In tough times, is there really any point in spending huge amounts on window displays, when low-cost can be just as effective?

More often than not, the best ideas are really simple. A good illustration of this is to be found in the window of the Apple store on Regent Street at the moment. Here, a single MacBook Air (a very lightweight computer) is suspended by a string from a small, steel-grey balloon.

The message is simple: this computer isn’t heavy and will therefore be easy to carry around with you - it if doesn’t float away first that is. The point about this display is that you understand immediately the message, but it has cost virtually nothing to put together: clever.

For anyone with the time to do so, a quick scoot up and down Regent Street at the moment will reveal that this is probably the lowest cost and certainly one of the more impactful windows along this grand thoroughfare - with the possible exception of the Habitat closing down sale windows which look cheap, because, well, they are.

The difference between what’s on view in Habitat and the Apple window is that while both are low cost, one seeks to make a virtue out of being inexpensive, while the other seeks to promote a clear, uncluttered point.

But here’s the thing. The great majority of shop windows in this part of the West End at the moment are filled with mannequins and artfully contrived confections that will have cost a lot - given that mannequins of the kind seen in large stores’ windows tend to start at around £500 and head upwards. By this reckoning there are several windows that represent an investment of several thousand pounds in terms of the display equipment alone, before the creative talents of those that have created them are taken into account.

Which rather makes it all the more curious that one of Regent Street’s most profitable and consistently busy shops should have the lowest cost display along the strip. There is, naturally, the point, that you can’t make a large-scale panorama out of a laptop, but nonetheless it’s hard not to admire what’s been done with the minimum of materials.

At a time when somewhat gloomy updates from retailers are becoming depressingly familiar, perhaps a few might consider how things are done at Apple or, at the other end of the street, Primark. Both cut props back to a minimum (although Primark does lack Apple’s élan) and yet cause heads to turn. Good does not have to mean expensive in austerity Britain.

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