Review of London's Xmas Windows of '21
Christmas 2021 has a lot to make up for. After the damp squib that was last year’s celebrations, consumers are feeling a renewed sense of optimism in anticipation of some normality. What’s more, spending on the high street is back. Bricks and mortar retail has been hard hit by the last 18 months and the ‘Golden Quarter’ in 2021 needs to add more than a few pennies to the till in order for many businesses to survive. Newly installed seasonal window displays are more essential than ever to entice shoppers inside.
The "Christmas of Dreams"
For those shoppers, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the enchantment and theatre of department stores and London has some of the world’s best. Particularly this year, it’s reassuring to see that no expense seems to have been spared for Selfridges ‘Christmas of Dreams’ window campaign. With a glamourous, surrealist feel, they conjure up the excitement of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Featuring nine bespoke mannequins that have been specially 3D printed in the form of flamboyant drag queens and sailors, this is a retailer that continuously invests in VM and it pays off. Selfridges knows its brand well, and the windows reflect that. Aspirational yet accessible and bang on trend, they make a huge impact on Oxford Street.
Despite not even being open in the run up to Christmas last year, the ‘Bah Humbug’ windows that Harvey Nichols created for 2020 perfectly illustrated the nation's mood. This year, the team hopes to capture the zeitgeist again but this time with a more uplifting feel “spreading joy and happiness with bright colours and beaming lights”. The backlit stained-glass panels reflect on the pavement outside, a clever way to maximise impact outside the constraints of the traditional window space. (as seen in header image by Drapers)
Unique Fantasy Realms
For shoppers who prefer a more traditional Christmas presentation, Fortnum & Mason rarely disappoints. The ‘dreamlike’ depiction of unique realms this time includes the imagination of slumbering animals conjuring up their fantasy food. Exquisitely designed sets and oversized props are populated with playful, animated characters that children love. This is a rare example where a product is a supporting detail in a display rather than being the hero item, and it takes a destination as iconic as Fortnums for it to be a success.
Image Retail Week
“Chosen With Love, Stamped With Magic”
Similarly, the Liberty windows, unveiled this weekend, are quaint and nostalgic. “Chosen With Love, Stamped With Magic” is a theme that invites customers to reconnect with loved ones near or far. Windows feature stacks of letters and a conveyer belt of gifts with carefully selected product groupings. The balance of large-scale effect versus small-scale features is perfect for seasonal displays. It’s often said “Retail is about detail” and these are windows that could capture your attention for hours.
Image Liberty London
However, the pandemic has left some definite scars on High street. John Lewis stores are one of the disappointments this year with their well-documented cutbacks evident in their Oxford Street windows. These flagship windows have mesmerized passers-by over the years, being a physical representation of their much-hyped Christmas adverts. This year, though, there is no magic or theatre. Festive graphics sit next to well styled mannequins and product displays, which is good visual merchandising, but missing somewhat of a ‘wow factor’. Likewise, Fenwick of Bond Street looks amateur compared to previous years. Product and mannequins sit against a plain backdrop with little thought given to scale or story.
Image Fenwick by Flourish Trading
Some department stores have noticeably gone above and beyond this year to produce show stoppers. Penhaligon’s vintage candy shop aesthetic plays on shoppers’ emotions in a captivating scene that promotes gift giving through ‘Sweet Selling Memories’. Storytelling is at the heart of this brand’s DNA; they present clever campaigns every Christmas.
Elegance and Detail
At Dior, the Christmas windows are everything you would want in a high fashion Bond Street window. Intricate paper cuttings in neutral tones of white and gold complement the colour palette of the products. There are no gimmicks here, just a simple product presentation with a beautifully lit backdrop that enhances the quality of the presentation to beyond your average store window.
Sustainability and Recycling
L’Occitane has also used paper craft for their seasonal displays. Sustainable sourcing is so important from a ‘brand values’ perspective this year, with the added advantage of paper being relatively cheap and completely versatile. Their ‘Gift Factory’ windows “celebrate their commitments to Harvesting, Crafting and Gifting” but they also heavily highlight the recyclable element of the materials used to create them.
Image Retail Week
It's evident to the trained eye that budgets are clearly not what they once were, but as every good visual merchandiser knows, creativity is what matters the most. Magic can be made from the most basic of materials and when sales are down, retailers need to use every trick in the book to tempt customers inside. Stunning Christmas window displays are not only a selling tool; when done well they can take stores from being simply a point of sale to an overnight tourist attraction.
Christmas 2021 has not disappointed so far!
About Katy Trodd
Accomplished London based retail consultant specialising in visual merchandising and styling, with a diverse portfolio of clients, from global corporate brands to high end designers and small independent stores.