Windows of opportunity

The answers to your questions on visually merchandising your storefront windows to enhance sales

Windows of opportunity
The answers to your questions on visually merchandising your storefront windows to enhance sales

By Erinn Morgan


Window displays hold a special meaning for consumers. How else could one explain the hordes of shivering spectators lining up on New York's Fifth Avenue for a mere glimpse of the fantastic holiday windows every year? The reality is that your store windows are truly an area of opportunity not to be ignored.

"You have seven seconds to catch a pedestrian's attention as they are walking past your cause them to slow up and perhaps walk over to your window to look at it and to make the decision that all shoppers make: 'Should I go in or not go in?'" says Steve Kaufman, editor of the Cincinnati-based Visual Merchandising and Store Design magazine (VM+SD). "Some retailers use that window as an opportunity to tell that shopper 'We have our spring line in,' or 'We have a big sale,' or 'We have some really great merchandise.'"

Here, we present tips from the experts for successfully merchandising your windows to pique the interest of passersby. Whether you are located on a main street, in a strip mall, or in a major shopping center, your windows can pack a punch that directly relates to your bottom line.

Q What types of optical products work best on display in dispensary windows?

A Sunwear and accessories like nice frame cases work best because they are more substantial than a rimless wire frame.

Not to say you can't have them, but make sure there is something noticeable in the window.

— Amanda Case,
designer and certified optician,
Fashion Optical Displays



Q What really grabs the attention of passersby in a storefront window?

A The two things that are so important are lighting and motion.

One of our customers is a doctor in Costa Mesa, Calif., who uses several motion pedestals in his windows to attract those passing by.

The pedestals are battery-operated and make about three revolutions per minute. Because they are moving slowly, they attract people's attention. He also uses halogen lighting to accent the frames in the window.

— Dacie Lewis, owner,
Bright Display

A Bring things up to the customer's eye level. Some window displays have floors in them and sometimes the store owner doesn't realize it's a mistake and lays product low. Raise them up on a table, chairs, or interesting stands.

— Mindy Miles Greenberg,

owner, M Windows Visual + Display in New York City


Displays at the customer's eye level catch the eye


Floating boxes in windows catch the eyes of passersby


A Floating glass shelves or floating boxes [a cube with four wood sides and two glass sides with a jewelry- box feeling] in a clean background are really eye-catching.

Something like a large poster behind the display can really make an impact at street level.

— Jennifer Liu, head designer, Ennco Display Systems


A Good looking and eye-catching displays. You need something large enough to give someone a reason to walk over to your window and see what's in it and, even better, something to make them want to come inside and buy it.

A nice showcase or étagère with glass shelves and colorful merchandising accessories is eye-catching.

— Amanda Case


Q What type of display fixtures are best to use?

A For half-windows or ledge-style windows, use risers and frameholders to raise merchandise and create variation in height in the display. If security is an issue for your dispensary, a locking countertop showcase is advisable.

For full-length windows, you will find a regular showcase or pedestal-style showcase most helpful in drawing focus to your displays.

— Margaret Furman, display designer,
Visual Dynamics


A Visually merchandising your product is showing the shopper how this product can look on them. That's why mannequins are so good. They can show a shirt, sweater, skirt and scarf. The same thing applies with glasses.

Show your shopper how it looks. Utilize a large graphic, which is popular today, of somebody wearing these glasses.

Or you could use a mannequin head that will give passersby a feel for how the sunglasses might look on someone's face.

— Steve Kaufman,
VM+SD magazine


Light and motion are key in displays

Q How often should a dispensary change its store windows?

A Four to six weeks is a good rule of thumb. After this, the window starts to get dirty and buggy, so change it.

Also, look at a calendar and break it up by fashion season. Focus on sunglasses in the spring/summer, and also in January when people go away on cruises.

Some retailers also take the lightbulbs from the window and place them in store fixtures when changing window displays. This ensures that the lights in the window are always working and fresh.

— Mindy Miles Greenberg


A At least once every one to two weeks. If there is any kind of foot traffic from neighboring businesses that may pass by every day, you could do it more often.

If what you had the first week doesn't bring people in, then it probably won't the second week. Keep changing it, and it will also show that your optical is on top of things.

— Amanda Case

A A rule of thumb: Change with the seasons and acknowledge major holidays.

Say it your way, optically, if you can. For example, for Valentine's Day, say "Eye Love You!" and build your display around that.

— Margaret Furman


Q What if you have multiple windows?

A All of the windows in your dispensary should be fairly similar in theme. They should match and look balanced or have some relative symmetry to them.

— Amanda Case


Q What are the biggest challenges with window display for an optical shop?

A It's hard to sell the value of things like eye exams or customer service through windows.

You could have a blurry sign there, and as the customer gets closer, it says 'Just kidding, but maybe you should have your eyes checked.'

One of the challenges with eyewear is that it is a small item, like jewelry. To show a small item in a big window is not effective.

Optical retailers can consider jewel box windows, such as those that jewelers like Tiffany's use.

— Steve Kaufman

A The drive-by store has a different set of needs than those of a walk-by store. One successful concept is big window displays that have a catchy theme going on.

They only need one or two frames on display—it's the props, theatrics, and color that grab the attention of the person driving by.

— Mindy Miles Greenberg

Tip Sheet

What makes an effective window display? Here are a dozen tips from the professionals on creating alluring retail windows:

1 Keep it simple. Don't try to put in everything at once. Focus on one product or theme.

2 Keep it clean. Make sure your displays and product aren't dusty or dirty. Minimize sun fading with clear UV films on the store window.

3 Change displays frequently to keep the look fresh.

4 Bright lighting is crucial, both during the day and at night. Use lights to highlight individual items or signs. (Movable track lights work well.)

5 Use repetition of shapes and colors to attract attention.

6 Cluster items in groups of three or five. Odd numbers are most pleasing to the eye.

7 Vary height and depth of items to carry the eye throughout the display. A pyramid or triangle is a pleasing shape.

8 Use motion to catch the customer's eye.

9 Use light, bright colors in your display area

10 If you have multiple windows, balance the display between them to give the entire storefront a coordinated look.

11 Feature products you have elsewhere in the store, not one-of-a-kind items.

12 Continue the theme of the window display with other displays inside the store.

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