Time was when shop windows were simple things. You’d look at what was on show, like what had been done and then wander into the store.

The idea was that a shop window would act as a sampler for what was on offer within. Very simple, and for many retailers it is still the principle driver when considering how to deal with the matter of window displays.

There is however a separate stream of thought that says that putting items in windows, be it clothing, computers or even paintbrushes, is probably not the best way of shifting stock and that something more needs to be done. Perhaps this may be the underlying reason for what’s happening at Selfridges on Oxford Street at the moment. The four windows that front the store’s “Wonder Room” at the western end of the building have a series of curious ‘installations’ (a word used more generally by fashionable art galleries), each designed to make you stop and stare.

All of them, according to the blurb attached to the glassline, are the work of the John Hour. A word of explanation at this point. The term ‘John Hour’ was coined by Ed Koch, mayor of New York 1978-89, to highlight his public naming and shaming of “Johns” (the clientele of prostitutes) via the broadcast media. The initiative didn’t last long, a single 5-minute broadcast was made, and the term passed into relative obscurity.

Now it is the name of a trio of artists, a “collective” don’t y’know, who “challenge” our accepted views of things. Whatever your view on this, what is on show in Oxford Street is certainly interesting, ranging from a mass of tennis rackets (“Game”), to a gingham-clad table with white plates and bowls on it, displayed under the title “Tea for Two”.
This probably means something to somebody, but it does seem curious as part of a Selfridges window scheme. In fairness however, the whole notion of “The Wonder Room” is the retail equivalent of shock and awe (quite possibly at the prices) and fronting the area with something as unconventional as the work of the John Hour might seem justified.

More to the point, it makes a refreshing change from the “SALE, SALE, SALE” variants that fill the windows of the majority of other retailers along the street. The function of windows is in fact very straightforward: get ‘em to stop, get ‘em to think, get ‘em through the doors. It’s a principle that still gets overlooked