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Happy Holidays

Are traditional Christmas windows a thing of the past?




In the U.K. one of the interesting points about this year’s holiday season, or Christmas as we over here still tend to refer to it, is the way in which the trappings that have normally been associated with the approach of December 25  have been changing. Traditionally, a European Christmas involves Santa, elves and a bevy of reindeer, all doing their thing in fake snow-filled windows with sprigs of holly and a few robins thrown in for good measure.

Yet, walk along London’s Oxford Street this year and you’ll be treated to windows filled with animals fashioned from household implements, in John Lewis; retro space rockets at Pull & Bear; and somber black minimalism tempered with a little gold at Zara. The visual merchandising community, it appears, have been tasked by retailers to create windows that will get people in the mood (for spending money), but this does not have to mean figures wearing red with large white beards and bulging sacks.

Does this mean that the Victorian Christmas that originated, to a large degree, in Germany in the 19th Century, and which was then grabbed at enthusiastically by the rest of Europe and the U.S., has been consigned to the festive bin?

On this side of The Pond the answer, for the moment at least, is probably yes. Retailers have perhaps come to the conclusion that the U.S. reached some time ago: holidays can be defined as absence of work (although so can unemployment), that brief moment when we all come together to realize how much we like each other initially and how short-lived this phenomenon tends to be.

The upshot is that anything goes in store windows, as long as it’s different from the rest of the year. Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or whatever else matters to you. Enjoy, as you folks say.

John Ryan is a journalist covering the retail sector, a role he has fulfilled for more than a decade. As well as being the European Editor of VMSD magazine, he writes for a broad range of publications in the U.K., the U.S. and Germany with a focus on in-store marketing, display and layout, as well as the business of store architecture and design. In a previous life, he was a buyer for C&A based in London and then Dusseldorf. He lives and works in London.




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