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Windows to the Future: Part I

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s bright, bold holiday windows provided an abundance of hope for returning customers and the industry alike.

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THE YEAR 2020 was unlike any in recent memory, especially for retail. Between thousands of closures (some temporary and others permanent), lockdowns, hesitant customers and loss of brick-and-mortar sales, it’s unsurprising that retailers sought big, bold and hopeful themes for their end-of-year holiday displays.

Liverpool (Mexico City) selected a whimsical style this holiday season, aiming to bring customers a sense of normalcy paired with holiday wonder. In addition to their windows, which detailed a childlike adventure of “finding the perfect gift,” the visual team wrapped their flagship’s façade in large-scale graphics to show “the Christmas feeling from a child’s perspective,” says D.G. Alejandro Ruíz González, Creative Manager, Liverpool. “We were completely inspired by children’s innocence and the illusion of believing in magical beings that make wishes come true. As a main concern, we want to keep promoting hope … and the holiday spirit, despite the hard times we all have been through.”

Windows to the Future: Part I
Liverpool, Mexico City
“The Best Toy Shop” / Alejandro Ruíz González,
Creative Manager Visual Merchandising, Liverpool Mexico / Photography: Cesar Rohe

With the pandemic in mind, retailers sought to make their window unveilings safe for visitors. Saks Fifth Avenue (New York) hosted several smaller lighting ceremonies which were live-streamed online in lieu of hosting its annual unveiling celebration that typically draws hundreds of onlookers. New York retailers in general tended to showcase messages of hope and unity, like Bergdorf Goodman’s (New York) striking windows which highlighted impactful words like “Equality” and “Love.”

Windows to the Future: Part I
Macy’s, New York
“Give. Love. Believe.”  / Macy’s VM Team / Photography: Bill Waldorf, New York

Macy’s (New York) similarly thanked essential workers through its eye-catching displays. “Macy’s iconic holiday windows celebrated and honored New Yorkers who showed their grit, good humor and hopeful spirit during a challenging year,” says Manny Urquizo, Director of Storewide Visual Campaigns and Windows, Macy’s, who notes positivity as a regular theme. “The use of vibrant colors and encouraging messages was a common thread seen throughout many window presentations. Retailers also took a more nostalgic and traditional approach to this holiday season, something I feel people had been longing for through this most tumultuous year.”

Windows to the Future: Part I
The Rodeo Drive Committee and the City of Beverly Hills, Calif.
“Visions of Holiday Glamour” / Set + Stage Creative, Los Angeles / Photography: Courtesy of Set + Stage Creative, Los Angeles

Expanding beyond the glass, outdoor holiday-themed installations popped up along shopping corridors and spread cheer directly to the sidewalks. Noteworthy examples include the Fifth Avenue Association’s (New York) installations in New York City, featuring oversized props of New York icons and holiday decor, from classic Christmas baubles to a twinkling yellow taxi prop. Another, Set + Sage Creative’s (Los Angeles) Beverly Hills, Calif., outdoor installation included larger-than-life, towering mannequins, fashionably dressed to showcase the glamor of the holidays and inject some much-needed vibrancy down Rodeo Drive.

Windows to the Future: Part I
Fifth Avenue Association, New York
“Make it Bright” / Tom Beebe, Creative Consultant, Stylist, Window Wizard  / Photography: Liz Ligon

“The outside of the store will continue to take precedent over the sales floor,” says Samar Younes, VP, Creative Director, Showfields (Paris). “Retailers are collaborating with other businesses to create the sentiments of a festive outdoor market in an effort to collectively help one another on a local level but also to maximize their exterior use. Quick service cafes, eateries, mobile eateries, selling carts and decorative animations adorned many shopping centers, malls and department stores, not only throughout the U.S., but also around the world to create safe places of gathering and bring about a sense of joy, convenience and normalcy to shoppers.”

Windows to the Future: Part I
Broadway Sydney, Sydney, Australia
“Cool Christmas” | Samantha Gazal, Sam Gazal Installations | Photography: Courtesy of Sam Gazal Installations

Between classic window displays and jaw-dropping outdoor/storewide installations, retail’s holiday displays communicated a message of positivity to shoppers and the industry at large, and a nod toward the future. “I think that we must keep our minds open to changes,” says Liverpool’s González. “Only players willing to adapt will overcome every challenge that the future holds. I also consider [the importance of making] people feel safe in a hygienic place, where their safety and health isn’t at risk, to allow them to have a break from all the paranoia and bad news … We must [also] keep focus on issues like environmental preservation, social responsibility, sustainable development and the overall synergy between our clients’ needs and our ecological footprint, no matter where we are.”

Next Part

Windows to the Future, Part II

Carly Hagedon is the Managing Editor of VMSD magazine. She is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where she studied Journalism—Magazine Writing and American history. She also currently serves as a board member for the Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).

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