Walk around any town and city nowadays and you see an abundance of store windows attracting customers into their stores.
The staff that look after the window concepts were originally called Window Trimmers, however that was in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Visual Merchandising may be a modern term, but its application has existed long before there was ever a set of words to describe it.
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, there is not much to report concerning the world of window displays, for their beginnings seem to trace back to the arrival of department stores in the 1850s. It is so interesting looking at photographs of “old” window displays. In the early days, it was very much a case of “stack it high” when it came to non-fashion merchandise. Terms such as Focal Point and Lines of Sight just weren’t used. As for fashion being displayed in the windows, as you can see from the photographs in this blog, times have certainly changed, not only with the fashion itself but the style and pose of mannequins. Some stores would not have the budget for mannequins so they had to adapt by wiring garments.
Marshall Fields & Company, which opened in 1852, is considered to be the birthplace of the display window layout. The layout was unveiled during the 1870s. It is accredited in part to Harry Gordon Selfridge. He introduced a variety of innovative and, at the time, radical methods for displays and marketing. Selfridge, in addition to creating window displays, also is known for the creation of the display department of department stores. The term Display Department was soon changed to The Visual Merchandising Department.
I recently visited an exhibition at The Serpentine Gallery in London and was intrigued to see a mock-up of a store from the 1900’s. In 2009 Selfridges celebrated its centenary. Each window depicted a particular year, and the style of dressing was in keeping with that time. The Creative Team put a twist on the windows by adding one colour – Pantone 109C – The famous yellow of Selfridges.
The race to create the biggest and best window concepts is still apparent today to attract those all-important customers. It is very much as case of giving the customer something they won’t find while shopping on-line. With Christmas just around the corner, many stores will be installing their Christmas concepts ready for the excitement and curiosity of the public.
Given the current economic climate that retailers in the UK are facing, let’s hope business is brisk with the run up to Christmas. Retailers need to continue their fight in attracting those on-line customers back into their store. You don’t get retail theatre and a pleasurable shopping experience from ordering on-line.
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