Top 3 Essentials to a Great Window Display

A stroll down Madison Avenue in NYC or La Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Honoré in Paris is like a free trip to a museum. It’s almost impossible not to rubberneck at some of the eye-catching storefronts belonging to the likes of Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Ladurée – to name just a few. Major retailers invest heavily in their windows, knowing how crucial they are to communicating their brand’s image and narrative. While smaller businesses may not have the cash to match the grandiose displays of international luxury brands, an attractive storefront is still critical to attracting new customers. London-based visual merchandising expert, Jonathan Baker, spoke to us about why many small-to-medium independent retailers need to get inspired when it comes to their windows.

According to Baker, many local retailers do little in terms of creating an interesting window display. “It’s a complete shame,” he says, “because a creative window can provide great differentiation from other brands, not to mention attract pedestrians.”

Generic merchandising is getting to be tiresome, especially since retail is intertwined with ever-changing cultural trends. Inspiration lies beyond the seasons, as we saw with Moncler’s “outer space” themed windows after China’s most recent rocket launch. “The worst thing stores can do is to just copy what major chains are doing. They really need to find their own voice and create stories with their products.”

Retailers need to make room in both their schedules and their budgets to tell a story with their storefront. Here are Jonathan’s top three things to consider in when creating a beautiful window:

1. Lighting: “There’s nothing worse than terrible lighting. I can’t tell you how many stores I see with awful, hot yellow lights that practically burn the hair off the mannequins. Bad lighting ruins the effect.” The answer? Invest in quality LED lights. They stay a lot cooler, last longer (making them more economical and environmentally friendly) and most importantly, they look better – and consequently, so will your products.

2. Fit and Finish: These are the artistic, décor elements. With some research, it’s easy to find out what’s trending or what’s unique to the particular neighborhood. Having a store that reflects local culture is a draw for tourists and residents alike. Collaborating with local artists and designers is a great way of pulling in the unique flavor of the area, as well as an opportunity for some cross-promotion.

3. The Product: Tell stories with your product – especially funny ones. “There are ways to turn something into something else … displaying the product in unique ways that gets people to stop and think.” There are basic merchandising techniques that can help to add more visual appeal, says Baker, but beyond that, retailers should think about creating some kind of humorous and less obvious ways of showing how products are used. For example, a springtime window might feature a watering can with accessories pouring out, or the month’s hottest movie might influence the overall theme.

Some windows will be more product-driven, and others will be more image-driven. Window displays should be as carefully planned as the rest of the store’s marketing efforts, no matter how small the budget. Many stores can’t afford elaborate windows, but they can maintain one that’s both attractive and simple. “Housekeeping is so basic,” says Barker. “A window display should be immaculate. No dust, no hairs, no stray tags.” A lack of diligence can send the message that the store’s products and services are not of the best quality.

Remember: the storefront is the first thing shoppers see before they enter. Retailers must maintain their brand’s image while also piquing the interest of unfamiliar consumers. A polished-looking window is within reach for any retailer, and at any budget. Just don’t skimp on the lighting.

Stephanie Braun

Stephanie Braun

Stephanie Braun is a content writer, fashion enthusiast, and lover of pets. When she's not writing about retail trends, she's travelling the world and learning new languages.