It was in 1909 that the Selfridge’s department store on London’s Oxford Street first opened its doors; and with it, the art of window dressing was introduced to England. Featuring the longest window facade ever seen in Britain, the store achieved instant fame with over 150,000 people visiting the premises by 6.30pm that day – a testament to the power of visual merchandising.
Described as having a “revolutionary understanding of publicity and the theatre of retail ,” retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge was ahead of his time. He understood what remains true even now: that a targeted and well-appointed window display can help sell your brand, inspire discussion and even entertain.
In today’s retail landscape, despite the growth of the digital market, high street windows have become a critical marketing tool. Research shows that window displays within the retail environment influence our purchasing decisions an average of 24% of the time . Faced with stiff competition from e-commerce and rival bricks-and-mortar outlets, retailers have never had to work so hard to catch the attention of passers-by and, ultimately, capture sales. With just a few seconds to attract and engage with passing trade, it’s crucial they get it just right.
This is where commercial printers and signmakers can be of real value to those within the retail sector. By applying their expertise and knowledge of sign and display products, including specialist signage products for windows, they can work creatively with retailers to make their shopfront stand out from the crowd.
The design of window signage is important, but of equal importance is the material on which it is printed. This will make a big difference to how attractive the finished display will look. With emerging technology and materials, modern window graphics make it easier than ever to create interesting and attention-grabbing displays. A wide range of highly effective, yet simple to use, solutions are available across a variety of applications. For example:-
Bare windows can cause problems for some outlets, such as cafés and restaurants, who need to consider that customers might not want to be sat in full view of the public. Here, Coala One Way Vision offers a clever solution. Its white gloss perforated vinyl enables the printed surface to be viewed from the outside, whilst inside, customers or patrons have good visibility through the window thanks to the perforations.
Night time displays are becoming more and more important for retailers to stand out after hours and communicate to customers during the evening. For vibrant illuminated graphics that provide spectacular displays, Contra Vision BACKLITE is a translucent perforated window film that allows see-through graphics to be enabled at night using back lighting from inside the window. Similar products available on the market are Coala’s Backlit Textile and Backlit Film, Oracal 3635 and Oracal Commercial C.
Meanwhile, for keeping customers updated and engaged, retail outlets will need to refresh their windows much more regularly by promoting seasonal stock changes and sales. Here, window graphics, using materials such as Kernow MetaliK, Oracal 8510 and Oracal 8300, are exceptionally useful as they can be easily added, repositioned, removed or re-used according to the campaign or promotion that particular day, week or month.
Looking to the future and all things digital, interactive windows will become a more immersive experience. Studies by POPAI have shown that displays with motion can increase sales by up to 317% . Already on the market, we are seeing signmaking materials evolve and respond to this trend, with digital screens, motion light boxes, moving signs and light displays featuring in some of the most up and coming brands’ window displays.
If commercial printers and signmakers continue to understand the challenges retailers are faced with when trying to stand out from their competition, they will be well placed to have that initial dialogue with this new customer base and, hopefully, tap into a new sales stream.
When considering the design of a shop window, retailers will be following the principles of engagement relating to visual merchandising; namely: to attract attention from a distance, having visual stand-out; and to engage with those directly outside the store, sparking interest and, critically, an emotional connection.
By sharing our expertise of what can be achieved visually through print with today’s modern sign and display products, we can use striking, creative and exciting graphics to help retailers trigger that emotional response with passers-by, and maybe entice repeat, or even new customers through the door.
Photo caption: Antalis experts presenting the ‘Décor Live’ workshop at Sign & Digital UK 2018