Wow ’em with Your Windows

Once upon a time, it was enough to have a well-lighted store stocked with sparkling clean merchandise overseen by a knowledgeable sales staff. With jewelry stores opening up at every turn in the mall and shoppers growing more demanding, those days have passed. Now you need window and in-case displays that overcome threshold resistance, reinforce your image, and set you apart from all those competitors.

The first thing people see as they drive or walk past your store is its windows. Are you getting the most out of your window displays? Are they interesting, intriguing, and amusing enough to catch a shopper’s eye and entice him or her into the store? Don’t limit your thinking to store hours. How about after hours, when the merchandise has been removed? Give casual nighttime passersby something irresistible to look at, and they just might return the next day.

Getting started. So you want your windows to wow ’em. What to do? “First, you have to identify the needs of your customers and address them,” says Pam Levine, president of Levine Design in New York. A former jewelry designer who’s turned her creative attention to visual merchandising, Levine has a client list that includes chains as well as independent retailers.

Is your typical customer a fashionable shopper looking for the latest hot item? A less-confident consumer looking for fashion advice? A man seeking the perfect gift? By identifying who your customers are, you’re better equipped to provide visual merchandising that will provide what they need, at the same time reinforcing your image as a with-it, reputable store.

“Make a display part of your environment,” Levine says. “Create a consistency among your advertising, merchandise, and displays.” One of her solutions is to repeat in the showcases the colors and shapes used in the store decor, advertising, and packaging.

Her recent work for Only Diamonds, an Akron, Ohio, chain specializing in diamond jewelry, shows a cohesive design in two shades of blue that is repeated throughout the store’s window, in-case, and wall displays, boxes, bags, and gift wrap. Showcases contain custom-designed display pieces with glass signage that is unintrusive yet conveys the necessary pricing information.

In its ongoing effort to support the industry in its sales of karat gold jewelry, the World Gold Council recently embarked on a study of 1,400 consumers, based on their needs and experiences in shopping for gold jewelry. They found that there are essentially two types of shoppers: those who like to shop and can find what they want regardless of the setup, and those who are less informed and need more help locating and selecting the right items.

For these latter consumers – an amazing 47% of those surveyed – you want to make buying as easy as possible. The rules are simple: Make displays inviting and tempting, don’t crowd them with too much merchandise, and subtly inform the shopper about the jewelry.

For example, do you put prices in your windows and showcases? You should, say the experts. It’s not necessary to attach a price to each item, but you run the risk of losing a sale if a customer assumes she can’t afford what’s being shown. Instead of using individual tags, include an attractive card showing the range of prices for the items included.

They do windows. One retailer who puts her creativity to the test is Ann Molenaar of Molenaar Jewelers in Meridian, Idaho. In the past, Molenaar has delighted her customers by putting hats in the showcase and studding them with a variety of pins. She also set up a mini golf course complete with golf balls on tees; jewelry was draped over the balls and water traps, with tennis bracelet bridges. “My male customers particularly liked that one,” she recalls.

To reinforce the fashion message of combining jewelry with the latest clothes, Molenaar frequently puts framed model pictures – sometimes taken from the pages of fashion magazines – in the showcases, along with the appropriate jewelry. She says these inexpensive yet imaginative visual displays are an ideal way to pass a fashion message to customers.

Another retailer who uses imagination to make a point is Elizabeth Parker of Curt Parker Jewelers in St. Louis. Because this upstairs store lacks a sidewalk show window, Parker makes a strong impact in a small window near the store entrance in the building’s foyer. “I keep the window as simple as possible but often use a large-scale piece to grab attention,” she explains. In January, she created one of her more memorable displays, using three-dimensional snowflakes to highlight a single diamond necklace.

Minimalism is the rule for in-store showcases as well. “My philosophy is to leave a lot of white space and to showcase individual pieces,” Parker says. “I rearrange the store according to traffic patterns and leave understock beneath the cases.”

Sue Martin, manager of Sharp Jewelers in Lancaster, Pa., is known in her town for imaginative window displays that borrow from neighboring businesses or promote community events. One of her summer displays, for example, combined fruit boxes given to her by vendors in the nearby Central Market with huge inflatable fruits she bought more than a decade ago. Another popular window tied into a neighborhood Art Walk, using a cantilevered display of artists’ palettes and art supplies to highlight custom designs offered by the store. “I like to use art themes because jewelry designers are artists, too,” Martin says.

Suppliers’ solutions. According to major display companies, the new trend is toward subtle, cooler colors, which are edging out the white leatherette that’s dominating many stores. Chippenhook, a supplier of jewelry display and packaging products in Flower Mound, Texas, has introduced a blue-toned palette – from pastel periwinkle and seafoam to deeper shades approaching hyacinth blue and teal. Warm touches of wood and brushed metal accents could be added to liven up stores with white in the cases, suggests Dennis Crawford, the company’s vice president of design.

At Bates Display & Packaging Co. in Corona, Calif., the newest colors are softer, too, and modular; more eye-appealing angles are being added. “Our aim is to create multipurpose components that can be used in a variety of ways,” says Chris Stock, a graphic designer at Bates.

Two display-award winners have some additional tips. Paul Burns, owner of Scandia Jewelers in Seattle, recently received a visual display award from NICHE magazine. His unusual store, housed in the lobby of a restored downtown hotel, features a mix of giftware and fine jewelry. “Some of my best displays have combined the two,” he says. He sometimes will include one or two collectibles in the showcase as background for the jewelry or will place selected clocks or pieces of sculpture, silverware, or art glass on small tables that separate the jewelry cases. The look is artful, elegant, and slightly cluttered, like a treasure trove. He also regularly rearranges the stock and changes his displays – up to twice a week!

Burns says the neutral-toned buildings and fast pace of his downtown surroundings make it essential for him to create a relaxed, inviting ambiance. He accomplishes this by using soft colors and interesting textures (corrugated cardboard, exposed brick, and brocade fabrics) that evoke a romantic mood.

Gallery Goldsmiths in Houston is another award-winning store. Owner Michael Zibman says he treats his collections of designer jewelry like artwork, in free-standing cubes or wall cases. “I aim for an art gallery look. About 70-75% of my jewelry is displayed on vertical wall cases that are eye level to customers.”

Zibman says he was pleasantly surprised when his store won the window-display competition during the mall’s “Primavera” celebration of flowers and architecture last spring. His winning design was simple but effective: Each of five front cases was styled with a toy rabbit, a trail of colored jelly beans – and a single piece of jewelry. The result was whimsical and appealing yet clearly conveyed the store’s message: This is the place to find unique jewelry designs.

How to Create the Perfect Display

  • Don’t crowd window or display cases; less is more.

  • Keep all displays consistent with your store image.

  • Always create focal points in your displays.

  • Use color and text to help get your message across.

  • Use different levels and planes to keep the viewer’s eye moving.

  • Include your store’s name to remind the customer who you are.

  • Keep displays current and change them often.

  • Avoid mixing a wide range of price levels in one display area.

  • Never show multiple copies of one item.

  • Don’t be afraid to reuse good ideas or to adapt ideas from other stores.

  • Ask your display and packaging suppliers for ideas and support.

  • Be willing to spend as much creative effort on your displays as you do buying merchandise.