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Show business

What makes one plain black T-shirt different from another plain black T-shirt? It’s how it’s been displayed in shop windows.Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi writes.

india Updated: Aug 04, 2008 15:49 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi

Never mind all that she reads in magazines about smart shopping, 28-year-old marketing executive Namrata Joshi has never, ever planned her wardrobe. She never sits down, goes through her cupboard and mixes and matches outfits. She never makes lists of the kind of clothes she needs. Usually, Namrata buys clothes and accessories purely on impulse. “Because that’s the fun of clothes,” Namrata says cheerfully. “Passing by shop windows, spotting something that says, ‘buy me, take me home’, and then buying it and taking it home. If I never saw anything I liked in shop windows, I’d probably never buy clothes.”

First impressions
And the garment and accessory retailers are only too well aware of the impact that a well-designed window display can have on us. As school teacher Sonali Menon says, “It’s the shop’s window display that makes or breaks my enthusiasm to shop.” Clothes and accessories are the biggest impulse purchases most of us make. And with so many brands and so many shops out there, retailers have to do something to attract us to them. That’s why retailers in India have begun to work on their window displays as well. “Shop windows must attract the attention of people who might not even be looking to shop,” says Amit Gupta, CEO of the shoe retail store, Heels, in Connaught Place, Delhi. “Suppose a person has stepped out of a bookstore next to your shop, and is on his or her way to a coffee shop further down the road. Your window display has to be attractive enough to divert this person from his or her plan and make him or her walk into your shop. He could be a potential customer.” Agrees Sanjeev Mohanty, managing director, Benetton India. “Customers can be enticed to walk in to the store by a good show window.”

All about an image
Attractiveness is only one aspect of good window dressing, however. Designed wisely, a good window display also connects to the customer by emphasising the image of the brand, says Meera Sapra, manager, visual merchandising, Blackberry. That’s why, say most visual merchandisers, props are so necessary in window displays. That, and attitude. “It takes a lot to stand out in a crowd,” says Gupta. “So a lot depends on how to design your window.” Usually, window displays consist of mannequins wearing the products that are sold in the store. That usually works well – better than hanger displays – because the clothes are shown as they would look when worn, complete with colour contrasts and accessories. “Displayed like that, people think, ‘Oh, I can wear that,’ and walk into the store,” explains Arpit Garg of the Noida store Gen Y. But sometimes, other things are required to catch our eye, connect with our own attitude, and draw us in.

Not just the product
At Heels, for instance, where Gupta’s tag line is ‘always fresh’, the window display sometimes showcases not only the actual shoes, but also fruits. “The common element is their freshness and the colours,” explains Gupta. “So I could have a yellow theme one week with yellow shoes and yellow fruits, and an orange theme the next week.” Sometimes, the products themselves are not as important as the attitude they’re meant to exhibit. So, for instance, The Denim Store in Noida doesn’t have clothes in its window as we might expect. Instead, the window display features a Harley Davidson bike on rocky terrain, and a cowboy twirling a lasso. The only item of clothing in the window display is the jeans the cowboy is wearing. But the display does what it sets out to do – draws in customers. “All big denim brands showcase their range of jeans on their mannequins in the window displays,” explains visual merchandiser David James. “So we decided to do it differently. Denim is generally rough and ready wear. So we put up things and places that can be related to the toughness of the garments.” Naturally, a shop can’t have a single display for too long. We are fickle people, we consumers, and there are hundreds of other places we can shop. So there is a need to keep us excited about the stores we go to. And, of course, keep us aware that trends have changed. Says banker Neera Mahajan, “When I see a window display featuring styles of clothes and accessories that I have not seen before, I walk in immediately.” So while Benetton changes its window displays every 45 days or so, Heels changes it every week. But as we all know, sometimes brands are meaningless. Sometimes, shopping is really about what we’re going to buy. And if it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t matter how funky the window display is. We won’t walk in. Designers, please note.