Want to Spice Up Your Store’s Holiday Decor? Start With Trashing the Tinsel

Sparkling tinsel and garlands are December decor staples, but when it comes to gussying up your store for the holidays, they could be doing you more harm than good.

While decorating may fall at the bottom of your to-do list during the busiest sales period of the year, it merits careful consideration. A store draped in tired-looking trimmings can actually turn off shoppers. Conversely, a clean, contemporary scheme has the power to lure in potential buyers. Shoppers delight in creative holiday displays, and how your store looks during this crucial time directly affects how it will perform.

“You can’t just plop down an old tree and expect it to look fresh,” says decorator Allyson Paris, owner of Allyson Paris Designs in Fair Lawn, N.J.

A fan of posh-looking holiday design elements such as mirrored trays (for champagne!), boxes wrapped in metallic paper, and vases, Paris recommends that retailers add monochromatic sparkle to pump up the festive vibe. “Pick a color scheme that’s new,” she says. “It should be two or three colors at most, and you can repeat that over and over again throughout the store.”

Nathan Turner, one of Hollywood’s most in-demand interior designers, says his go-to trick for streamlining holiday decor is to settle on a single color—he loves red because it’s “so warm and cheery”—then play with texture by combining unexpected elements in that same color.

“These days it’s all about reusing materials in creative, unexpected, and beautiful ways,” says Turner, who has transformed rooms with all-orange accents and mismatched plaids for the holidays. “Color selection is always critical. Sometimes it’s fun to add a pop of blue, which isn’t typically used during the holiday season.”

Julia Ladd, senior property manager for mall developer Macerich, oversees the rambling holiday decor scheme at Santa Monica Place in Santa Monica, Calif. Her fashionably stripped-down vignettes feature purist staples such as tiny white lights, 8-foot wreaths, and giant plain-glass (never quaintly painted) ornaments.

“We always go for really clean lines,” says Ladd, who recommends experimenting with nontraditional colors—such as blue-green and pinky-red—to achieve a modern look. “I like the minimal side of holiday decoration.”

As for accents to avoid, both Turner and Ladd profess an aversion to fuss and frills. “Big floppy bows, pine cones, significant amounts of garland—these things look dated to me,” says Ladd. “Think clean white lights. We use thousands of them all over the center.”

To avoid any overtly religious overtones in your decor, skip depictions of holy figures, crosses, and other nonsecular hallmarks—though Ladd and Paris agree that the Christmas tree and menorah have become safely secular in our consumerist culture. “It’s a holiday tree and it can represent what anyone wants it to be,” says Paris.

Turner circumvents religion in his designs by focusing on natural elements. “Branches, sticks, twigs, even fruit such as pomegranates, crab apples, figs, and artichokes can give you that holiday feel without [pitting] one religion over another,” he says.

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