From commissioning local artists to depicting snowy scenes, agents get creative with Christmas window displays.
Christmas is coming, and across the country agencies have been transformed into winter wonderlands.
Decorating commenced in early November at Thorne Travel, Kilwinning.
Managing director Shona Thorne explains: “I absolutely love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of year!”
The shop’s windows twinkle with fake snow, glitter and fairy lights, and small trains weave around multiple Christmas trees.
While many decorations are reused, Thorne spends £500 a year on additional pieces. The 2019 headline addition is a huge sweet cart filled with goodies.
Thorne helps run Promoting Kilwinning, a local body that raises the profile of the agency’s town, and organised the annual Christmas lights switch-on in November.
Alongside a fun fair and stage shows, families were encouraged to find the 30 elves hidden in shop windows.
Children then delivered their entries to Thorne Travel to try to win a prize.
The agency also hosted a Santa’s Grotto, with the team dressed as elves.
“We normally get around 500 people in the shop over three hours,” Thorne explains.
“It’s a massive event for us, as Christmas can be a time when people aren’t going to small towns and are online shopping or going to out-of-town centres instead. This event draws them into the town – the amount of customers we pick up who have never heard of us is amazing.”
Arundel Travel is also heavily involved in local festive celebrations in its hometown of Otley.
The Otley Victorian Fayre has been running since 1985, and on 1 December the town was bustling with visitors, with a fun fair, music and craft stalls.
This year the agency sponsored the programme and displayed the town’s highly prized nativity scene in a window.
Director Helen Parry says: “We put decorations up so the window looks Victorian, and we all wear Victorian dress. We meet lots of people from all over Yorkshire and while we do get business from it, for us it’s about playing our part in the local community.”
Both Thorne Travel and Arundel Travel also donate presents to children’s charities. Thorne Travel’s customers often add to the pile under the store’s tree, and throughout the year Arundel Travel asks suppliers to donate a present when they visit for training sessions.
At Footprint Travel in Prestwich, the agency’s window has been transformed into a New York fairytale scene, courtesy of a local artist.
Director Mia Walmsley commissions illustrator Myro Coates to create a different piece of artwork each month, which takes over the agency’s 3-metre-wide window.
“For Christmas, I’m theming the window around New York and promoting breaks and present ideas.”
Each scene is created by Coates with paint pens over three hours, and focuses on the store’s destination of the month, which has included South Africa, Thailand and Canada.
Walmsley explains: “It’s a small shop, and I wanted to make it look different from a traditional agency. It’s a way of getting people to think about different destinations.”
Walmsley opened the store in May, having worked as a homeworker for three years, so this is her first festive window.
“They are always really lovely and look so bright and cheerful. I choose what people are booking at the time, and it gives us a focus for the blog and social media.
“For Christmas I’m tying it all around New York, which is so synonymous with Christmas for me. I’ve promoted NYC breaks as present ideas throughout December.”
Acomb Travel in York’s window also has an arty theme. The agency ran a festive colouring competition for pupils at a local primary school, and their masterpieces have been used to decorate the store’s window.
“Everyone who brings their entry in can have some sweets, and the winner gets seats and meals for a family holiday, courtesy of Jet2,” partner Sam Walton explains.
For those who struggle to find time to decorate, follow the lead of West Kilbride’s LAH Travel. For the past six years, managing director Linda Hill has employed a window dresser, who always uses a gigantic 5-foot wreath.
“It’s really beautiful and is in our pink and turquoise colours,” she explains.
“I feel it’s worth spending on a window dresser, and he adds to the wreath each year. He has it up in the first week of December looking really professional, and takes it away again on the 27th and arranges storage. It’s nice and easy for us, and means we’re ready to focus on the January rush.”
Helen Goodwin, owner of window dressing specialist and training firm Made You Look, shares tips for creating impressive festive windows.
Let there be light: Lighting is key to making an impact with a window – direct it carefully. Ensure fairy lights are done attractively and neatly, with no straggly strings on display. Set a timer so your lights come on early each morning and stay on until 22:30, to catch the commuter traffic.
Colour co-ordinate: Traditional warm and cosy colours are always popular. Create a private moodboard on Pinterest to collect ideas throughout the year.
These are useful for Easter and Halloween too.
Less is more: Don’t overload your window – if there is too much to look at, people see nothing. It works
well to keep it simple and well lit, with space around items.
Having a moving element helps capture people’s attention.
Consider gifts: Include present ideas in your window, as people are walking around with money to burn at Christmas.
It’s the time to promote gift vouchers and weekend breaks. Consider putting them on eye-catching gift boxes or big present labels.
Source supplies: My favourite stores are visual merchandising wholesalers Dzd.co.uk and Abama.com, and floral wholesalers. I also find great items in Wilko, Home Bargains and Dunelm.