THE LAST WORD
DISPLAY ART

Byline: AMY ROUTON

ATLANTA — Since the days of spending hours leisurely strolling along a city street window-shopping are fast becoming more of a luxury, it’s even more important for store owners to understand that good visual merchandising can make the difference between potential customers and steady ones.
Karen Chapman, owner of Bliss, a women’s apparel and accessories shop located in Nashville, has a full-time merchandiser on staff for that reason. Chapman says she’s convinced stores need a constant new look, from fresh floral arrangements to the latest merchandise displayed. “We change our front window once a month, but some of the displays in our store are changed daily because we get so much merchandise in and we try to stay current with events in town like the Kentucky Derby, the Steeplechase and the Masked Ball,” Chapman explains.
Bridget Worden, the merchandising director for Bliss, pointed out that display can be the key to a sale. “There is a doctor in town who frequents the restaurant next door, and whenever he comes by, he’ll look at our window and point to what he wants for his wife. He never comes by to browse, nor does he buy anything that’s not from the window. We call him ‘the window doctor,”‘ says Worden.
Worden says she tries to stick to basic guidelines. “Always have good balance. Don’t put all your merchandise along the bottom of the window because it tends to make your window look barren. Secondly, remember to pay attention to small details. I always change earrings, shoes, makeup and fingernail polish to coordinate with the outfit. You don’t want a mannequin to have blood red fingernail polish if she’s wearing a pink outfit,” Worden says.
Based on her personal experience, Worden feels that windows with a color theme seem to be the most effective. “Currently, I’m doing a spring window with yellow and purple. It’s great because it’s so noticeable.”
Chris Stolz, manager of The Bilthouse in Buckhead, believes their windows, which they design themselves, account for a good percentage of Bilthouse’s sales. Stolz says being centrally located around three elementary schools is perfect for their two large window fronts. “Women stop at the corner and window-shop on the way to taking their kids to school. Afterward, they’ll stop by and tell us what they’d like from our window. So it really does work.”
With window changes once a week or more, Stolz says they still manage to keep a reasonable display budget with a little bit of creativity and recycling. “We run out and get things as we need them, but we also try to reuse props in later windows,” says Stolz.
Ernesto Perez, an established Atlanta-based window designer, agrees on the importance of a strong presentation. “Display windows are the first impression of a store, and you can’t expect someone to walk into a store that doesn’t give a good impression any more than you would walk into a movie theater if you thought the preview was boring,” he says.
Perez feels that if hiring a professional is out of budget, do-it-yourself windows can be just as beneficial.
The key is to be unique. “With a dab of blush, a few selected eye shadows and some fingernail polish for lipstick, any old mannequin can become new and beautiful,” he says. “Don’t be afraid of color; different shades make mannequins interesting.”
Although fingernail polish doesn’t come to mind when you think of lipstick, Perez says it’s perfect because of its shine, durability and the fact that you can paint over it anytime.
Perez even has a video, Making Money With Window Displays, in which he demonstrates how simple household items can be used to create a plethora of props, making it easy to create eye-catching displays for less than $25.
Colored cellophane is a personal favorite of Perez’s. “If someone says you could only take a few things with you to do a window, I would definitely take cellophane,” he says.
Perez also believes the clothing is key. “Put your best merchandise in the window, even if it’s only a couple of outfits. Don’t put in boring merchandise just because you have a lot of it — windows should entice.” Bill Musso, another local visual merchandising designer who currently has accounts with Coca-Cola, Innovations furniture and several boutiques at Phipp’s Plaza Mall, believes that individuality is the key. “Basically, most stores sell the same product, so visual merchandising sets everything apart,” Musso says.
For Musso, proper lighting and placement editing are key components for any product presentation. He suggests spotlighting and accent lighting to create interest in a window. Perez also warns against putting too much product in a window. “It just confuses the customer. The window display should not only create excitement and ambience for the store, but should select for the customer.”