The Importance of Shop Window Displays

Window displays

With ever-increasing, fierce online competition, it’s never been more important for high street retailers to give plenty of thought to their window displays. A quality, eye-catching retail window display can turn a passer-by into a paying customer, so it’s vital that displays are attractive enough to invite someone inside. Window displays are one of the most effective marketing tools that a retailer has at hand, so read on to find out more about the best ways to use them.

Why are retail window displays so important?

Window displays have the power to turn anyone who passes a shop into a customer. With a well-thought-out, inviting design, a window display could cause a passer-by to turn and enter your shop, where they may ordinarily have walked past without a second thought.

As well as attracting customers and generating more foot traffic, a retail window display should be considered important for other reasons;

  • They help to enhance awareness of your brand
  • They are a shop’s first visual point of contact
  • They promote specific products and services
  • They work alongside other marketing campaigns

The window display of a shop provides passers-by with a visual snapshot into what the shop is about. Not only what is sold there, but also the general style and atmosphere. 

Shop window displays

Types of retail window displays

Effective window displays can be created whether a shop has minimal window space, or generous glass-fronted walls. The trick is to make the most of the space you have, without overcrowding the display. It’s important for the display to be digestible; that is, every item should be visible. Some different kinds of window display include:

  • Open-backed – this refers to when a window display has no backing board, meaning the rest of the shop can be seen behind it.
  • Closed – a window display that has a back board, offering no view into the store.
  • Semiclosed – a window display that has some kind of backing board, but one that does not obscure the whole view into the shop.
  • Island display – these are located within the shop but can usually be visible from a window, as well as from a range of angles inside. Lighting is used to highlight products.
  • Arcadestyle – these only exist where the architecture of the shop includes them, because the windows protrude beyond the door. They offer limited space for displays but are effective in their prominence.

How to create quality retail window displays

Visual merchandisers who are trained in the art of window displays are taught various tips and tricks to make the most out of a shop’s window space. The aim is to invite in more customers, promote products/services and increase brand awareness.

Focusing on brand

Brand awareness methods can be brazen and obvious, or subtle and tapping into the subconscious. This means that to ensure a window display works to increase brand awareness, it must display both bold company logos and more understated visuals. The latter of these could be by using brand colours, font, or any symbols and imagery that are consistent with the brand.

Example: A homeware shop that traditionally uses comforting images and tones, like neutral colours and tartan patterns, would not want to suddenly incorporate bright and bold cartoon imagery. This would be completely out of sync with their brand and would not serve to support customers’ awareness of the company.

Promoting products and services

Another focus of a retailer’s window display is often to promote a specific product or service that they wish to sell more of. Whether this is in line with a wider marketing campaign, or a one-off instance for a small business, there are different things that can be done to help in the promotion. This involves making that product or service the primary focus in the display in various ways;

  • Ensure the item or messaging is displayed at eye-level.
  • Use brighter lighting to highlight the specific area, and dimmer lighting across the rest of the display.
  • Make sure the display is not cluttered, as this will distract the viewer from the main item or message.

Inviting people in

If the main goal of the display is simply to attract more visitors to the shop, there are a number of methods to try. 

After seeing a window display, if a customer then wants to enter it’s usually because something has caught their attention. This could be one item or offer, or a whole collection that they like the look of. If you know you have one particular selling point, whether this is an exceptionally good deal or discount, or an item that you know sells out quickly, make sure this is obvious in your display.

Other welcoming tactics include the clever use of colour. Warm tones such as yellow, orange and red are considered to be inviting, whereas cooler colours like white, blue, and green are calming. This can be applied to what you are selling. For example, if you are promoting a beach holiday use calm tones, or if you have an autumn/winter clothing collection, opt for warmer colours. Not forgetting to incorporate brand logos, fonts, and colours where suitable.

Retail window displays showing items for sale

Other hints and tips for an effective window display

In addition to considering the main goal you want to achieve with your shop window display, there are a few other things to keep in mind to help its effectiveness.

  1. Less is more – while you might be tempted to fill your display with every product you want to sell, this will actually be detrimental. If a passer-by is faced with a cluttered display in which they can’t see the wood through the trees, they’re unlikely to look twice.
  2. Decide on a theme – similarly, the use of one theme throughout the display is likely to resonate better with a viewer, than one that looks confused. The theme could be anything from seasonal (Christmas, summer holidays, back to school, etc) to your own priorities as a business. 
  3. Avoid clichés – while it can be helpful to adopt a theme, make sure yours doesn’t blend into every other high street display. Try to find ways to make sure your window stands out from the rest and reveals your creativity at the same time.
  4. Tell a story – rather than having a general theme for your display, make it specific. For example, at Christmas, think of a story or event to focus on, like the family Christmas dinner. For Valentine’s Day, instead of just ‘love’, maybe consider presenting a famous love story, like Romeo and Juliet. Storytelling is widely known to be an enticing marketing method and helps bring focus to your display.

Even though most people seem to be moving across to a more virtual world, there is still plenty of space for the high street and its retailers. The fact is, customers still enjoy wandering past shops and looking at window displays, which is why it’s so important to use these as the valuable marketing tool they are. An attractive, well-thought-out retail window display that presents just a handful of products or services, while maintaining brand stylistics, will have multiple benefits. These include the likely increase of foot traffic as well as leaving viewers with a memorable impression of your business. 

How to Dress a Shop Window: 7 Tips to Make Your Shop Window Display Stand Out

Your shop window displays will likely be the first interaction your customer has with your brand. It’s a make or break moment – you have a split second to convince them to stop, look for longer, and make the decision to come into your store. So, how can you use window dressing to boost the impact your store has on the high street? Below are 7 tips on how to dress a shop window…

1. Can customers see past your shop window displays?

In the past, window displays tended to barricade a shop window with shelving or backing, but the trend is now for displays to be open to the shop behind them so that customers can see inside. Psychologically, a customer who doesn’t know your store is more likely to come inside if they can see what to expect in advance. Displays at waist height or with strategic gaps can achieve this while still leaving scope for product display.

This fashion retailer’s display uses designs applied directly to the window to give a block colour effect to match the product, while still revealing the shop interior.

2. Sell Your Product through Window Dressing

Well-known destination stores can get away with not explicitly using product in their window – fashion brand Anthropologie is famous for its creative window displays, which often don’t feature clothes or mannequins at all. But if you’re a smaller independent, you need to signal to that person on the pavement who doesn’t know your store what they can expect when they come inside – and why they would want to.

This window display for the Cath Kidston store in Cambridge shows a range of products available instore. They’re displayed simply but creatively in painted packing boxes to increase visual impact. The boxes also emphasise the gift focus of the brand.

3. Colour and Shape

You don’t need a big budget to make an impact with your window. Use your existing products cleverly and think about colours and shapes – pick a colour scheme for the window to create a unified design and use shape to draw the eye to a focal point. The patisserie window display (see main article image above) in Paris allows people to see into the shop while the colours suggest luxury. The central pyramid of macaroons draws the eye.

4. Grouping Similar Products

One easy way of making a visual impact is to group lots of the same product together in the window. Sticking in one of everything you sell will give a jumble-sale effect; instead, draw attention to a key product by repeating it. In this window display at cosmetics retailer Lush, bath products are grouped in piles to give colour and shape impact.

5. Create Drama

The window displays at flagship stores like Selfridges, Harrods and Fortnum & Mason in London are world-famous for their drama and lavish design. These big players have a store design team and a substantial budget dedicated to their windows. There’s no reason a smaller independent can’t take inspiration from the drama they use to create the effect. This could mean:

  • Displaying products in an unexpected way
  • Using props to create an effect, like these pine cone snowflakes in a Christmas flower shop window display
  • Using mannequins or other anthropomorphic elements to set a scene

6. Use Display Stands

If your products are small (jewellery, cosmetics, electronics etc.) it can be hard to create an impact even by grouping similar products. Instead, consider using creative display stands to build structure and visual drama. This window display at a cosmetics store uses different sized logs to display small products, also hinting at the natural ingredients used in the range.

7. Think Laterally

If your business doesn’t have products that lend themselves to an attractive display you can still use window dressing to attract customer attention. Think creatively about how your windows could say something about your brand. This display at a branch of Hampton’s estate agents was installed to celebrate Chelsea in Bloom 2014. It’s bright, eye-catching, and the combination of wellies and country flowers sends a message about the type of customer the agent is appealing to.

Image Credits

“Patisserie Window”: Model In Training

“Pine Cones Window”:

“Cosmetics Shop Window”: Instagram

“Cath Kidston Window”: Julia Jepps

“Fashion Window”: Melinda Pollard

“Lush Window”: Ellen Masters

“Hamptons Wellies Window”: