How to Create an Attractive Retail Window Display

November 19, 2013
How to build an attractive window display for retail

The point of the window is to attract customers and bring them in to buy. To create an attractive window that draws the customer in it takes a theme, plan, preparation, time and maintenance.  We have been doing window displays for years and have received many compliments, which is why we’d like to provide you with some of our pointers in an effort to help YOUR retail store attract customers.

Theme /Content: seasonal, holiday, new product

Big themes for us: 4th of July, Christmas, Halloween, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthdays, spring, summer entertaining, kids, clothing, shoes…

Sometimes we will pick a color and do a window only with that color. Other times we will pick a new product and do that product only in the window. Sometimes we find a cool prop that we want to use and we build a window around that prop.

We are constantly on the hunt for new window ideas. They might come from magazines, vendors, or other stores. One year we made a hot air balloon for a  4th of July window. This was inspired by a costume idea we saw in Family Fun Magazine.  When we are searching for new products, often window ideas will be built around the product.  These ideas are all kept in a display binder that we refer to when we feel creatively challenged.  I also have a lot of pictures on my phone from when I am on buying trips.

The more you work in the business, and the more display work you do, the easier this idea process becomes.

Build an attractive retail window display


Once the idea is in place, we like to write it out and sketch it. We will include the products that we want to use, the props, etc. This will help keep us focused as we dive in, and we are less likely to forget something once we have started.  If it’s a very large window display, like for the holidays, we will even map out the space of the window in the backroom and do a dry run of our large props to make sure everything fits the way we want it to.

If we are going to work motion into the window, then we have to plan that so the movement doesn’t interfere with other parts of the window.

Prep :

Empty the entire window, clean the glass and the floor, change the light-bulbs (lighting is very important- you can have a beautiful display, but if the light-bulbs are burned out, then no one can see it) Gather the props and product.

Props – can be anything that helps tell your story.  We have used inflatable beach rings, lawn chairs from my mom’s house, a chair covered in duct tape from my daughter’s room, a bike we found on the side of the road and painted orange, scarecrows, fake headstones, etc.  We store many props in our basement and use them again and again. Other props we borrow from home or others. If you borrow it, make sure you return it in the same condition you received it in. Remember that your windows receive a lot of sun and stuff does tend to fade.

Get Started:

How to build an attractive window display

Anything that is going to hang from the ceiling needs to go up first. After the ladder work is done, then it’s time to place the props in the window.  Start with the largest items first, and set those.  Work largest to smallest. Use easels, stands, etc to prop things up. Pay attention to the color combinations (make sure items don’t clash). Use height and make sure your items aren’t all at the same height. Have items on the floor, at mid height, and higher.

Check your work by going outside throughout the process to check your positioning. Don’t be afraid to tweak or completely re-do.  Hide price tags, electrical cords, and the back of the window. When you are satisfied with how everything looks to the person walking by, go across the street and see how it looks from there. Are there things that need changing now that you have this perspective? You want your window to entice people to cross the street to check you out.

Do a drive-by of your window to see how it looks from the car. Is your window catchy enough to get the attention of a passing motorist? You might find that raising the height of one or two items in your window would make it more appealing from the street.

Come back at night and see how it looks in the evening. You might find that your lighting needs to be tweaked.  Night time is the best and easiest time to take photographs of your work, as it takes the glare off the windows and you can actually see the inside. Also, makes the window look like a shadow box.


Check the window often to make sure that things haven’t fallen over. Look for holes created by the selling of the merchandise in the window. Look for dead flies and bees. They are attracted to the lights in the window, and they do die in there.

Clean them up! Your store is only as good as the dead bugs in the window. Look for light-bulbs that have burned out. If you can, change them. Some window displays are so intricate that you can’t do that without completely gutting the window.

The outside of your windows need to be cleaned weekly. If they aren’t clean, then your customers can’t see inside.  The front of the store and how it is kept will determine if customers are going to walk in or not. The front door needs to be cleaned hourly.

Ideally, you should change your windows every two weeks. This keeps them fresh and updated for the person who walks by every day.