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Christmas Window Displays and Ideas

Fenwick’s Christmas window display – Image source: Retail Focus

The Best Christmas Window Display Ideas and Inspiration

As one of the most important periods in the retail calendar, the high street brands and luxury labels we all know and love invest heavily in the creation of inspirational visual merchandising campaigns that will succeed in enticing shoppers into their stores.

This is not a new phenomenon, though. Christmas window displays can be traced back to the late 1800s, with American retail giant Macy’s being the first retailer reported to have brought the magic of Christmas into its store windows.

In the last few decades, it has all become something of a competition between the biggest department stores and big-name brands, with each seeking to outdo its rivals by creating stunning window display campaigns that are tourist attractions in their own rights.

But, which retailers have had the best Christmas window displays in recent years? This is a question that is not easy to answer, as brands from all four corners of the retail sector put huge amounts of effort into the design and execution of their store window displays in the run-up to Christmas.

We decided to take a look back at the ghosts of Christmas window displays past to see what lessons we can learn from the most effective festive windows in recent times.

The Top 5 Christmas Window Displays

Fenwick, Newcastle

Image source: Retail Focus

The reveal of the Fenwick Christmas window display is highly-anticipated by both adults and children alike. Spanning across eight windows on Newcastle’s Northumberland Street, the display is responsible for attracting large numbers of shoppers to the city centre each year.

In 2021, the department store partnered with Aardman – the animation studio behind the Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep movies – to create a window scene featuring its iconic characters.

Image source: Retail Focus

We love how this concept took inspiration from the recently-released Shaun the Sheep movie to take Newcastle’s shoppers on a hilarious narrative journey. The eight windows, each of which features a different scene from the film, use bright colours and carefully-considered lighting to create visually striking sets that both entertain and inspire.

Harrods, London

Image source: Londonist

This one is a few years old now, but Harrods’ “Kingdom of Christmas” from back in 2019 is still one of the best examples of Christmas window displays. As one of the most iconic stores in London, the unveiling of Harrods’ window display is a high-anticipated event, with shoppers from all over the world visiting the Brompton Road store for a glimpse of the magic first-hand.

The Kingdom of Christmas concept featured a menagerie of exotic animals, each of which is laden with gifts from a particular luxury brand, and took inspiration from the fantasy worlds dreamt up by childrens’ writers such as Philip Pullman. As with the Fenwick window display, Harrods used a recently-released TV show to create a hyper-relevant display that shoppers young and old would find it easier to engage with on an emotional level.

Image source: Londonist

We love how Harrods remained true to its luxury identity by showcasing high-value products and gift hampers alongside animals that brands felt embodied their heritage and product aesthetic.

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Image source: CN Traveller

Galeries Lafayette is world-famous for the impossibly-large Christmas tree it brings into the main atrium of its Paris store each year. What sometimes falls into the shadow cast by this, though, is its window displays.

Following an unconventional beehive theme, the scenes that spanned across eleven separate windows dazzled with their palette of rich primary colours, metallic accents and brightly-lit display plinths…all of which acted as beacons to capture the attention of passers-by.

Fortnum & Mason, London

Image source: Fortnum & Mason

Fortnum & Mason really took the “ghosts of Christmas windows past” idea and ran with it back in 2020 with its sensational journey through the archives of its favourite Christmas displays from the last 300 years.

In the eight street-facing windows of its prestigious Piccadilly store, Fortnum & Mason replicated one of its favourite festive displays, starting in 1930 and running all the way through to 2020.

As with other retailers, we love how Fortnum & Mason used bright, bold colours, hand-crafted figurines and bespoke lighting systems to celebrate its rich history and encourage shoppers to feel a warm sense of nostalgia that is forever associated with the Christmas period.

Harvey Nichols, London

Image source: Retail Focus

Another mainstay of British retail, Harvey Nichols is known for some of the most exciting Christmas window displays around. Its 2021 concept definitely didn’t disappoint, featuring bespoke stained-glass windows that bathed the pavements outside the Knightsbridge store with coloured light.

Harvey Nichols harnessed the psychological impacts of light and colour on consumer behaviour by choosing a specific colour for each of its window displays to evoke certain emotional responses in passers-by. Alongside the red and green hues that are synonymous with Christmas, the displays used blue to create a sense of calmness and yellow to make shoppers feel energized.

We love how effectively this concept used light to maximise the visibility of the displays themselves but also to subtly manipulate the thoughts and feelings of London’s shoppers.

Christmas Window Display Tips 

There are many elements that need to be considered when designing and creating a Christmas window display that will capture the holiday spirit and entice shoppers inside to make purchases. Here are a few of the most important things that retailers and store designers should seek to manage.

Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important elements in the design of any window display, but especially in those that are designed for use at Christmas. This is because the amount of daylight in the winter months is dramatically lower than it is in summer, meaning that stores need to ensure that their window displays are lit appropriately in order for shoppers to see them in all their glory.

If retailers don’t choose lighting systems that deliver the right brightness levels and colour temperatures it could mean that shoppers are unable to appreciate the details of any products on display.

LED lightboxes can be used as light sources and graphic displays

There is a range of different options when it comes to lighting technologies, though. LED lightboxes allow retailers to create graphic displays with integrated illumination whilst LED lightbars and shelf lights can be used to draw attention to particular products or areas of a Christmas window display.

Dynamic Displays

We know that the human eye is drawn to movement, so using dynamic elements in window displays is an ultra-effective way of making them as attention-grabbing as possible.

Technologies such as Kinetik LED lightboxes enable retailers to create illuminated graphic displays of Christmassy scenes that appear to be animated. Using LEDs that are programmed to turn on and off in series, brands can capture the imagination of shoppers by replicating the aesthetic of twinkling lights, shooting stars, roaring fires and more.

Kinetik lightboxes use LEDs to create motion-effect displays

Layout and Construction

All of the examples featured above have one thing in common – the type of layout used. Each of the Christmas window displays uses a closed layout to prevent customers from seeing past the display itself and through into the store inside. This is proven to be a highly-effective way of focussing the attention of shoppers directly onto the window display and encouraging them to immerse themselves in the narrative journey that the retailer or brand is trying to provide.

In other blog posts we have compared the main types of window displays that retailers use depending on their product offerings, store size and brand identity. Learn more about them here.

Conclusions

Christmas window displays often see brands investing huge amounts of thought, energy and money into a concept that they hope will pay dividends. And, with the festive season being one of the biggest spending periods in the retail calendar, it’s crucial that they get the design of their window displays right. For more information or advice on how to create an effective window display, get in touch with our team.