Latest issue
Online newsletter
Product Knowledge
Shop windows
June/July 2011

Tips for window displays:

drawing customers through the door

Many retailers overlook the potential of their window displays to grab the attention of potential customers. Creating an attractive display can draw the customer in, promote a slow-moving item, announce a sale or welcome a season. Professionals advise that window displays should be seen as a 3D billboard advertising platform, rather than an opportunity to showcase all your products in one space. NELLE DU TOIT found some inexpensive tips to enhance window displays. PHOTO Carin Hardisty

Altering your window display is a cost-effective way to enhance and transform your shop’s external image and customer drawing power, without having to spend a vast amount of your budget on displays.

Customers form a perception of your store from the shop front, but window displays are just as important — if not more — in establishing positive communication with potential customers and drawing them through the door.

If your store front is fortunate enough to feature one or more windows, (e.g. a corner store or a large shop front) you have one of the most proven (and least expensive) forms of advertising at your disposal. This prime real estate should be approached as a showcase for the latest seasonal merchandise, dramatized with props and themes in keeping with the store’s image.

Professional and highly skilled window-dressers can transform windows into the best customer drawing magnet you can desire. Unless you manage a major store with numerous windows you could, however, apply some handy tips to do it yourself.

Tips for window displays

1Don’t overdo it, a cluttered window loses appeal and featured items can get lost. Don’t try to say (or display) too much. Too many stories in a limited space results in a story that no one wants to hear. You’ve heard it before, but less is really more. A strong, clear, statement will always triumph over the I am trying to sell you everything approach.

2Make products the focal point, either through lighting or the composition of the display itself. You do not want your window dressing to overshadow your products. If the window design simply features your brand/image, rather than specific products, then balance the lighting throughout the display so that your retail store and services become the focal point.

3Lighting is an often overlooked component of window displays (as well as in-store displays). Considering that it can make or break even the best displays, it’s a detail that nobody can afford to neglect. Check that the lighting is strong enough and directed on the promotional piece, product or the statement that is key to your message.

4The use of basic shapes. The classical pyramid, zig zags, fan or step shapes are visual merchandising mainstays because they work. Many effective window displays have been built using these shapes as the base framework within the window to direct the customer’s eye to the focal point. Placing items at varying heights and depths to catch attention can make the overall display inviting to the eye.

5Have fun with mannequins. If you are using mannequins, create interesting poses, and make sure that each one is well lit and easily visible to customers passing by.

6 Don’t be tempted to split your displays and dilute your window’s message. Despite some popular theories, consumers still appreciate the value of an expert. Set yourself up as this expert by ensuring your window displays convey the clear message that you are in the business of the product on display. Viewing you as the expert on that product or service gives shoppers a great reason to come into your shop — even if they are not intending to buy, writes, a blog that focuses on retail window displays.

7Send a clear message. Shoppers need to understand exactly what you are selling. Be sure to check that the actual product hasn’t been lost in the creative masterpiece of your window display. The clearest message in the world won’t make you a cent in sales if it’s a message that people aren’t interested in hearing — this, of course, comes down to knowing your market.

8Keep your window theme in mind and decorate according to that theme. Window displays are often altered to suit high purchasing times like Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Christmas, or back-to-school time and altering the theme of your window display can show that your store provides updated and fresh products suited to the next big event your target market is interested in.

Using this platform to showcase products to coincide with big events — like the The Argus Cycle Tour — Comrades Marathon or a World Cup, can present an opportunity to inspire event-specific buying sprees by showcasing products that passing customers didn’t consider buying for the specific event.

Some writers advise to change your window displays regularly to maintain interest in your store. “Nothing speaks louder to your customers that you’re a static business bereft of ideas than a static window display doing nothing more than collecting dust week after week. Continual renewal is key,” advises, “so get inspired and in turn you’ll inspire your customers.”

9Many shops use a certain colour to draw attention to themselves — even if it is used only in part of their signs and posters. Colour association, or colour psychology (surrounding oneself with a certain colour can reportedly change moods, etc) is a topic that is widely written about. Some writers even go as far as to say that colour can affect buying habits. They say forming a cognitive association with your store through colour is one of the strongest forms of advertisement — and if it is strong enough a customer can associate images of your store every time they see the colour.

10Use backdrops. Backdrops are useful tools to create positive and forceful displays, and to separate the window from the store. It also provides opportunity to pull your theme together if your display consists of multiple elements.

11Stock up on featured products. “Don’t draw customers in to buy merchandise that you don’t have stock of,” suggests Products that are low in stock should be taken out of window displays until more stock arrives. A hot selling product will undoubtedly attract more customers to the store, but will have them leaving disappointed and disgruntled at finding no stock.

“It is critical that you deliver on the promise of the window. When a customer is engaged and then let down, you undermine not only the current display, but the ability of your business as a whole to deliver on its word,” advises

Trail and error

Some tips supplied by experts can enhance your store’s image (and therefor customers’ perceptions of the store), stop foot traffic and lure customers inside — the first step in translating foot traffic into sales.

No one can afford to spend quantum amounts of time and money on improving their store’s look without being assured of a healthy return on investment. But, as a result of this complex topic, no one can assure a sure-fire this will work on your store strategy.

Experts can, however, give an indication of what works and what doesn’t through tried and tested methods.

So too can you, as retailer, keep track of the affect that different displays have on your store by documenting its success so that you can recreate it next year — or if it flops, you can make sure you don’t repeat the same mistakes.

Like any aspect of retailing, creating an attractive display takes a little skill and lots of trial and error.

*Read our copyright notice before making use of this article

© SA Sports Trader