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17 Retail Design Pros Share First Memories of Holiday Windows




REGULAR VMSD READERS know that we recently launched our exclusive Brain Squad, which is made up of visual merchandising and store designers across the country (and beyond) who offer up industry insight that only they can provide.

Since it’s that magical time of year, we asked our members in a recent Brain Squad survey: What’s your first memory of seeing holiday window displays?

Survey respondents shared a wide range of their experiences, taking a nostalgic stroll down memory lane to recount their earliest impressions of these beloved works of art crafted to celebrate the season. For extensive coverage of this season’s Holiday Windows, be sure to check out our January/February special issue!

  1. I wanted to join the characters in the windows in the fun they are having… – Chuck Luckenbill, Luckenbill Retail Solutions, Barnes, Wisc.
  2. The huge toy displays at FAO Schwartz in New York City in the late 1960s. Also, Macy’s displays and Bloomingdale’s….all in NYC. – Kraig Kessel, Kraido, San Francisco, Calif.
  3. My grandmother lived on 5th Ave. in NYC and she would take me to Saks and Lord & Taylor to see the windows every year since I was five. It was magical! – Linda Cahan, Cahan and Company, West Linn, Ore.
  4. Growing up in Cleveland there were two classic department stores that always had wonderful storybook windows. Higbees on Public Square and Halles just down the street. As a matter of fact, Higbees was featured in “A Christmas Story”. And the way they showed the windows in the movie was spot on to the way they were in reality. Both are long gone, but the memories remain. – Eric Kuhn, Bergmeyer, Boston, Mass.
  5. JC Penney and Garfinkels in Old Towne Alexandria and Hecht’s and Woodword & Lothrop at Landmark Center. – Joe Nevin, Big Red Rooster a JLL company, Boston Mass.
  6.  As a small child I remember seeing the Macy’s window in NYC. – Jodi Ellis,  Butterfly Beach, Sarasota, Fla.
  7. DAMN! I want to do that for a living! Kira Occhipinti, Luxottica/Oakley, South Amboy, NJ
  8. As a child, my mom would take us on a “special trip to the city” for a day of holiday festivities, shopping in the department store, having breakfast with Santa, and walking the storefronts to see the window displays. I remember thinking they were “magical”: color, lighting, animatronics, all at a scale that “transported me to a wonderful, holiday world.” We need more of this in retail! – Robyn Novak, AGAR, Cincinnati Ohio
  9. JL Hudson’s Detroit – my parents taking me “downtown” to see the windows and meet with Santa. In my memory, it was all very magical. – Julie Dugas, Studio H2G, Northville, Mich.
  10. New York City in the 90’s. Budgets were high, creativity was high. The installers were as happy as elves. Barney’s was always a creative headliner. Henri Bendel amplified their signature stripe. Tiffany’s wrapped their entire 14 stories with a big bow. Then you would move into lower Manhattan and witness the creative “cheap and cheerful” of small businesses owners creating their own unique magic. – Suzi West, Suzi West Consulting, Venice Calif.
  11. As a very young child, just turned three years old, going downtown. It was all amazing. – Sandra Garratt, SG Design LLC, Palm Springs, Calif.
  12. Department stores showing lux, over-the-top glitter and lit windows. Paula Paterson, MEC, Vancouver BC
  13. Ford Motor Company had an events hall in Dearborn, Mich., called the Ford Rotunda. It was enormous, especially for a small kid my age. Every year, they would transform the interior into a Christmas wonderland filled with animatronic elves and reindeer, overscaled trees with enormous ornaments and lights, piles of snow and Santa himself. It was a living fantasy that still sticks in my mind 60 years later. I never noticed store windows until I was actually inside of them, designing the displays! – Tony Camilletti, Camilletti Creative Consulting, Washington, Mich.
  14. Famous Barr in downtown St. Louis used to have holiday windows. Macy’s carried on the tradition for a while when they acquired them. My mom and I would take the trip downtown to see the windows and watch them light the giant tree. – Jessie Sanders, ArcVision Inc., St. Louis, Mo.
  15. My first memorable experience of a holiday window display was at Halls Department Store (by Hallmark). They always had the most dazzling window displays full of beautiful Christmas decorations that I’ve never seen before. – Ryan Rosche, BRR Architecture, Austin, Texas
  16. When I was about nine years old, my mother and I traveled to London from Scotland and I saw Harrod’s Christmas windows for the first time. I was transfixed by the bedazzled storytelling that could be achieved in each and every different window display. – David Milne, Inspire Brands, Sandy Springs, Ga.
  17. The mechanical windows in Macy’s – Bevan Bloemendaal, Nelson Worldwide

Don’t let FOMO get the better of you. … Join our new focus group of retail design and visual merchandising professionals, the VMSD Brain Squad. Now open to visual merchandising and retail design executives working at retail organizations and their agency partners at design and architecture firms, Brain Squad members are contacted monthly via email for opinions, ideas, insights and experiences. We publish the best responses in feature articles on Join today!



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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