Warning Signs

First Impressions

For years, during the holiday season, shoppers crowded in front of Gump's department store in San Francisco to get a glimpse of its Christmas window displays. One year, they saw antique European nativity scenes; another year, life-sized mechanical figures including Santa, toy soldiers and the three Wise Men.

Gump's legendary windows not only delighted passersby but also turned them into paying customers of its expensive home furnishings and gift items. You, too, can turn sidewalk strollers into paying customers by following these four easy steps:

1. Keep it simple. Resist the temptation to display a little of everything you sell. Instead, limit your display to a few choice items at a time. "A few large centerpiece items are more appealing than a cluttered display," says Mindy Greenberg, owner of M Windows, a visual merchandising display company in New York City.

2. Keep it clean. Dust displays and wash windows--inside and out--regularly. "You might think your windows are clean, but when the sun goes down, if you can see dust and streaks, customers can, too," says Greenberg.

3. Rotate your displays. To keep your storefront fresh and interesting, change your window displays often. As a rule of thumb, change them every five to eight weeks if people drive by your store; every two to four weeks if you're in a shopping mall or on a street with plenty of foot traffic.

You can change your store window as the seasons change. Or choose a single color and display every item you have in that color. Another trick: Select one item, such as a T-shirt, and show it in half-a-dozen colors.

4. Promote local events. Offer a portion of your storefront as a community service bulletin board. It's a great way to show customers you support the community. But be careful, Greenberg warns, not to put up so many posters, fliers or announcements that you block the view of your shop's interior.

Contact Source

M Windows, (212) M-WINDOWS

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This article was originally published in the September 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Warning Signs.

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