Seasonal Sensations

liberty_picTake inspiration from the nation’s biggest stores to create your own stunning window displays, says Julia Sugden

One of my favourite things about count down to Christmas is the unveiling of the nation’s much-loved store windows.

This year the major retailers didn’t disappoint with several putting on a fantastic show – particularly in the capital. It seemed the sky was the limit and nothing was too much for the larger stores who definitely went for more is more.

The Liberty displays always draw a crowd and rightly so. The iconic store transformed the window space into the carriages of an opulent Victorian steam train that we all wanted a ticket for. Inspired by the two-hundredth birthday of Charles Dickens and influenced by Queen Victoria’s personal carriage, passers by were caught up in the journey of the Liberty Express. Luxurious presents piled up high in the baggage car, well dressed children played with their new toys and women wore elegant evening wear in a collection of decadent window displays.

Selfridges worked with Bruce Webber on its Christmas campaign Not your usual Christmas. As ponies pulled sleighs, crackers exploded and disco balls shimmered, the windows made for spectacular viewing among Britain’s busiest shopping street.

However, for me, the true visual treat was the glittering Anya Hindmarch Sweet Factory window. Inspired by her AW12 All I’ve Ever Wanted campaign, an eccentric Wonka style mechanical present machine chugged into action, showcasing conveyor belts of potential present ideas against a toy workshop backdrop.

Anthropologies’ windows and in store displays are always a delight to visit at any time of year. Creatively they’re fantastic and this Christmas they were positively looking their best. An enchanting snow forest was cleverly created from layers upon layers of cut out paper intertwined with green foliage and trees. The neutral backdrop ensured that the Christmas goodies, stacked to perfection and peeping out from well-read novels, bowls of fruit and quirky memorabilia, were the highlights of the show. No details were missed.

Against a wall of sparking lights, John Lewis Oxford Street showcased its winter offer for men, women, children and home wares. Relatively simple, products and mannequins were strategically placed on enchanting tree stumps used as plinths in a theme of festive red and white. The white lights encapsulating the entire building from the outside added a magical touch.

The final window that caught my eye this year was by Christian Louboutin. The luxury brand showcased a very simple yet effective display, creating a Christmas tree from the iconic famous red-soled shoes topped with a glittered heel pump.

// SUB HEADER// Inspiration and ideas

Of course the larger retailers allow months of careful planning and have the big marketing bucks to play with when it comes to designing their windows. And although smaller stores don’t have same budgets, they should take inspiration from the high streets visual merchandising teams to make creative ideas of their own.

A more minimalist display is always cheaper and easier to install while still being able to turn heads. Seasonal window displays are an obvious theme and smaller retailers should take advantage of the seasons when planning windows and displays.

The next obvious opportunity is St Valentine’s Day – here are some pointers to creating that fantastic window and get the tills ringing!

It takes time to come up with a good idea so start thinking now about what you can do over the next few weeks and months. Planning ahead is key

Think outside the box. If you’re a fashion retailer look at what your competitors are doing but also turn to other industries and products for design and visual merchandising ideas.

• Remember, the shop window will communicate your brand personality to the outside world. It’s a free billboard for you to grab people’s attention, generate excitement and entice them into your store. It only takes three seconds to make an impression – 80 per cent of that is visual.

• Shoppers are attracted to colour as it not only gets their attention but also creates a mood. It’s proven that the eye can only register three colours at once, so bear this in mind when displaying your products. Often more than this looks hectic and confusing and less looks boring and bland.

• An effective way of creating seasonal displays is through the colours we associate with those events. So think red and pink for Valentine’s, yellow for Easter, browns and berries for autumnal windows and red, gold, silver and green for Christmas displays.

• Many colleges now run visual merchandising courses and students are often expected to take part in work experience as part of their curriculum. New and fresh ideas could be a great help and in turn provide work for their portfolio.

• It’s important to remember visual merchandising shouldn’t just finish at the windows. The theme should run throughout the entire store.

• If in doubt, display products and props in a triangular formation. It’s proven that the triangular composition is pleasing to the eye. And remember we see things at eye level first.

• Create balance and symmetry. Another proven fact is that symmetrical displays are more attractive.

• For further inspiration check out visual merchandising blogs and social networking sites, including Pinterest.

Julia Sugden runs her own freelance PR consultancy, has a degree in the visual merchandising and has worked for a variety of consumer fashion titles including the Sunday Times’ Style magazine.