Interview • 02.08.2010

Many mistakes are made in shop window displays

iXtenso Interview with Norbert Grüger, display designer and author

Norbert Grüger decorates shop windows for large and small retailers. He is annoyed with the uniform look in our pedestrian zones, but he views this as a chance for retail to set itself apart from chain stores. He encourages retailers to realize their own ideas. The help of a professional often pays off, because shop windows are a calling card and an important advertising medium.

Shop windows are a store’s calling card. How do you like our pedestrian zones?

The strong presence of chain stores defines the appearance of our pedestrian zones and shopping arcades. Due to high leases, smaller retailers are more and more relegated to the sideline. This causes an interchangeable picture of our city centers. Sometimes you have to think very hard to remember, which town you are in at the moment.

Do shop windows still have a future?

A shop window’s function still is to create interest. However, their use has changed in the course of time. Almost all chain stores move away from being individual all the way to a uniform presentation, or they only use their windows as a way to look through to the salesroom. This is where other stores have the chance to use shop window decorations to highlight their personality and individuality and call attention to them.

What are the most common mistakes in shop window design?

“Less is more!“ – as the saying goes, and it will always be this way. This basic principle has asserted and proven itself in all areas of advertising in the course of time– whether it is in television, print ads or window decorations. A clear path leads quicker to success. The biggest mistake continues to be in wanting to fill up even the last bit of space in a window with merchandise. Another one is placing products and decoration items solely on the floor of the window. The shop window is the only medium in advertising that can have a three-dimensional effect. This should be considered no matter what. By arranging items at different elevations, you achieve better optical results.

Small or large retailers: Who uses your professional help?

My customers increasingly include larger retailers and companies. The implementation of advertising campaigns is often centrally managed and implemented nationwide in a short amount of time. You need a network of decorator companies, who are flexible and able to meet these requirements. Individual retail stores also use my services. The creativity of a decorator is required in these cases. The smaller the shop window decoration, the more individually it needs to be tailored to the store.

Is a display designer an expensive professional? How much does it cost to have a store with, let’s say, three windows, nine meters wide, newly decorated every two months?

The cost for a shop window design is made up of different factors: What should the eye-catchers be made of? How big are the time expenditure, preparation work and rework, travel distances etc.? On average, I can go by my experience and estimate a price of about 800 Euro for a job of this size. This includes two day rates for work including preparation and rework. But this is just an approximate example.

What kinds of sales increases are realistically possible with great windows?

Many factors are playing a role here: Is the store located in a top frequented location? Is there a simultaneous advertising campaign with flyers and ads for instance? Are we advertising a service or a new product? As you can see, one overlaps the other and every part of advertising has its right to exist and complements the whole picture. Shop window decorations thus also need to be viewed as a long-term advertising effort and not just as a short-term sales increasing opportunity.

You also work for large branded companies and pharmaceutical companies. What can a small specialized shop learn from the big guys?

I think it’s important to concentrate on the basics, which means to create a reasonable and diversified ad concept. It also means planning ahead for the implementation and utilizing professional suggestions and help in the analysis of a location, its appearance and the overall presence.

Large objects as attention-getters or many items in the window: Can you please give us a few design tips?

A shop window display should definitely be designed with a larger attention-getter and the matching advertising slogan. Regardless of whether I design a special offer or a topical decoration, the name of the game is getting the attention and the resulting interest. The goal of every retailer should be to grab a pedestrian’s attention to the shop window already from a distance. This is only possible with a larger eye-catcher.

How can you pick up elements from the shop window and bring them into the store?

Inside the store and in a prominent spot, the theme should be taken up again in the style of the current shop window display or sales campaign. Decoration platforms and back wall panels are very useful for this. This does not just create a nice eye-catcher, but it also provides additional help in sales by continuing the line from the outside area to the inside and guiding the customer in a way, where they can find the advertised products quicker. With a little effort, you are able to create a constantly changing store atmosphere.

Are there design trends, for instance for the next Christmas trade?

Personally, I rarely go by current trends, especially at Christmas time. Many people associate very personal emotions and experiences with this time, which is often reflected in the design of the display. Tradition during the Christmas season plays a large role with my customers. One would like us to design a nativity set, while another wants a train set. Especially the latter has an unbeatable magnetic attraction for both young and old.

You will find new trends in respective specialized decorating stores, online or in their catalogs. A visit to the spring- or autumn trade fair in Frankfurt is definitely worthwhile.
I on the other hand think that everybody should choose what suits them best and let themselves be guided by their feelings and their taste – regardless of any ongoing trends.

Which location or which store would you like to decorate some day and what would you show?

I would love to decorate the display window of a travel bureau some day. A big window, only covered with some sand and sea shells, above it floats a giant picture postcard with the address of the travel agency and in the return address it says: “The decorator is on vacation!“

Interview by René Schellbach

more on: mannequins

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