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Waltzing down the high street with a takeaway hot chocolate. Festive lights and decorations strung up overhead. Jingle Bells playing out of shop doors and frosted windows framing a festive display.
Christmas is a special time of year for businesses as consumers flock to the shops in search of gifts and products to make their holiday spread more special. And there really is something magical about the Christmas atmosphere on the high street that gets shoppers in the mood.
For retailers and foodservice outlets like bakeries and chocolate shops with a window display or outdoor section, a showstopping shop-front could be key to enticing new customers through your doors this season. But where do you start and how should you decide what items in a display will best showcase the scope of products you stock inside?
“A window display is so important; it’s the first thing new customers will see, and you need to capture their interest and confidence to buy into your business and brand,” Pete Gardner, managing director at boutique chocolate shop Cocoa Amore, tells us. “It needs to showcase the best of what you offer, and not be filled with blown light bulbs, cobwebs and dead wasps.”
When you’re setting up your window display, it may be tempting to put your most luxurious, exclusive festive products front and centre. But it’s important to consider your audience: What are they interested in? What’s their budget? Are they looking for gifts or Christmas lunch essentials?
You’ll want to include items that are specific enough to your target audience, yet not too niche that they’ll alienate potential new customers. What’s more, rather than showcasing your biggest and best products outside, why not lead customers in with something more modest, and implement ways to up-sell the higher-ticket items in-store.
“I find it’s always best to show off your lower-ticket items in your window so as not to scare people off from stepping through the door,” Pete says. “By all means, have more expensive products in-store, but tempt them in first with a lower spend.”
Remember it’s not just about the products themselves: feel free to decorate with seasonal flourishes, but be sure they won’t overpower or detract from your products themselves. When it comes to visual merchandising, it’s also recommended to add pops of colour to set the festive mood, and to use lighting to accent a focal point – and don’t forget to add some signage.
“As long as the other items in your display are relevant to what you do, I think it’s fine to include decorative items,” Pete says. “I have a range of antique chocolate moulds on display with my handmade chocolates, as well as dried cocoa beans and cocoa pods as a backdrop.”
And when it comes to Christmas, relevant holiday items like Santa’s sleigh and snowflakes wouldn’t go amiss.
Typically, it’s recommended to place items at eye level, and to include pieces that aren’t so small that they get lost in your shop window. That said, it’s important to consider where your potential customers are viewing your display from – are they walking or driving? – as this will affect where ‘eye level’ is. If you don’t have large items, perhaps you could utilise signage or other decorative pieces to create a bold statement and catch shoppers’ attention, even from farther away.
“Branding and signage are important,” Pete says. “Can someone see you 10, 20, 50 metres away? Treat your shop-front as a billboard and break it down into sections, using different areas to be noticed at different distances and elevations. Someone driving past will notice a different area of the shop-front compared to someone on foot or standing right outside, so utilise everything you have available to you. If you were paying for a billboard the size of your shop-front in a high street location, it would cost you thousands, so take advantage of it.”
You may already be brimming with ideas to make your display really stand out from the crowd, but remember to balance out products, décor, signage and creativity with your brand identity and ethos. If you’re struggling to think of something unique, you may find inspiration from fellow retailers, but always make it your own.
“Keep it true to your business and brand,” Pete notes. “Your business is unique, so avoid copying what high street chains are doing, otherwise you just blend into the white noise around you.”
Your shop window also gives you the perfect opportunity to tell a story, and Christmas, in particular, is the ideal time to do this. Now is the chance to go beyond the products you sell, perhaps opting to tell a story around them, promote your USPs around themes of ‘local’ and ‘provenance’, and tying these in with seasonal themes like ‘gifting’ and ‘togetherness’.
Edward Berry of The Flying Fork, explains, “If you’re lucky enough to have contact with your suppliers, then this is something that people who buy our sort of food ask about these days – was it made by somebody in a certain place – so maybe that’s something to think about in your shop window.”
You don’t have to go to great lengths to create an eye-catching display that can entice new customers into your shop this Christmas, nor does it require a huge budget. Quite often, the simpler, the better. But by simply investing time and energy into a thoughtful display that reflects your business, you can draw in new customers that prove valuable for the festive season and beyond.