Holiday Window Display Ideas, Inspiration, and Best Practices for Retail Stores

christmas street

Tapping into the holiday magic with a festive window display is one of the most visually impactful ways to draw shoppers to your store and leave a lasting impression.

Get ready to be inspired, because we're about to walk you through some of the best examples of Christmas window displays and how you can use some of those same ideas in your store.  

Anthropologie: Picking a theme 

Anthropologie is a brand that wows year after year with its holiday window displays, through whimsical storytelling and impressive execution. It even use a devoted branded hashtag: #anthrowindows.

From snowy owls and flocked trees to orchids and hundreds of paper flowers, Anthropologie’s window display game is strong all year long. In fact, each store has an in-house art team that handles the crafting of displays at each store. 

Anthropologie’s window displays are unique visual experiences, thanks in part to their resourceful use of recycled and “craft store” materials.

Each holiday season, Anthropologie picks a theme and a color story for both its window displays and decorations throughout its stores. One year the theme was Gumdrop Lane, featuring a frosted gingerbread village with the tagline, “Follow, follow along the architecture of enchantment.”

Sugared & Spiced: The Making of Our Holiday 2015 Windows from Anthropologie on Vimeo.

The theme of “following along” helps suggest this is more than just window decor—it’s an experience and a journey that Anthropologie wants to take you on during the holidays.

⭐  The main idea: The key to replicating an Anthropologie type of window display is creating a cohesive experience. Start by picking a theme, then center your holiday marketing efforts, both in-store and online, around the story that theme is telling.

Magnolia Market: Choosing the right materials

The holiday transformation at the Magnolia Market at the Silos in Waco, Texas, is a highly anticipated process. Preparation for the winter season begins in the fall, when the market settles on a theme and decides on the materials and ideas it will carry out throughout the store.

In a video about Magnolia Market’s winter 2018 display, Joanna Gaines, the owner and face of the brand, discusses how the idea of anticipation is so important at the holidays. 

The amount of preparation Magnolia Market’s onsite team begins is significant, from laser cut snowflakes sewn together to create a snowfall effect to the hand-crafted miniature log cabins that create a nostalgic feeling.

The Magnolia Market window display leads into a foyer that opens onto a larger storewide installation. This creates a magical holiday shopping experience that stirs up emotions, anticipation, and ultimately a desire to buy into the experience it’s selling.

⭐  The main idea: Following Magnolia, the items you use can make a retail holiday window display transformative. You might even decide to use a mix of old, new, recycled, and hand-crafted items. The materials you use influence the customer experience and can set your business and products apart during the holidays.

Vans: Staying true to your brand

In 2017, Vans collaborated with Jay Howell, a cartoonist, to create a dynamic display full of movement, cardboard cutouts, and humor. Vans managed to create windows that stayed true to its edgy brand while still being festive for the holidays. 

The display used the idea of Santa’s workshop to create a Van Doren Workshop, with funky caricatures working on a shoe production assembly line. Paul Van Doren is the company’s founder. The store window display was a play on the holiday theme while incorporating company history.

Vans is a great example of how you can create a powerful, appealing retail experience for shoppers during the holiday season, without veering away from your brand culture and identity.

Vans’ use of graffiti in its "Deck the Hall” window display is another way it riffs off the traditional to make sure the holidays merge with its brand voice. This is key to creating a believable window display that aligns with your brand and leaves your customers with a memorable impression.

⭐  The main idea: Using Vans as an inspiration, one idea for creating an impactful window display is staying true to who you are. Don’t overengineer an idea that strays too far from your brand voice and brand culture. Instead, think about your products, your packaging, your company history, and incorporate these into your display when decking out for the holidays.

Type Books: Using your own products to decorate

Type Books, an independent bookstore chain in Toronto, Canada, has made a name for itself with its online marketing, selection of books and gifts, and its in-store literary programming. 

It's a trailblazer in its marketing, community involvement, and political and cultural discussions with influencers and authors.

During the holidays, Type uses its large square storefront window to decorate memorable book-themed displays. It incorporates titles into the display that represent a cross section of their book inventory based on a decided theme.

In 2018, Type opened a second location before the holiday season. It created a simple mushroom-themed Season’s Readings display, highlighting seasonal books, stationery, and gifts, using handmade paper and signage.

⭐  The main idea: Type is a bookstore, so it designs its window displays around books. It may be easy to want to design a spectacular holiday wonderland, but use the products you’ve got to promote your business. Using what you sell to create a powerful display, plus adding a few holiday elements, may be all it takes to create something that draws your customers inside to shop.

Revelator Coffee Company: Playing to the locals

If you’ve ever been to Birmingham, Alabama, you’ve probably heard of Revelator Coffee Company. It’s a buzzing little coffee shop on 3rd Avenue, with a take on caffeinated beverages that extends beyond coffee. Its lavender lemonade and other inventive takes on drink favorites sets Revelator apart from the competition.

Revelator’s retail space is simple, light, and airy. It sells its own roasted coffee and other swag—its “open-eyed” logo is plastered around the city on water bottles and crosswalk posts alike. For the holidays, it uses its big bay window to get customers’ attention.

Revelator hired an acrylic painter to deck out its windows with white-and-red-painted figures, flowers, and other holiday symbols. It also played off the popularity of a cast-iron public statue known as the Vulcan located in Birmingham’s Vulcan Park, donning a replica of him in an apron with his “iron butt” on display for all to see. 

Revelator used the hashtags #decktheham and #cheekychristmas in its Instagram to start online buzz about the window display.

⭐  The main idea: Combining humor with a local inside joke, Revelator created a window display that drew in local customers who would appreciate the joke and further fall in love with its witty brand. Consider where you’re located and what makes that special and incorporate it into your window display. Revelator’s use of paint means they didn’t take up precious window seating for decoration space. Use the window itself to create an eye-catching display.

Bella Figura: Less is more

Bella Figura, a wedding invitations and paper goods creator, uses vintage, cast-iron presses to handcraft letterpressed cards and invitations. Each piece of paper bought from the shop is touched by its team, designed to customers’ specifications.

Bella Figura has a large window display at its flagship store in Manhattan. 

A huge part of a customer’s experience with the brand is the consultation and design process. The store features a group of empty round tables and upholstered chairs for client meetings, while the walls are donned with endless paper options and past designs.

For the holidays, Bella Figura used their big open windows to draw you into its space. It chose delicate materials and simple hanging starbursts. The following year, it used pompoms to keep their windows simple, airy and open.

Bella Figura chose modern yet vintage window display decor. This complemented the store’s aesthetic by adding just a light touch of a wintery holiday.

⭐ The main idea: You can still decorate for the holidays and use your window display in a powerful way without going over the top. Knowing the power of its signage and in-store walls that show its paper products, Bella Figura chose neutral colors like white and gold that were minimal and not distracting. This led your eye to look in and beyond what was hanging in the windows to notice what was inside the store.

The three most important tips for window display decorating

There are lots of different directions you can take in decorating your retail store window display for the holidays. All of the stores featured above had different overall ideas and approaches to incorporating holiday elements into their displays, but they all did these three important things:

  1. Focus on your brand. Don’t try to be something you’re not.
  2. Promote your products, don’t overshadow them.
  3. Evoke emotion, don’t just make something pretty.

The holidays are the perfect time for creating experiential retail that draws your customers into your store and leaves them walking out with a lasting impression.