marqsmen in Seattle, WA.

CB Whittemore said...

Blank Space, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing what you do with us. Your bunnies and foil installation is great fun!

k said...

I'm new to your blog. I like it.
And I couldn't agree with you more.
I actually created a page on squidoo about store windows because I'm fascinated by them. Windows communicate the brand and personality of a store in a way that should entice the customer to go inside and really experience what the store is all about. My guess is the more the digital world collides with brick / mortar the user experience will become more important than it ever was. I subscribed to your feed and I'm looking forward to reading more good articles like this one. Thank you.

CB Whittemore said...

k, thanks for visiting and bringing your lens to our attention. It is filled with wonderful examples of creative window displays.

For others interested, here is the link:

I, too, believe that the consumer retail experience will become ever more important and it will be fascinating to see how that expresses itself.


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