Like the Charles Dickens novel with the similar name, often businesses can be categorized as having two separate characteristics, metaphorically two different store window fronts.

One store window front represents a business that is constantly trying to improve, and trying to evolve.

It’s never satisfied with the status quo, but is always pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

The other store front on the otherhand represents a business that is coasting on its good fortune in the beginning of its formation.

The executive team, or family members in charge bucket and politic amongst themselves at every turn.

They are mostly focused on what is going on between its doors, instead of of the people outside of it.

Trapped in a visicuis cycle, they are unable to see it, let alone get out of it.

They stumble year after year, not knowing exactly why their business is beginning to lose money year after year.

But what makes one business behave one way and the other, another way?

Why are they so different?

How can you make sure your business does not end like the last business?

Read on to find out.

The Excellent Store Front: A Tale of Excellence

The excellent store front shop followed the following prescription for business success.

They focused on a few key items when creating an excellent store front presence.

Eye-Catching Items
Use your retail store window to display eye-catching items that represent what people can expect to find in the rest of your store. Look over your sales records from the past few weeks to select a few items that have been selling best. Evaluate your inventory and select some items that you would like to highlight because they will sell well and have good profit margins.

Create a window display with depth by putting items in three layers. First, put signage directly on your window, either by posting signs or by writing with window paints. These signs should advertise sales and discounts or list a few of the new items that people will be most interested in buying. Next, display the items themselves in the middle ground. Use mannequins for clothing or displays at varied heights for other types of items. Show the items in ways that allow people to picture how they would look in their intended settings. Lastly, use a backdrop to set off the display. A plain white backdrop brightens the window and draws attention to the displayed items, whereas a more interesting backdrop can help you tell a story in your window display or help people imagine where to use the items you sell.

Well-lit displays are essential because you want people to be able to see the items from a distance while they are walking by. Use several types of lighting in your window to highlight items. Floodlights just inside the window on the floor and ceiling are effective at lighting individual items in the display. Give depth to the items and light your backdrop by using fill lighting behind the primary items to avoid shadows.

Changing the Display
Change your window display at least every month, if not more often. This puts fresh items in the spotlight to keep your display from getting stale. In addition, it allows you to showcase seasonal items that people are more interested during some times of the year than others. Incorporate seasonal or holiday flair into your displays as well. If your displays seem too similar time after time, consider hiring an artist or visual merchandiser to create a display for you. You can also develop goodwill in the community by letting organizations use part of your window to promote their causes.

Retail store fronts


1. Be aware of who your target audience is

Before you bring out your craft supplies, fixtures, and whatnot, take some time to think about your target audience. Who do you want to attract? What types of people would benefit most from your products and services? Let the answers to these questions guide your decisions.

Your window display needs to be targeted enough to entice the right shoppers, but not too specific that it’ll alienate potential customers. This is something that Sessions Music, a music education company learned.

According to its marketing director Adam Williamson, since 75% of their students were under the age of 15, they initially stuck with “child-centric” imagery in their displays. They soon realized, however, that this alienated and misled potential customers into thinking that Session Music was just for kids.

“Even after we changed this, we still constantly had people saying ‘Do you have programs for adults?’ Of course, we do but our window displays did not properly showcase that,” Adam said.

“And after our change in imagery, we noticed that as long as our imagery didn’t contain anything offensive or adult-themed, nothing in our more broad imagery alienated our younger students either. In fact, it made many of our students feel our business was ‘hipper’ (from a recent student survey) than before.”

2. Place key items at eye level

Aside from considering your target audience, you also need to think about their perspective, advised Sophie Darling, the community manager at and a former bridal shop owner.

“What do you want them to look at? Where do you want them to look first? How can you draw them in closer? Usually, this means putting your prime item right at eye level,” she added.

Check out this window display from Christian Louboutin, and notice how they elevated certain products (i.e., the purse and shoes) so that they’re either at or close to eye level.

Do the same thing with your windows. Identify the key products or elements of your display and position them at eye level to draw people’s attention.

You also want to make sure that the products are big enough to catch shoppers’ eyes.

“Putting merchandise that’s too small to be seen easily isn’t a good idea,” says Sophie. “You want to draw people’s attention with an amazing centerpiece that turns people’s heads for a second glance.”

3. Consider your environment

On top of thinking about who your target customers are, also be sure to consider their mindset, actions, and behavior when they’re in the vicinity.

Is your store in a shopping center where people can leisurely walk around, or are you in a fast-paced environment? Will they be with their kids or shopping alone? Will people be on foot when they see your displays or will they be in their cars?

Think about how much time people have when they stroll, stride, or drive by your store, then design your window displays accordingly.

For instance, at Sessions Music, they make it a point to limit the use of text in their displays because they know that a lot of their customers only have a few seconds to look at their window.

“We realized that many people who see our window displays were in their car. If our message was not clear to someone who has 1-3 seconds to view it (not nearly enough time to read anything), then we would not run with it,” said Williamson.

4. Use your window not just to showcase products, but to tell stories

Stories, whether they’re read, heard, or in this case, seen, are far more effective in grabbing and keeping people’s attention. In other words, stories stick. This is true for speeches, articles, and yes, even window displays.

Your displays should go beyond showing off your products; they should tell tales that pique shoppers’ interest and encourage them to come inside. You can do this by selecting a theme, and finding stories in line with it.

Check out what Anthropologie is doing. The apparel retailer changes the window displays of its stores depending on certain seasons or events. What makes their window displays great though, is that Anthropologie always finds a unique angle or story within its chosen season theme.

For instance, for Earth Day 2013, the retailer decided to “pay homage to the gifts of gardening with a variety of handcrafted fruits and veggies, and containers made from recycled cans, tires, bottles and more.”

5. Stay away from clichés

We just have one caveat when it comes to storytelling based on themes: Don’t to fall into the trap of using clichés.

For instance, when Halloween rolls around, it might be tempting to fill your display with pumpkins or ghouls. This might be a bit superficial. Find ways to go a bit off the beaten path and come up with something unique.

Image credit: Jun Belen

Consider what Cole Hardware in San Francisco did. Instead of going for the cliched “Happy Halloween” route that’s filled with ghosts and Jack-o-Lanterns, it used the holiday to show off its broom selection and cleaning products while telling a Halloween tale at the same time.

6. Avoid clutter

Keep your designs clean and avoid including too many items in it. Your window display should provide a peek at what you have to offer, not give everything away. In addition, a cluttered window display can devalue your brand and merchandise. As display consultant Linda Cahan of Cahan & Co. told Entrepreneur, “in retailing, space equals luxury… if you cram items together in a window, they’ll look cheap.”

Sophie echoed this advice, saying that cluttering up a window display is one of the biggest mistakes that retailers can make.

“Cluttering your window will dilute the impact that your best merchandise would otherwise have on passersby, and simply make your shop easier to ignore.”

7. Invest in key materials

You’ll be changing your window display regularly, so devote ample resources on the materials and equipment that you’ll be re-using. This could include frames, fixtures, lights, mannequins, and more.

8. Store your materials properly

Also be sure to invest in the storage materials for your fixtures and window display equipment.

At Sessions Music, for example, Williamson says that they “invested in quality storage materials (such as hard poster tubes for our window graphics) and reserved a clean, dry area to store them in for future displays.”

Doing so enables them to re-use their materials, saving them money and planning time.

9. Always be on the lookout for inspiration

Inspiration is everywhere — just ask Laura Watkins, the owner of Pink Pointes Dancewear, a UK-based dance shop. “I get inspiration from a range of sources, the season, a film or song, a product we want to showcase or if I’m feeling really stuck Pinterest boards are helpful too,” says.

As an example, Laura shared how she once used autumn to inspire her display.

“When I first took over running our shop the new Bloch Militare boot has just come out. It’s a split sole dance shoe but looks like a boot. It happened to be September and the leaves were beginning to change so I made a display with hundreds of leaves in beautiful autumnal colors and this pair of boots on top as they looked like Dr. Matens and great for stomping in piles of leaves.”

“To go beside this we had a really elegant ballet tutu in browns and greens with leaves on it and I finished the display off with leaves on fishing line so they looked like they were falling.”

Laura said the display was such a hit that shoppers came in the store just to compliment it.

10. Change your displays frequently

Williamson also advises retailers to keep their window displays up-to-date and relevant.

“It may seem quite burdensome and expensive to constantly be changing window displays but their effectiveness is directly correlated to their relevance to your current promotions, the season, the weather, and so on,” he says.

At their store, he shares that they change their window displays at least once a month; and during busy seasons such as the holidays, they do so every week.

“As a brick and mortar location, we often have repeat walk-by traffic. The same, tired displays eventually get ignored but a constantly changing array will keep people’s attention peaked until they are ready to purchase (or enroll as in our case).”

Laura also changes her store’s diaplays montly. She cooks up ideas “twice a year for the next 6 months and change the window every month.”

“For me, that’s long enough that I have time to research how I am going to do something and buy extra props I’ll need,” she added.
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