How to Design a Great Retail Shop Window Display

Retail shop window display ideas inspiration

With stores reopened and high streets filling up again, the age-old dilemma for retail shops returns: how do I actually get people through the door? 

Your retail shop window display plays a huge part in this. So whether it’s your first time setting up a window display, or you’re just after some shop window display inspiration, we’ve got you covered. 

We’ve scoured the internet (and the streets) for the freshest retail window display ideas, and talked to seasoned pros about how they approach this task (and how often). 

Top 6 shop window display ideas

  1. Colour themes
  2. Window vinyls
  3. Flowers and plants
  4. Lights
  5. Paper installations and decorations
  6. Banners and bunting

1. Colour themes

The simplest window displays are sometimes the most enticing, and appear the most put-together. Get it right, and you can create something that’s affordable, striking, and easy to change. 

But without a common thread, your window could end up looking more thrown together than curated. We love windows themed by colour, and arranged carefully — the colour pulls the whole display together. Just make sure you add different height levels to keep it interesting. 

Notice how both windows aren’t working with just one specific colour, but rather a strict palette of tonally similar ones? Bonus points if it ties in with the colour of your storefront!

2. Window vinyls

If you only have a small space and not a lot of surface area to work within your window, a vinyl can really elevate the look of your store. They’re also perfect quick solutions to events, like Mother’s and Father’s Day.

Retail window display vinyl
Source: Pinterest
Window vinyls
Source: Pinterest

3. Flowers and plants

Plants have become a home staple, so incorporating them into your shop window display is going to give it a really welcoming, homely feel. 

Our advice here is to go big. Small plants won’t have much impact, whereas larger ones can really add depth and character to your display.

Waiste Vintage retail window display
Source: Google

Waiste Vintage in Brighton, UK, combines vintage clothes with a small plant shop. It’s a readymade formula for beautiful shop window displays. 

Don’t trust yourself with a living plant? We get it. In which case, the dried flowers trend may be more up your street.

Dried flowers and grasses are on-trend, and last significantly longer than their fresh counterparts, making them a really handy prop to have in every shop owner’s cupboard. 

4. Lights

Most shop owners reach for the lights around Christmas time, but there are plenty of ways to use lights to your advantage all year round. 

Neon lights are a fun and eye-catching alternative to traditional shop signs, for example. 

We love The Pop-Up Club’s window. The display itself is fairly pared-back, but the combination of great merchandising, huge windows and a simple neon sign works wonders. 

Lighting isn’t just decorative, though. You need to make sure your window display will be properly illuminated when it’s dark out, and draw extra attention to your focus product. Installing positionable high lumen LED lamps is best for this.

5. Paper installations and decorations

It’s not until you try to hang something from your shop ceiling that you realize its weight is kind of important, so the trend for paper installations is both a practical and a stylish one. 

We can’t get enough of this display in the On Paper shop window! It’s super eye-catching while also tying in really well with their products (notebooks, journals and pens).

6. Banners and bunting

If your window display is mainly table height or lower, you may find you have a lot of empty window space above it. Bunting and banners are a great way to bring your whole window together, without obscuring too much of the store behind it. 

Bunting retail window display idea
Source: Pinterest

A couple of strings of bunting bring just the right amount of kitsch to this little homeware shop.

How to design a shop window display

We’ve shown you some of our favourite retail window display ideas, and you should be feeling inspired to get started on your own. 

But how do you actually pull it all together? That’s what we’re going to show you right now. 

1. Decide which products to include

While well-known brands can get away with more abstract displays, smaller retailers should focus on their products. 

And while it might be tempting to put stock that isn’t shifting in the window, you’re much better off going with your bestsellers — preferably a nice variety of products, with different sizes. 

But also keep in mind that a product is likely to become more popular simply by being in the window. So you need to make sure you have enough stock to allow for that — otherwise, you’ll either be switching products around constantly, or disappointing people who come into your store for a certain item they’ve seen outside. 

We recommend starting with one focus product, and maybe two to four ‘secondary’ products, depending on the size of your space. 


Ask the Experts: Laura, Handmade Design – Ashbourne, UK 

“Planning our shop window displays is one of my favourite jobs! To keep things fresh, I try and change our shop window display every few weeks, even if it’s just a case of changing the smaller pieces. When I’m planning a shop window display, I will always try and think of a theme. There are of course the obvious ones throughout the year: Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, etc. Outside of those, I might pick a particular colour palette or product type. As we aren’t based in a coastal town, for the summer I’ve decided to go for a nature inspired window with lots of florals and bees.

Read More:- How to Increase Footfall In-Store

Before I even begin playing with the window display, I simply sit down with a pen and paper and write down all the products that I feel would fit to my theme.

Laura, Handmade Design – Ashbourne, UK

Sometimes I even walk around the shop over and over again, as things do have a habit of jumping up at me! Once I’ve put a list together, I go through it to make sure we have a good mix of product types of sizes.

Once I’m armed with my list, I put the large pieces in first (for us it’s furniture) and then I just start playing to see what works!”

Handmade Design Retail Window Display Inspiration
Handmade Design retail window display inspiration

Images courtesy of Handmade Design


2. Sketch out placement 

Your focus product should sit at eye level. This will give it the best chance of doing its job, and pulling people into your store. 

Everything else can fit in around it. That means your secondary products, and any other props, like banners, plants and lights. 

You have a delicate balance to strike here. You want your retail window display to look purposeful and impactful, but you don’t want to take up too much space. 

While it was once common practice to block out your shop window as a kind of self-contained space, we now understand that people are more likely to enter a store if they can see through the window and into the main space. Plus, if you fill the window with too many products, you can cause ‘choice overload’ — if your customers’ minds are overstimulated, it’s less likely that one great product will stand out to them, and bring them inside.


Ask the Experts: Helen, Hummingbird – Minehead, UK

“I’m not a great planner of window displays, although I do try, especially for Christmas when I start planning in September and work to sketches I have done. 

I tend to be more reactive to when new stock arrives, the weather changes, or things are happening — for example we did a display in red and white to reflect the fact England had reached the Euro finals. 

A display often evolves and changes as I am creating it. We try and change the window fortnightly to keep it looking fresh and keep people interested but they often get refreshed in the meantime if things sell.

Helen, Hummingbird – Minehead, UK

I continued to change the window display regularly throughout lockdown which helped drive sales from people having their daily walk and messaging me to buy products they had seen in the windows.

I spend a lot of time looking at Pinterest and Instagram for inspiration and love trying out new ideas. Some work, some don’t, but as long as they make people stop and look that’s the whole point. We have lots of comments regarding our displays and that’s something I’m really proud of — having two shops with completely different window spaces is definitely a challenge.”

Hummingbird retail window display inspiration
Hummingbird retail window display inspiration

Images courtesy of Hummingbird


3. Work out what props you need

To achieve your dream window display, you’re going to need some practical props to allow you to get the right lighting and heights. 

Lights 

We’ve touched on using lights for decoration, but it’s also a good idea to get some more practical ones in. As well as installing positionable LED lights above your window, it’s worth trying some extra lamps. These little IKEA lamps are perfect for adding a pop of light to lower areas.

Signs/ vinyls 

Etsy has a ton of personalizable window vinyl options, or we love the whole Retail Graphics section of the Nutmeg Studio shop for themed ideas. 

Plinths and pedestals 

Plinths and pedestals vary the height of your display, giving it depth, and meaning you can get your focus products at that all-important eye level. Plinths and Pedestals carries a really large selection of acrylic choices, and we also love the wire and wood options from UK POS

4. Measure success

So you’ve put together a window display you’re really proud of. But how do you know if it’s actually working? There are a few things to try or look out for: 

  1. How your window products are selling. A spike in sales of these products shows they’re catching people’s attention. 
  2. Changes in number of visitors. A tool like FootfallCam can take care of this for you, or you may be able to track it manually on quieter days. This isn’t a perfect metric (general footfall will increase or decrease for any number of reasons), but it can help you spot trends.  
  3. Comments from customers. If you’re getting a lot of people asking to find products in the window, you know you’re doing a good job! 

Where to get shop window inspiration

We hope this post has been a good source of inspiration for your store window display. 

But the most challenging part of designing a store window display is that you have to redo it so frequently (we’ll get on to that in a second), so even the most creative people will sometimes need some extra inspiration. 

When that happens, here’s where we like to go for shop window display inspiration: 

  1. Pinterest — Pinterest is perfect for browsing different shop window displays for inspiration, especially when you’re looking around a particular event. We’ve got a board of retail window inspiration on the go, and we’d love to add some images from our retailers to it. If you’re proud of your storefront, send it in! 
  2. Instagram — Search for hashtags like #shopwindow #storewindow #shopwindowdisplay #shopwindowdesign for inspiration. As you can see, we sourced a lot of images for this post from Instagram. 

How often to change your shop window display

The question of how often to change your shop window display is a tough one. Once shops are ‘into the swing’ of doing their displays, they will change them as often as every couple of weeks, with big themed displays for all the big occasions. 

It’s important for your window to feel fresh. Depending on where you’re located, you could get people walking past your store several times a week. They need to see something new to be enticed in. 

But there’s also an argument for putting all your effort into a great display (and changing it, say, every couple of months), rather than delivering a load of half-baked attempts. You can refresh things a little by switching out some products in the meantime. Only you will know how much inspiration and resources you have to give. 

Wrapping up

Above we’ve outlined a tried and tested method for putting together a gorgeous shop window display. 

But as any experienced shop owner will tell you, the best way to learn what works for your shop is by having a go, and testing out some ideas. It won’t be long before you get a real instinct for what your customers respond to, and a good selection of props to help you achieve the look you want. 

Are there any tips for building a great shop window that we missed? Let us know in the comments! 

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Hannah is Creoate's Content Marketing Manager. She's passionate about bringing you content that's actually useful and — dare she say it —inspirational. Running a small business is hard, and we really want to help with that. Drop her an email at [email protected] if there's anything you'd like to read (or if you'd like to be featured!). She's all ears.
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