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11 DIY Secrets to Making Great Shop Window Displays

Selling the image of the shop

Selling the image of the shop

11 Ways to Create Stunning Window Displays

Creating a great window display is easier than you might think.

All you need is a bit of imagination, some cool props and a basic idea of the components that can help turn a mediocre window display into a selling, eye-popping elevator pitch for your business.

1. Know Your Main Purpose: Sales or Identity

The first thing you need to consider is the main objective of your window display.

You have two main choices; either the products are king, or you focus on selling the image and the identity of the store.

Your window display should be like a teaser trailer for your shop and should answer the question 'is it worth going in there?'

  • Electrics shops, bakeries and some jewellers and florists are four examples where the products take the main stage in the window – they generally just line up their products along with price tags and that does the job. The customers can take one glance and conclude–yes this shop sells bread and it looks fresh, lets's go inside.
  • Clothes shops, gift shops and furniture stores generally try to focus on their store's image, identity and brand before individual products. They try to create a snapshot of what you can expect to see and experience in the store by generating emotions (oh, my mum would love that necklace) and triggering desires (I want to look that cool too!). The customer wants to be part of the lifestyle that's shown in the window and decides to go inside to have a look around.

Of course, you can combine the two options as well if you want to push sales of certain products!

A basic window plan could look like this...

A basic window plan could look like this...

2. Make a Plan First and Stick to It

When I worked as a window dresser for a chain of gift shops, I always found it easier to draw up a plan before I started moving props and products to the window. If you're asking someone else to do your window display for you, a clear plan of what you're after can really help them visualise the look you're trying to achieve.

Tips for a Successful Window Display:

  • The products you put in the window are likely to sell quickly so make sure you have enough stock!
  • Try to replicate elements of the look in-store as well so customers recognise the image and find the products they've seen in the window.
Using boxes to bring the smaller products up to eye level..

Using boxes to bring the smaller products up to eye level..

3. Put Your Product Displays at Eye Level

Go outside and take a long good look at your store window. Pretend you're a customer walking down the high street – are your products presented at eye level?

The human eye is naturally drawn to items placed on eye level so we don't have to look either up or down to spot them. Although this might sound like common sense, many retailers fall victim to the power of old habits and simply place their products on the floor in their windows.

How to display products at the right height:

  • Stack smaller products on top of each other. This makes for a more eye-catching display as your customers are more likely to spot a group of small products than a single one - it also brings them closer to the desired eye height.
  • Use product display pyramids
  • Buy some small coffee tables that match the overall style of your shop and use them to display your products. Remember you can stack one table on top of the other to create variation in your displays. They can also easily be painted to get a new look and feel.
  • If you like a bit of DIY, then a really good solution can be to create empty wooden boxes. Leave one side open, and you can stack them on top of each other for a quick shelf solution, or place them with the open side down and use them as small tables. Paint them all a neutral white, or change the colours with the seasons.
This shop sells many smaller gift items - but they have bought some larger pieces of furniture as props to help lift up the smaller products to eye height, and to help build the image of the shop...

This shop sells many smaller gift items - but they have bought some larger pieces of furniture as props to help lift up the smaller products to eye height, and to help build the image of the shop...

Boxes are brilliant props...

Boxes are brilliant props...

4. Use Props to Show Off Your Products

Finding the right props can really help make a difference in the way your window displays look. Great props are eye-catching but don't take over the show. If you get it right, great props can help communicate the image of your shop, whilst really helping display your products.

Where to Find Great Window Display Props:

  • Look for bigger, more expensive items at your suppliers to help showcase your smaller items. For example, when I worked in a gift store we frequently bought pieces of furniture that we knew we wouldn't necessarily sell straight away - but they helped convey the overall image of our store. Customers could imagine what their own homes could look like if they bought some small bits and pieces to liven up their living rooms.
  • Go to second-hand shops and look for abandoned old suitcases, camera tripods and boat supplies. All great for stacking products and conveying that holiday feeling!
  • Look for old fruit crates and spray paint them any colour you like.
  • Borrow your grandmother's old bicycle, polish it up and place your mannequins as if they're just about to go for a bike ride.
  • A pile of bricks can work to show off really small pieces of jewelry.
Using fun props make this window display stand out!

Using fun props make this window display stand out!

5. Use Lines and Shapes Help to Draw Your Customers' Attention

Just like in photography, using basic 'lead in lines', an interesting foreground, and placing products in geometric shapes can really help create an eye-catching display.

How to Catch a Customer's Eye:

  • Rather than placing one bottle of shampoo in the window, try placing at least three in a row leading from the front to the back of the window. The customer's eye will naturally follow the line of products.
  • Place smaller items in the foreground, leading into the bigger products in the background.

6. Use Light to Showcase Your Products

Light is a really important part of your window display. Ideally, you need a couple of spotlights that you can point at key products, plus generic overhead lighting. Make sure the lights are switched on long after the shop closes for the evening – people go window shopping at all times of day and night!

Fun quotes form a theme - as seen in a spy store...

Fun quotes form a theme - as seen in a spy store...

A simple, blue theme seen in a charity shop window..

A simple, blue theme seen in a charity shop window..

7. Choose a Theme for Your Window

Focusing your products around a central theme can help catch the eye of window shoppers. Your theme could be directly linked to your products, say a bathroom scene for showing dog shampoos and towels, or a garden scene to show off new garden furniture.

Or the theme could be more generic and linked to the season, an emotion or a futuristic landscape – it is your window, you set the rules.

Ideas for Window Display Themes:

  • Christmas - Think lots of snow, Christmas trees and presents.
  • Easter - Roll out some green astroturf, add some fluffy little bunnies and Easter eggs, and voila, you have a spring scene ready for adding your products.
  • Mother's Day - Use flowers, quotes about motherhood, pinks and purples to create a stunning mother's day window.
  • Ice - Use whites, glass, crystals and mirrors to create a stunning icy backdrop for your products.
  • Love - Using reds and pinks, little cupids and heart-shaped window decorations will take you one step closer to a love-inspired window for Valentine's Day.
  • Colour - choose one colour, or two matching or contrasting colours to create a stunning display. Remember, different colours have different meanings to people and inspire different emotions.
    It is no accident that a famous burger brand uses red and yellow as part of their logo - red is said to stimulate us to eat and buy more and yellow is the colour of optimism. Blue is the colour of calm, and authority.
Who knows what to call this theme - but it sure is eye catching!

Who knows what to call this theme - but it sure is eye catching!

8. Use Movement to Bring Life to Your Display

Adding movement to a window display can really bring it to life and make people stop in their tracks. I've seen some amazing examples of deer and rabbit animated displays that turned a winter scene into a magical place.

If you choose to invest in mechanical displays, then make sure you pick something that you can use more than once. For example, a Christmas piece that you can use every year, or something that's directly linked to your business – say a cobbler at work or cute little puppies for a pet shop.

You could also use a simple fan to bring movement to mannequins' clothing, or the sails of a boat.

9. Use Stands and Displays

An easy solution to getting your shop window organised is to use specialised stands and displays. If you go down this route, you loose some of the individual style and branding opportunities that you would get by handpicking props and tables - but factory made stands do save valuable time.

Window graphics can be used to highlight a product offer....

Window graphics can be used to highlight a product offer....

10. Use Window Graphics

Window graphics – or stickers that you place on your window – are great for highlighting ideas, offers or prices. They can be quite pricey, so smaller retailers tend to only use them on a more permanent basis, whereas larger stores apply them more regularly as part of their seasonal window displays.

Many smaller shops and services use window graphics to show their contact details, and list the products they specialise in.

What image does this window display convey?

What image does this window display convey?

11. Give Expensive Products More Space

There is one golden rule all visual merchandisers stick to and that is to never ever cram expensive products together.

Expensive products need space to breathe - or else they will look cheap!

As an example, imagine a pair of really really expensive ladies' shoes. They have been made using the finest materials, and there are plenty of interesting details to show off.

If you place them on a display alone and aim a spotlight so the diamond-encrusted buckles sparkle, they will look like they're worth every penny. If, however you cram them in with ten other pairs of shoes, they lose some of their star quality and they immediately look cheaper.

The same rule applies to expensive cars, designer jewelry and pieces of art.

A maritime summer theme

A maritime summer theme

The Products have been placed at eye level and the window display also serves as a shelf inside the shop...

The Products have been placed at eye level and the window display also serves as a shelf inside the shop...

Get to It!

I hope you have enjoyed this article and have found some inspiration for your store windows. I would love to hear your best ideas and tips in the comments section below!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Mukthar Obafemi on March 11, 2018:

Good info I can use in my little consignment shop.

ursula Mc Givern on February 22, 2017:

Some great ideas and advice, thanks for sharing.

ElleBee on September 14, 2014:

Some lovely window designs here! I used to manage a thrift shop, and now I am reminiscing over designing the windows!

Linda Liebrand (author) from San Francisco on May 07, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by Princesswithapen, and for sharing this article on Twitter!

princesswithapen on May 05, 2012:

There so much that goes into merchandising and branding - much more than what meets the eye. You've got some good points here. This hub was a refreshing read.


Linda Liebrand (author) from San Francisco on April 20, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by Charmike4 - good to hear that my tips will come to good use :-)

Michael Kromwyk from Adelaide, South Australia on April 19, 2012:

This is a fantastic how-to hub Linda-Bliss. My shop managers have been struggling to merchandise their windows and I will send them a link to this hub as it will help them no end. Cheers Michael

Linda Liebrand (author) from San Francisco on April 19, 2012:

Thanks for stopping by Sarah - I'm keeping my fingers crossed you get to try out some window dressing ideas in a boutique of your own sometime soon :-)

S Davies on April 19, 2012:

Great suggestions! I shared this on Twitter, Pinterest. Thanks for a lovely hub! (Even though I don't own a boutique, I've always fantasized about it, so this was a fun read.) Voted up and beautiful! - Sarah

Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on April 19, 2012:

I love these Linda. Awesome displays! Thank you for all the detail on how to make one attract the attention it needs. Voted up and shared!