If you’ve ever watched Mary Portas work her magic on Mary Queen Of Shops, you’ll know that a powerful shop window can be as impressive as a work of art – and incredibly effective at appealing to potential customers.
Helen Goodwin, co-founder of window dressing company Made You Look, has worked with various travel agencies to improve their shop windows, and spoke at The Global Travel Group Conference this year.
“A window display is a very powerful selling tool,” she explains. “Whatever holiday you are selling, you are selling the dream, so make sure it’s inspirational.”
Here we share some of Goodwin’s tips and speak to some agents who have had inspired shop window ideas.
“Think of your shop window as your branding,” says Goodwin. “If your shop looks vibrant, colourful and striking, people will want to come inside.”
Goodwin says people will look at a shop window for around two seconds before making a decision about whether or not to enter, so providing “wow factor” will help make an impact and encourage people to engage.
“If it looks dull, tired and grey, people will assume not much is going on inside,” Goodwin warns.
She encourages agents to “think outside the box” and to source inspiration from social media, especially Pinterest.
“Agents should also draw inspiration from the holidays themselves,” adds Goodwin. “They know their target audience – a good window dresser needs to get inside their head to know what appeals to them.”
Meon Valley Travel in Petersfield has been successful at marketing its holidays using its shop windows, and the team has lots of fun along the way, too.
“We have become quite famous for our window displays,” says director Karen Beagrie. “Passers-by come in to congratulate us and thank us for brightening their day whether they are customers or not.
“The staff get stopped in the street – which of course we convert into a sale – and people often come and ask if they can buy our displays.”
Its window themes are often playful and light-hearted – examples include a “Life is better in flip-flops” window and a “Happy Lollidays” display where giant Willie Wonka-style lollipops were fashioned from swimming noodles.
“Window dressing is great for team building, and we try to have a laugh thinking of ideas. We get inspiration from shop windows abroad,” says Beagrie.
The team changes the window display once a month, and clients and other local businesses often share photos of the displays on social media.
“Our window is a feature of the high street – it differentiates us and lends personality to our business. It adds a bit of fun to the town centre, and it helps with footfall,” adds Beagrie.
“These days travel agencies need to be very creative,” says Goodwin – especially if they’re vying for clients’ attention on a busy high street.
One agency that’s pushing the creativity envelope is Advantage Travel Partnership member Destination Travel in Silsden, West Yorkshire, which pays a local artist to paint its window three to four times a year.
“Travel has some iconic and aspirational images that can be portrayed very well as paintings,” says director Shevaun Joy. “We’ve had Christmas scenes, Florida, Las Vegas, and Dubai in the past, and currently we have Indian Ocean,” she adds.
While Joy says it’s hard to know whether the paintings have increased footfall, the shop is experiencing a very good year. “People definitely find our windows a point of interest. Maybe this is the secret to our success!” she says.
The windows have sparked plenty of interest around the village in which the agency is located, especially since Joy came up with a clever idea to further drive engagement.
“The last time the window was painted, I took a picture of the artist and the blank window, and asked people to guess the destination on Facebook and offered a prize of fast-track for four people at Leeds Bradford airport.
The comments came flooding in and there was definitely a buzz about it,” she says.
When it comes to offers and promotions, Goodwin says too many can be overwhelming for passers-by.
“Although the offers are necessary, don’t over-pack the window with them and don’t stick too much on the glass,” she warns.
“It’s the props or splashes of colour that entice and tell a story.” Goodwin advises filling a third of the window with posters. “The rest can be merchandise, while props in the middle add the wow factor.”
Aspen Travel in Manchester is on the site of a former bank, and when they move in the team kept the framed A4 light-up poster displays in its windows, which are also commonly used in estate agents.
“People stop and look as the shop front looks smart and professional. We also keep the lights on the posters all night so people can see the offers as they walk past,” says sales consultant Yvonne Montgomery.
Colleague Karen Allen adds that they have also worked with suppliers to come up with a fun marketing idea for the shop window. “They supply us with their logo in Velcro format and charge them £40 for a sign, which we put in the window.
We’ve had good feedback on our windows and some really good bookings off the local footfall.”
“High street agencies are selling a lifestyle as well as holidays, so think carefully about your audience and what you are trying to tell them,” says Goodwin.
At Beaver Travel in Elgin, Scotland, clients are drawn into an elegant space that doubles up as a cafe and gift shop too, ensuring a broad appeal.
The Travel Cafe is at the front of the store, with the travel agency at the back. “Having the cafe makes a huge difference,” says owner Fiona Widdowson. “We’ve had it for more than 10 years and it has increased footfall by around 50%.”
While some customers come in for a coffee and cake, the Beaver Travel team places brochures on all the cafe tables.
“It’s rare to see someone who doesn’t have a browse of the brochures. Having the cafe also means people spend longer in store. They can have a drink, speak to one of our agents, have some lunch and then book something four or five hours later without having left the premises,” says Widdowson.
The team at Beaver Travel also designs themed window displays. “We get involved in local days, for example we did a Scottish theme day. We also take part in local window display competitions or local treasure hunts where we hide sweets in the window,” she adds.
While ultimately the sale is down to the skill of the agent, Goodwin says an impressive shop window is an excellent conversation starter and helps create a good first impression. Looks like it’s time to channel your inner Mary Portas…
1. Have a focal point in the middle of the window at eye level
2. Use good lighting – keep the lights on until around 10pm, as this attracts commuter traffic
3. Make sure there’s a fresh sign outside
4. Plants in the window are welcoming
5. Make sure your windows are clean
6. Use colour inside the shop to entice people in
7. Your display should be eye-catching, smart and imaginative