How To Visually Merchandise Your Holiday Store Windows

Childlike wonder

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New York City brick-and-mortar retailers like Macy's and Saks Fifth Avenue have known the power of visual merchandising Christmas windows. But as a brick-and-mortar retailer, have you stopped to consider the power of visual merchandising as part of your holiday preparations for your own display windows?

To create magical Christmas display windows for your store:

  1. Decide a theme. Check out either this board or this one on my Pinterest site.
  2. Get props to elevate the product and several decoration types to create a scene.
  3. Use mannequins where appropriate to draw attention.
  4. Curate your actual products to be fewer but more memorable.
  5. Add festive lights to your display. You can never have too many lights
  6. Keep it simple to create a sense of wonder for the child in all of us.
  7. Keep track of what worked this year, and refer to them next year for your own visual merchandising tips. 

This toy retailer created magic with his holiday store window displays

Here's a case study of a toy retailer who created magic in Staunton, VA, in the Shenandoah Valley, near where my mom was born.

Robbie Lawson helped Pufferbellies Toys & Books do something amazing one holiday season using their incredible visual merchandising skills. It gave back a sense of wonder and pride in a way few stores can do. 

visual merchandising pufferbellies holiday windows

Erin Branton, a co-owner, told me how it all started: "Robbie is a family friend who works with my dad at Taylor & Boody Organbuilders near Staunton.

He and his family shop at Pufferbellies often, too. I saw some photos of a model he made of a church that they were building an organ for and asked him if he could make gingerbread houses.

He, myself, and my parents (my mom, Susan, is my business partner, and my dad helps with everything) sat down and discussed which buildings we'd like to feature. Robbie went and photographed all of them before starting to build his models."

visual merchandising holiday windows

"One of the buildings, the Masonic, houses my brother's gelato shop, The Split Banana, and our all-time favorite Mexican restaurant, the Baja Bean Co., so we HAD to feature that one!

The church is Trinity Episcopal, which has a ton of history. It also has real Tiffany windows, which Robbie photographed and printed on vellum to recreate the stained-glass effect." 

window retail magic

"There were some seriously forward-thinking people that stood up for these buildings and that helped put us ahead of the game in terms of creating a vital downtown today. So anyway, we're nuts about downtown Staunton and wanted to do something that would honor it."

One thing about Staunton that makes it stand out among other downtowns is that it has tons of original buildings that survived urban renewal during the last century.

They came up with fake gingerbread houses built using foam board, hot glue, latex caulk, and plastic candy to recreate six historic buildings. (You can see a set of 36 on Robbie's Facebook page.)

I bet the visual merchandisers on Madison Avenue are jealous

While these pics are amazing...They're not why I'm writing this post with visual merchandising tips.

It's because no matter how jaded you might be at cloyingly cute holiday commercials or how sick you might be of hearing White Christmas in retail stores, I'll bet you were taken with these pictures.

No video. No Twitter feed. No digital effects.

Even with minimal merch from the toy store in the window, you, for those brief moments, became like Ralphy in A Christmas Story.

It works because so much of what we see across the retail landscape are windows filled with merchandising units that take up the lower 10 feet.

Most holiday store windows' only purpose is to allow minimal natural light into the store while cutting off the view of the outside world.

This has rendered much of modern retail design sterile, imposing, and devoid of emotion.

Why does shop window design matter?

Because well-done shop windows let us do either of two things:

  • See into your store's offerings to be enticed to come in and buy
  • See into ourselves to discover child-like wonder.

That is the gift Pufferbellies and Robbie Lawson gave to the nearly 24,000 people who live in Staunton this holiday season. It's also what Pufferbellies did when they restored their storefront with original street-level doors, window frames, moldings, and trim.

Visual merchandising can "make" your holiday store windows

When you embrace visual merchandising for Christmas windows, you'll discover that window displays act as in-store marketing spotlighting a few select products.

You can attract customers and sell them items through good lighting and creative merchandising before they even walk across the door.

When Main Street retailers talk about what independent stores do for a community, they often talk about how they "give back to the community" through donations to worthy causes.

But the one thing I think many miss is what they can give back with their creativity, love of their town, and desire to see the faces of shoppers delighted and surprised.

In a world struggling with an onslaught of technology, these committed owners bring humanity back to its core. Their visual merchandiser skills pulled off an amazing feeling in their retail customers.

That's what holiday shopping is all about, folks

Not buy one; get one free.

...not another friends and family promotion or online group buying discount but about making Christmas shopping fun and festive, whether in a winter wonderland or a sunny beach-side resort.

Visual merchandising Christmas windows is all about surprise and delight.

In your windows. In your stores. In your customer's faces...


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