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Business Best Practices: Taking Window Displays to New Heights

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 1, 2013

By Theresa Swiecicki

Note: Theresa Swiecicki owns Homestead Needle Arts LLC, which was a winner in the 2013 TNNA Needlearts Business Innovation Awards program. The program is a joint project of TNNA and Hart Business Research.

Earlier this year, Homestead Needle Arts moved 1 mile from its more than 20-year-old location to the Grand Ridge Galleria in Grand Blanc, MI. One of the attractions of the new location was that the new storefront is made entirely of glass. Including the doorway, the suite is fronted by 20 ft. of glass. In addition, there is an existing 9x18-in. ledge left by the contractor in front of the 14-ft. window.

The new shop opened during late February, 2013. A coffee and bagel shop is located to the north side of it and an upscale Italian restaurant on the opposite side. With plenty of walking traffic, I knew I needed an attractive window display — PRONTO! My husband, Mike, is very handy, but this innovation can be done by anybody with minimum carpentry skills willing to spend some time on it. A shop owner can also contract out the minimal building portion and will also need a catalog for store hardware.

Front-window flooring

First, I took Mike to a store that had a floor near the window so he could see the type of area I wanted. I asked him for an 18-in. wide floor approximately 18-in. high. He decided to cover the existing 9x18-in. ledge rather than remove it, and built a "box" that covers that ledge that included three panels to access the space within. This way, I could store small holiday decorations or other rarely used items. I say "small" because I only ended up with about 9x18 in. of 14-ft.-long storage space!

We painted his creation white to match the woodwork in the shop, and we covered the top with a large strip of leftover carpet remnant. Mike braced the "flooring" so that I could stand on it when arranging the window display. It also meant the flooring was safe if a visitor (especially a curious child) attempted to sit or stand on it.

This innovation is simple to recreate by purchasing plywood and building boxes of it that will fit under your shop windows. Simply measure the area you want the flooring, making sure that the height will be proper for your window. Keep in mind what kind of items you'll be displaying. For example, a miniature Christmas tree will not look good near the bottom of a window. If you usually set it on a table, make sure that your flooring is large enough to support that table in front of your window.

Although my flooring had to stretch the length of the shop, many shops could have smaller windows and could create small "boxed floors." You might want to make the boxes removable so that you can change your display. Mine are actually fixed to the walls. If making them removable, you'll need to be sure that they are sturdy and safe.

Covering it with carpeting to match the shop floor makes the front display blend in on the inside of the shop. We used double-sided sticky carpeting tape to hold the carpeting to the plywood. It's a two-person job to get it straight when you have 14 ft. to cover!

If you don't have carpeting, paint or cover the wood to match your existing flooring. You can cover it with a heavy fabric. Because plywood tends to snag items, I'd suggest you cover it with something rather than just painting or staining it. If the front of your "box" is left open, you can store plastic bins or odd-shaped items under it. Because I have a couch facing this area, however, I didn't want it left open. As seen in the photo at right, each of the three white wooden panels open to reveal storage space behind it. Simple hardware clips hold the panel in place, and each panel completely removes for access to the storage space.

Front-window wire merchandise racks

I had been researching store hardware catalogs, and showed Mike that the existing wire racks I use for merchandise on the walls can also stand on their own to display merchandise. Hardware is available to turn the racks into stand-alone units, but Mike wanted to build the "feet." We turned my extra wire racks into store window displays just by flipping them vertically and putting feet on them!

The racks and all hardware can be purchased locally if the shop owner has an available store supply warehouse in their area. If not, they can be purchased online — although you will want to ask about shipping costs. When buying just a few, shipping can usually be done via UPS. I've used both local suppliers and an online vendor, My local store supply warehouse has used supplies, which can help keep things budget-friendly.

I can easily lift the window racks up and down from the window flooring to change the window display every two to three weeks. After all, browsing customers like to see a fresh window display.

The merchandise is not harmed by sunlight, as the glass was already tinted by the previous building owner to prevent sun fading and they only hang there for two to three weeks. It's also not harmed by the hanging, as it is hung for display in the same way on the walls: with simple clips. Because it is so easy to change the window display, minor holidays can now be celebrated with decorations in the window.

At this time, I have four window racks. The side of the rack facing the shop also has other merchandise hung on it. This has increased the amount of available merchandising space in my shop:

• Framed class pieces are hung on the racks with a simple S hook.

• Class information is easily hung on the racks.

• Finished and unfinished tote bags, purses and belts have been hung.

• I even featured a chair stitching stand and project to show exactly what the needlepointer's set-up looks like.

Getting noticed

Pedestrians slow down to browse the window display regularly, and I’m finding that several have come in, joined our mailing list and even signed up for classes. Our March 2013 income stayed steady compared to March 2012 income. Within two months of the display, our revenue had increased by 18 percent and continues to grow.

The owner of the Italian restaurant has taken the time to tell me that the window displays are "very attractive," and he really appreciates having me for a neighbor. My new landlord has repeatedly told me he loves my window displays and that my shop is "exactly what he wanted in his mall." I'm thrilled to have a great working relationship with my new landlord, and also thrilled to know he appreciates having me here. It feels great to know that my neighbors want me here, too.

Many of my regular customers take the time to browse the window display before coming in. A recent display charmed one of my regulars so much she asked me to take it out to purchase. (I was happy to oblige!)

I'm making sure to ask new shoppers what drew them into the shop, and many of them have told me that it was the display in the window. They don't see all of it at once, but if they see something that catches their eye, they are likely to visit and find out more information. Because this is typical of the way people browse a window, I like to put several different topics in the window when I do the displays.

The class information in the window does not seem to attract as much attention as the painted canvas does. Even the finished projects attract less attention than the painted canvas. However, once the person comes in the door, classes and finished projects play a central role in keeping their attention.

In fact, "Do you have classes?" is the No. 1 question I hear from people who decide to come in and take a look. As a result, class participation has increased dramatically. Beginner classes in particular are turning casual window shoppers into bona fide students and regular customers.

Overall, I'm thrilled that the window display grabs the attention of passers-by, especially when so many of them follow up by entering the shop. The minor improvements to the front window have paid off daily, as people come in and ask questions, take a class schedule flyer, sign up for our email newsletter and browse the shop. Any time I can talk to a potential customer about needlepoint is a chance to make a new customer.

I firmly believe that any shop owner with windows in their shop should be able to create a vibrant and easy display by building boxes to raise their floor level to window or visual height. Using simple racks covered with merchandise is a great way to capture attention regarding your shop, especially when the merchandise is as eye-catching as a needlepoint painted canvas.

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Tags:  Business Innovation Awards  display  Hart Business Research  Homestead  marketing  merchandising  needlearts  needlepoint  retail  Swiecicki  The National NeedleArts Association  TNNA  window 

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