After working for major retailers like Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and Club Monaco, Christie Pinese set off to open her own retail oasis, Rose City Goods, in July 2019.
Known for its colorful, aesthetically pleasing home goods, art, and furniture, Rose City Goods is an artistic gem, located in Toronto’s Brockton Village neighborhood.
Another thing it’s also known for? It’s eye-catching window displays.
We wanted to learn more about how these stunning window displays come to life and how they boost business for Rose City Goods, so we sat down with Christie to learn about her artistic process, her best practices for visual merchandising, and how she keeps customers intrigued in her store, even during a pandemic.
The art of the curb appeal
Two decades of working in the retail industry will teach you a thing or two about the importance of visual merchandising.
From curating the perfect window display with new and bestselling products to creating a cohesive in-store shopping experience that connects with customers on an emotional level, Christie could teach a master class on the subject.
“I’ve always worked retail, so the importance of merchandising, that’s not something that goes over my head,” says Christie. “It’s your silent sales associate.”
But why are window displays so crucial to brick-and-mortar retailers?
Window displays are oftentimes the first interaction your customers have with your brand. They create an excellent opportunity to convey your brand’s personality in addition to showcasing your products.
If done well, your window display can encourage customers to stop in your store while on a walk or circle back another time if they're in a hurry and can't stop to shop, or even drive online sales.
“It’s so important, because that window is the first thing that people see,” says Christie. “It has honestly brought us so many customers. We would get people who’d call in and say, ‘I was just driving downtown from Etobicoke,’ or ‘I was driving into the city and I saw your window.’ And then they’d ask about a piece of furniture or something. I’ve always known that your window could be impactful, but I didn’t realize just how many people it really did bring us.”
"I’ve always known that your window could be impactful, but I didn’t realize just how many people it really did bring us."
With intermittent lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on brick-and-mortar retailers, Rose City Goods has found a way to keep customers interested, even if they can’t shop in-person, through visual merchandising.
“I try to keep it fresh and keep it new because a lot of our clients do live in the neighborhood, so I want to keep them enticed and keep them intrigued,” says Christie. “I’ve had a few people in the neighborhood be like, ‘I love seeing what you’re going to come up with next!’ or like, ‘Oh, what’s she going to put in the window next time?’ It’s really fun. I like that it’s become a fun thing for our customers and for the neighborhood. I like that it’s something they look forward to on their walks.”
Christie’s eye for texture, color, and design is what makes Rose City Goods’ window displays unique.
“There’s so much thought and love and skill that goes into manufacturing these goods, and a lot of our products are made by hand,” says Christie. “So, I always want to give [a product] justice in how I display it and make sure it’s represented and displayed in a way that really shows and complements the artisans’ work."
How to create attention-grabbing window displays
Planning and building an impressive window display is a lot simpler than it looks, according to Christie.
“If you don’t know what to put in the window, start with the best seller,” says Christie. “What are people asking for the most?”
To create window displays for Rose City Goods, Christie leans on her visual merchandising experience and artistic process. She typically chooses a color palette or theme and mixes that with greenery or warm neutrals like wood.
“Start with something you know most of your customers want, buy, ask for,” Christie says. “For me right now, it would be these planters we have in the window. Then we have some of our most expensive items — or the aspirational items. Those are what are really going to draw people in and mix those with your bestsellers. Then, throw in a couple of low price point, accessible items so that people still feel like the store is for them.”
Christie also advises adopting a less-is-more approach to your window displays. If your window is too cluttered, it’ll be overwhelming to customers.
Struggling to find window display inspiration? Take a page from your favorite retailers. What are they doing that you like (or don’t like)? How can you pull elements from your brand and highlight them in your display?
It may take some trial and error, but the more you practice arranging your shop window, the more natural it’ll feel over time.
Sunshine Daydreams in cloudy times
The pandemic caused more issues than just limiting foot traffic into Christie’s store. She found herself dealing with vendor orders that were delayed as long as eight to 12 weeks instead of the typical four-to six-week processing time. Some of her vendors could not take on wholesale orders due to demand from their own online stores or due to limited access to their studios and supplies.
“With the pandemic, things have changed so much,” says Christie. “I needed to make sure I had a constant flow of these decor items that always sold well for us. I needed to plan ahead. I needed to react.”
So she did what she does best—put on her design hat and, with another Rose City Goods employee, create a beautiful line of homewares, which she affectionately calls Sunshine Daydream. This exclusive line includes an assortment of vases, mugs, tapestries, mirrors, and other items that emulate Christie’s artistic taste and sense of design.
Image source: Rose City Goods
Creating new opportunities with trusted technology
In addition to curating a line exclusive for Rose City Goods, Christie also partnered with a furniture designer for the DesignTO Festival, Canada’s premier annual design festival, which showcases work in various artistic disciplines, like textiles, sculptures, and more.
With over 100 exhibitions and events at DesignTO, this walkable, interactive festival is the perfect way for designers and artists to display their work, connect with other makers, and sell their pieces.
During Rose City Goods’ collaboration with the furniture designer, the idea of leveraging QR code stickers came up. Rose City Goods was so good at attracting customers’ attention with its window displays, the idea to use a QR code sticker to help customers identify—and eventually purchase—products they saw in the window was a total lightbulb moment.
“When I was working with the furniture designer for Design TO, she said, ‘Why don’t we do a QR code so customers can explore the exhibit a little bit more? We can do sound bites [and], we can link to your website.’ And I was like, ‘Why don’t I have that already?’”
QR (quick response) codes are scannable codes that an app or camera can read on a smartphone. They typically are used to link to websites, email, music, and images.
“Because we’re not here all the time, I wanted to make sure, no matter what, if people are looking in the window or into the store, it made them want to come in,” says Christie. “If customers are here for a pickup and they see something in the window, they’re like, ‘How much is that vase?’ Or I’ll get a DM on Instagram that says, ‘Hey, I was looking at this thing in your window, but I can’t find it on the website.’ So I was like, ‘Let’s make this easy for people.’”
"Because we’re not here all the time, I wanted to make sure, no matter what, if people are looking in the window or into the store, it made them want to come in."
When customers scan the QR code with their phone, they’re taken to the Rose City Goods’ Shopify store, where they can browse the items featured in the window display.
Image source: Rose City Goods on Instagram
In addition to serving as another way for customers to purchase items, using QR code technology has many benefits, such as:
- Saving the employees time fielding questions about window display items
- Helping customers identify items they’re interested in purchasing
- Increasing website traffic and sales
QR code technology isn’t new—in fact, it dates back to 1994—but coming up with unique ways to use existing technology is another way Rose City Goods stays resilient. Here’s how you can get started with QR code technology:
1. Determine how you want to leverage QR code stickers
Before you create your QR code, determine how you want to use the technology. What do you want users to do after scanning the code? Shop your store? Sign up for new product releases? The possibilities are endless!
2. Identify the data type you want the QR code to direct customers to
After you’ve determined how your QR code will be used, identify the data type. In other words, after customers scan the QR code, what should happen? Are they taken to a page on your website? Will they receive a promotional text message?
In this case, Rose City Goods directed customers to a specific page on its online store that included the current window display items.
3. Use Shopify’s free QR code generator to create your code
Shopify’s free QR code generator makes it easy to create QR codes in just three steps. Enter your email address, select the data type, add your content, and you’re good to go.
QR code stickers are an easy way to offer another shopping touchpoint for your customers, conveniently and easily.