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Christmas Window Shopping
More than 10,000 people pass them every day.
The holiday window displays at Macy’s and other New York City department stores have been a cherished tradition for families for more than a century.
In the late 19th century, glass became more affordable and accessible, and department stores started installing large windows at ground level. That meant anyone passing by could peek inside to see what was for sale.
Stores quickly realized that more tantalizing views were more likely to convert window shoppers to in-store shoppers. So, they started curating displays to showcase specific products.
The holiday shopping season was a natural time to ramp up efforts.
And with that, the great holiday window display craze was underway.
Over the years, the displays evolved in ways that will be very familiar to modern marketers.
Holidays on Display
Department stores used influencers to help their windows stand out. Artists including Salvador Dali, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol were all commissioned to design holiday windows in their own artistic styles over the years.
As designs became more elaborate, the windows themselves became newsworthy, and stores set about trying to top themselves and each other every year. Unveiling the displays became massive spectacles each year, and stores went to great lengths to keep the contents a secret.
The most enlightened leap forward for the displays, however, came in 1937, when Lord & Taylor envisioned Bell Windows – a snow-covered landscape with animatronic ringing bells overhead.
Bell Windows was the first window that wasn’t centered on any merchandise. Rather than trying to sell a specific product, the window display evoked a feeling.
It was that pivot that transformed the window displays from annual advertisements to something more iconic and enduring.
Today, the displays are as elaborate as ever. Case in point: A team of more than 250 people spent a combined 40,000 hours on the Sak’s light show and window displays this year.