Window wonders to borrow

One of the most sought after and enjoyable ways to capture the spirit of the season is the holiday trend of strolling the streets of Manhattan to take in the fascinating retail window experience. 

Piquing curiosities with genius merchandising tempts shoppers from all over the world to step into the stores to shop while under the spell of this festive moment. This year the merchandising trade has upped the ante, adding new and unexpected surprises from the traditional to the avant garde. Many windows are filled with live models, audio, interactive experiences and LCD TVs to showcase an unlimited number of themes.

Regardless of your holiday budget, smaller versions of these windows can be created with elements borrowed from these extreme windows. Although retailers assemble teams who start planning and conceptualizing the massive windows several months in advance, the same ideas used to lure droves of tourists can indeed be borrowed to put your guests under the same magical spell! Whether at your entrance or in the lobby, or by allowing your staff to don tasteful holiday-themed accessories, all are excellent ways to send the message of holiday cheer. It’s also a great marketing opportunity to lure new guests by showcasing your talented staff via seasonal cuisine on the menu — cider, eggnog and hot chocolate — holiday photos or charity donation drives. 

The following are a few hints and tips from the creatives behind the most popular windows at Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel, Barneys and Macy’s department stores. Remember, it’s the small touches that are most effective!

Fake snow: The more the merrier, so just use Kosher salt and lots of it!

Snow globes/interactive display: Borrow Saks Fifth Avenue’s method of sourcing snow globes on eBay! Saks used the globes (14 to be exact) to represent the cities where the retailer does business. Encouraging interactivity with customers, the Saks team tested the resilience of the snow globes anticipating they would get thousands of “turnovers,” as guests were encouraged to flip them. The easy addition of snow globes is an inexpensive way to engage guests, and you can use them for promotions as well. (Possibly displaying the cities of your 2013 openings?)

Surprise elements from the kitchen: Henri Bendel styled models in dresses copied from original sketches and fabricated them with materials such as cupcake liners, licorice and film strips. The cupcake liner dress was made out of 800 liners, and the flapper dress from 12,000 black beans. The same can be done with mannequins dressed in holiday fashions crafted by your chef or F&B department!

Interactive with a touch of charity: For the third year in a row, Macy’s designed its windows to highlight the retailer’s involvement with the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. While the windows have a traditional look, they are high-tech, featuring interactive elements such as swiping to turn pages. The giant flip book (think iPhone) features 150 years of fashion where you can give a mannequin a 70s hairstyle, a Victorian corset or a 60s miniskirt. Enlisting your tech to set up the same feature to showcase the stars of your staff (donned in holiday attire, of course) is a great way to enhance staff morale and guest relations. 

QR madness: The John Lewis virtual shop launched in Brighton, England, is using a giant window display featuring its most popular holiday product images with scannable codes inviting shoppers to quickly and conveniently purchase items.

I saw a similar technique used at the SLS Hotel gift shop in Los Angeles, where I scanned the QR code for a pair of readers and was sent to a site to complete the purchase! Of course hotel gift shop essentials can’t be merchandised this way, but a few creative items can, which reduces the burden of inventory overhead while improving your product offering. You can also change your QR code into holiday colors (think red and green) and incorporate it into some holiday themes (possibly on a T-shirt Santa is wearing under the red jacket), as it’s a tempting method to get your guests into the scanning spirit!

Now it’s your turn to spread some holiday cheer to our readers! Are you devoting a greater thought process internally to better capitalize on the perks that creative holiday displays can generate? Has your team created a holiday display that has been iconic or popular with your guests? Remember, it only takes a second to win over a guest, and more often than not, it can be done with one relatively simple twist!