It’s not all been about the royal wedding and Easter. John Ryan looks at shop windows at the opposite ends of the UK as the bank holiday frenzy draws to a close.
You may not have noticed amid all the public holiday fun, but for many retailers it’s been business as usual with little or no reference having been made to recent events.
This was certainly the case in central London but could be seen almost everywhere else. In Inverness, for example, stores boasted a wide range of promotions aimed at grabbing spend from locals as much as from those heading north to take advantage of the prolonged break.
All in all, there has been plenty to engage shoppers, from a visual merchandising perspective, and as is usually the case, the more arresting promotions and arrangements of stock were those that were attracting shoppers through the door.
It’s always surprising how creative retailers are, even if they haven’t got an event to hang their visual merchandising hat on.
Gap, Oxford Street, London
You’d be forgiven for wondering what a mid-market denizen like Gap could do to garner interest beyond the usual ‘isn’t it the place where you get chinos and T-shirts?’ (among other things). Yet somehow this archetypically American brand consistently manages to surprise with both its window displays and the different messages it puts across about cotton drill trousers, denim jeans and assorted casualwear.
This window, in the branch that is a hop, skip and a perilous crossing of Oxford Street from Bond Street tube station, is a case in point. To be fair, you can normally rely on a US retail brand to come up with a good strapline and the ‘Made In The Shade’ line not only references a 1975 Rolling Stones album, but also brings to mind the idea of summer with its brightly coloured letters - at odds with the word ‘Shade’. The text that follows this more or less explains all - if it’s summer, or almost, then it’s time for ‘Colourwash Jeans + Khakis’. The coloured message, set against a predominantly neutral background, is presented with sufficient clarity to make you stop and take a look.
Anthropologie, King’s Road, London
It’s spring, well more like summer in the capital during April, and the US lifestyle brand has decided that now would be a good time to make the dubious link between booze and sunshine days. Achieved by the simple expedient of stringing hundreds of wine bottles across the window, this is, like so many Anthropologie windows, a vista that uses low-cost materials, but which will certainly have been pricey in terms of the man-hours required to install it.
The other point about it is its seeming irregularity. In the store’s main window, the bottles have been strung at different heights to create a cascade effect and if you pause for a moment you’ll also notice that in place of wine labels, each bottle has an appliquéd faux lace design, in a variety of colours. The arrangement of the bottles also provides a vitreous frame for the two tailors’ torsos that also form part of the window display.
This may have been expensive to put in place, but is probably money well spent as this was certainly one of the more arresting windows along a street that makes much of its creative and visual merchandising credentials.
Aesop, Selfridges, London
This is a pop-up space in the heart of the department store’s beauty hall. The Aussie perfume brand that already has a standalone store in fashionable east London has opted to provide West End shoppers with a temporary shop-in-shop created simply with thick ropes for decoration and plywood for the counter and storage area.
In common with Anthropologie, there is something a little handmade in feel about what’s been done and the area is a sharp contrast with the slick presentations from the major perfume houses found in the rest of this department. The pop-up also offers a pleasingly simple uniformity of product presentation with the dark brown bottles being the same, albeit in different sizes, irrespective of the product they contain - there is almost something of the travelling medicine show about what’s been done. Aesop’s in-store presence has been advertised in one of the store’s main windows with a display featuring more rope and demijohns in the same colour as the packaging used for the potions and lotions.
This is Aesop’s second pop-up store; the first was in modish Parisian shop Merci during the Christmas and new year period and consisted of a vast array of cardboard boxes contained within an overhead net.
H&M, Eastgate Centre, Inverness
Inverness is blessed with a standard H&M, but the retailer has made the most of being one of the town’s top fashion acts to launch an eco-friendly range of clothing displayed in its window and just inside the front door. Odd that if you think the association of white with purity should mean that a range of garments thus coloured points towards more sustainable retailing - particularly when the normal methods used to whiten are considered. Nonetheless, this is the route that H&M has taken for the launch of its Conscious collection.
And in contrast to what Gap has done, the background to this window has been coloured, to allow for the fact that the stock is neutral in colour, although there is a lot of embroidery detail on the garments.
H&M bills the Conscious collection as part of its push towards a “more sustainable fashion future”. As well as the womenswear, menswear and kidswear are also included in the range, which is produced from materials including “organic cotton, Tencel and recycled polyester”. The mild flaw about the window and related stock is it makes you wonder what is on offer in the rest of the store.
Waterstone’s, Eastgate Centre, Inverness
There’s not a lot you can do with books when it comes to visual merchandising, or at least that would seem to be the case in booksellers across the UK. Waterstone’s in Inverness is one of the exceptions to this rule, however, as it has done what all good booksellers should, themed its window and made the most of its location.
The theme is Scotland and as Inverness is the self-styled ‘capital of the Highlands’, the retailer has backed the window with its logo, on top of which images of a rocky-looking coastline have been superimposed. In front of this are products that range from The Scots: A Genetic Journey, to a Highlands and Islands Edition of Monopoly.
“Waterstone’s has themed its window and made the most of its location”
There is nothing massively innovative about what has been done here, but Waterstone’s has made the most of the fact that, for many, arriving in Inverness is the beginning of a Highland sojourn and therefore a book about the subject might be useful.
Ben Wyvis Kilts, Highland Outfitters, Inverness
Well, it’s what every first-time visitor to the Highlands probably expects and like so many others of its tartan ilk, there is little place for visual merchandising in the small window or the in-store displays. That said, if you really are seeking the answer to that perennial US tourist question, ‘what’s your plaid?’, then the chances seem pretty good that an answer may be found here.
A wall of sporrans, rail after rail (and rail is the operative word) of brightly patterned skirts for men and formal Highland jackets actually make this not just a destination, but a compelling curiosity. This is proof perhaps that although things Scottish may not be to everyone’s taste, when put together under one roof they still merit being given the once over.