Published in Sep-Oct 2019
One of the most powerful tools in our retail-marketing arsenal is an arresting store window display – which must be meticulously curated to solicit eyeballs, mobilise interest and drive foot traffic. Sadly, the art of the window display (or visual merchandising) has either not arrived at our shores or has been lost among those who may have inadvertently forgotten that a store window is not, in fact, a window at all: it’s a stage...
Here are five steps you can use as a guideline.
1. Start with a story
Because storytelling serves as a strategic business tool, it follows that when it comes to conceptualising your window display, you need to start with a story that is based on a theme. Then use your narrative magic to pull a story out of the theme you have been tasked with. So, for instance, instead of Christmas, think roasted chestnuts. Instead of Valentines, think Cupid drunk on love. Instead of Independence Day, think of flags of personal freedom. Instead of summer, think of sunny parasols and lemonade. You get the idea. You will find that by beginning with a theme and then using your skills as a storyteller to turn it into something more sophisticated, you will be in a better position to sketch your initial ideas.
2. Create a point of focus
All ideas must have a single-minded proposition. A key visual, proposition or a central point of focus that every other element in your design will help make it stand out. Displays are no different. Once you have a sketch of what you want, include a story founded on a theme and determine your customer’s eye-level from the street view (or wherever your window looks out to). It is a bit like hanging a painting on a wall. Locate the centreline to determine the line of sight. Then explore ways to incorporate elements either from above or below the line. The focal point is where customers will look first. So evaluate its impact through size, context, and surrounding arrangements so that it draws attention even from across the road.
3. Break the mould and go for bold
Window displays are no exception to the rules of breaking clutter. Timid, inward-looking, and conventional designs are what your competitors are hoping you will do. Surprise them. With shrinking attention spans (down to six seconds the last time I checked), your display has to pull out all the stops to create stopping power – and boldly go where no store has gone before. Use colour, shape, scale, contrast, props, and every latitude conceivable to create magic. If your display is shared over social media that is even more rewarding – so long as you are always exercising the best judgment when it comes to aligning with your brand’s visual vocabulary.
4. Keep it simple – not stupid
Window displays are first and foremost about visual communication. If the ‘message’ is lost in too much merchandise, then you will not have a story to tell. And it is the story that pulls prospects. Clutter repels and repulses reason. By concentrating on a few key elements, brought beautifully alive through compelling displays, you are in a position to draw attention and pull prospects into your store. Ultimately, this means knowing which products to display, which ones to group, and which ones to leave out altogether, so that every component is justifiably interconnected.
5. Emotions before promotions
Now would be a good time to befriend an artist. Great artists know how to manufacture great emotion. Whether through a monotone or a riot of colour, the size and scale of your setting, the tensions created by the play of light and shadow, the contrast between big and small objects, or the moods evoked by back, soft, or spotlighting. When you are able to create balance, you are also able to create an entire diaspora of joy that is at your disposal. An ‘unbalanced’ display, on the other hand, nips desire and signals instability, anxiety, or any number of disenfranchised feelings that will snuff out a sale before it has even had time to dazzle. Then, once a prospect walks into your promise, it’s over to your store’s branded interior where you begin the hard work of converting traffic into fans.
Faraz Maqsood Hamidi is CE & CD, The D’Hamidi Partnership.