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Christmas decorations

Creating a festive window display is a retail tradition, but making yours stand out from the crowd is the difficult bit. Here are some stores that pulled it off.

Christmas is that time of year when, like it or not, more or less the whole of the UK population heads off to the shops to spend money.

Regarded by the majority of retailers, both fashion and non-fashion, as the most wonderful and sales critical time of the year, these are the six to eight weeks that will make or break a high street trader’s year.

The challenge for all retailers is straightforward: ‘How do you get them through the door?’ And the equally simple answer is: ‘Make sure you have a window that turns heads and which marks out your store as different from the herd.’ There will be those who ask whether that isn’t the purpose of every shop window, and they would, of course, be correct - it’s just that rather more rides on these schemes than others during the course of the year.

Inspiration is hard to come by at times and if it is a few robins and some holly sprigs, then this may be fine - it is a matter of execution, context and how many others are doing something similar.



Rue Tronchet, Paris, 2009

Proof, if proof were needed, that shifting stock at Christmas is not always a matter of doing the obvious, and sometimes even a vague nod in the direction can do the trick. Eres is a Parisian lingerie retailer with a few outposts in the south of France. As in many retailers’ windows, this branch, on Rue Tronchet in Paris, used red to indicate that Christmas was upon us a couple of years ago, but nothing else.

As such, it’s about as minimalist as it gets and the concentration is on providing a military-style take on lingerie that happens to coincide with Christmas, perhaps by colour association rather than direct reference. There is also a none-too-subtle S&M implication in the display but, well, it is France and it is the kind of thing that would bring a sparkle to the eye of many male politicians in the country.



Oxford Street, London, 2010

It takes a certain amount of bravado to go as against the Yuletide grain as this window. Both the men’s and women’s windows in this branch of Zara were not only monochrome in terms of the props used but the stock was limited to shades of grey and black.

The point, perhaps, about what was done here is that you could remove the window decal stating ‘Merry Christmas’ (in black, naturally), lose the abstractly geometric Christmas tree from the back of the right-hand side and you’d still have a good display.

There is an argument that might be evinced along the lines of ‘why bother’? This, however, is a stylish window that pays a nod towards Christmas without throwing the whole cracker and stocking at it.



Oxford Street, London, 2010

This is one of a bevy of fairytale-related windows that the department store unveiled for last Christmas and it is nothing if not eye-catching.

Self-evidently, this is about Little Red Riding Hood in, erm, relaxed vamp mode, with a wolf looking at her hungrily - Freud would have a field day.

The chances of misinterpreting all of this seem pretty high and there is more than a touch of Agent Provocateur rather than Brothers Grimm about what is on view. Nevertheless, the use of the single colour that, for whatever reason, is most associated with the festive period makes this an obvious attention-getter. Given the bountiful nature of what is on view, the scheme also chimes with this as the season of excess and plenty.


White Stuff

George Street, Edinburgh, 2010

A window that proves there is still little wrong with offering shoppers a traditional Victorian Christmas scene, providing it is done well.

In this instance, a mix of graphics applied to the windows, suspended cardboard cut-out robins and scrolls with gothic script and excerpts from Snow White put shoppers in the mood. This is a reasonably cost-effective scheme capable of being rolled out.

White Stuff is known for the tongue-in-cheek humour of its visual merchandising, so those viewing this display would have been aware that it was not to be taken too seriously.


Galeries Lafayette

Boulevard Haussmann, Paris, 2009

They do things differently across the Channel and while there is more than a hint of red stocking in the Selfridges window, in Paris’s Galeries Lafayette no prisoners are taken with a scheme that mingles boudoir, acrobatics and lacy, see-through garments - all in the (red-tinged) name of Christmas.

While there is no clear reference to any kind of myth or fairytale, it doesn’t take a huge leap of the imagination to work out that this is a seasonal window, particularly when the legend ‘Nöel en grand’ is applied to the glassline at the bottom right of the window. Now try working out why there is a pink-framed window at the back of this set and, equally, why there’s a monochrome photograph of a child’s face peering through it to the outside world. No real clue is offered, but if Christmas windows are about getting noticed, then this one does the job.


Fortnum & Mason

Piccadilly, London, 2009

Although not best known for its fashion, this window from Fortnum & Mason picks a well-loved Christmas balletic favourite, Matthew Bourne’s men-only version of Swan Lake, and turns it into a show-stopping window display. There really isn’t much more to be said about what has been done, other than that although this is not overtly to do with Christmas, F&M has chosen a theme that is so closely associated with the season that there is no mistaking the intent.

The fact that the window even tries to create the effect of a proscenium arch theatre, complete with scenery, shows how carefully things have been thought through.

Also worth noting is the fact that almost nothing that is shown in this window was on sale in the shop, but it acted as one of the capital’s most obvious calls to shopping action.

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