An ode to the ‘not so humble’ Christmas window display

Portrait of Amy Ramage

Amy Ramage

MD & Creative Director



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Selfridges Seasons Treatings window display

We’re in the ‘peak’ of the festive season. We even have snow (in some parts of the UK). It got us thinking about the magic of the ‘not so humble’ Christmas window display and its place in the digital world.

With a love of fashion and design, one of our favourite Christmas traditions is to spend some time in central London taking in this magical spectacle. Each year, the creative genius of the Christmas window displays adorning UK high-streets never ceases to amaze. It truly is ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ when shoppers can witness the visual design prowess of UK retailers large and small.

Delighting UK shoppers since 1909

Retailers have used their store windows to showcase their wares for hundreds of years. However, it’s believed that the concept of the Christmas window display, as we now know it, was transported across the Atlantic by the American entrepreneur, Henry Selfridge. In 1909 he lit up the windows of his Oxford Street store, giving passers-by the perfect view of the goods on display. He didn’t stop there. Mr Selfridge delighted his customers with the first ever full floor Christmas display in-store. A new kind of festive spirit had truly been delivered to the UK. His inspiration, potentially, came from Macy’s, the New York department store that has been creating holiday window displays since the 1870s.

Fast forward to the present day - the Christmas window has evolved to become a festive ‘creative’ staple for retailers of all shapes and sizes. And this year is no exception.

The best of 2022: Eye-catching. Jaw-dropping. Magical. Inspirational.

From Knightsbridge and Oxford Street to Bond Street and the Burlington Arcade - the 2022 Christmas windows in London are quite simply outstanding.

Some of the most eye-catching include: Cartier ‘gift-wrapping’ its flagship Bond Street store; Fortnum and Mason’s turning its frontage into an advent calendar; and Selfridges - it would be rude not to mention the founding father - treating shoppers to a visual ‘season’s feastings’. It even comes with a brussel sprout Christmas tree, riding on top of a taxi. Well, why not?

But it’s the jaw-dropping collaborations that have truly wowed festive window fans this year. Harrods and Dior have joined forces to create, according to Harper's Bazaar, the most ‘glamorous Christmas wonderland and exhibition, which will delight any fashion and beauty fan’. And then there’s Louis Vuitton’s work with LEGO to add a pop of colour and an element of childish fun to its luxurious Christmas display.

Not to be outdone, Fenwick in Newcastle has stayed true to its roots of inspiring children through storytelling. The family-owned retailer has been creating Christmas displays for well over 50 years. And this year, it has worked with award-winning children’s author, Lauren Child, to bring one of her much-loved characters to life with ‘Clarice Bean: Think Like an Elf’. It doesn’t end there; Fenwick has collaborated with the Royal Northern Sinfonia - the orchestra of Sage Gateshead - to produce a live recording of music from Tchaikovsky’s ever-popular Christmas ballet ‘The Nutcracker’. It is being played alongside the magical display.

Dior x Harrods Window display

'Wonderful World of Dior' Harrods window display

Christmas windows in a digital world

We may have seen some of the larger department stores such as Debenhams and House of Fraser disappear from the high-street, and an exponential growth in eCommerce. This has not led to the death of the Christmas window display - it has actually enhanced it.

It’s said that every day between mid-October and New Year’s Day, 160,000 people see Selfridges’ London window. However, the advent of social media has meant that even those unable to make a trip into central London can see the Christmas windows in all their glory. Fans, both consumers and other businesses, are sharing photos and videos of their favourites across Instagram, helping to ‘gift’ the magic of the Christmas window to followers throughout the UK and the globe.

The online world has a platform of millions, and as a result, there is no limit to the audience one window can reach. Fenwick’s use of YouTube to premiere the 2022 theme for its Christmas window display is testament to that. It gave Christmas window lovers even more detail into the thought and narrative behind Lauren Child’s story. To date, it has received over 66,000 views.

Cartier Christmas facade

'Seasons Feastings' Selfridges window display

Offering a more omnichannel Christmas experience

A retailer’s website has become the ‘window’ for many customers when going about their Christmas shopping. As such, savvy retailers are ensuring their customers have an omnichannel experience at Christmas.

When it comes to independent retailers, Betty’s in York is a great example. Its theme for, and the products showcased in, its Christmas display runs through all customer touchpoints - from its beautiful customer brochures to email campaigns. The White Company also does this very well. And let’s not forget that John Lewis has historically been one of the best retailers to ensure its Christmas theme (aligning with its Christmas advert) is omnichannel, running through its eCommerce platform, social media and direct marketing, to its physical window. It’s gifting customers the same festive experience, without seeing the Christmas window display in real life.

Long live the Christmas window in all its magical glory. It most certainly has a firm part to play in this digital world, and that’s something that we are extremely happy about.

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